U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan reacts after missing a shot against Costa… (Jake Roth / US Presswire )
Call it a movable laboratory, a testing ground of possession futbol.
And Friday's petri dish, featuring the U.S. men's national soccer team, happened to be the Home Depot Center.
Unfortunately, for the Americans, the dish imploded with some suspect defending in the second half against Costa Rica, a full-scale breakdown leading to defender Rodney Wallace's goal, a header, in the 65th minute, leading Costa Rica to a 1-0 win.
And shortly after the lone goal, there was more imploding, in terms of temper, between the sides.
A late flurry of sustained pressure nearly pulled the United States even in this international friendly. But it was unable to get that break, or fluke, to break through against Costa Rica.
Building and testing — then implementing good concepts and discarding bad ones — isn't always sexy or necessarily easy on the eyes for an impatient fan base before qualifying starts for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But it is necessary in the early days of U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann's regime. There were moments, actually more than moments, where the early lessons seemed to take hold in Friday's loss. Especially for a good 15-minute stretch of possession soccer in the first half.
But the Americans let Costa Rica build some momentum late in the first half, and goalkeeper Tim Howard had to come up with two late saves after the U.S. had dominated most of the half.
"For sure, you're not happy with the result, but I'm happy with the performance," Klinsmann said. "I think the players did exactly what we wanted to do. We put them under pressure from the beginning. Good flow of the game. The ball was moving around. We had our chances in the first half. If Landon [Donovan] was a little more lucky, he puts it away and then it would have been far easier."
Specifically, he was talking about star midfielder Donovan's scoring chance in the sixth minute where everything went right except the finish.
The buildup and passing were perfect, but Donovan pushed the ball just wide right. He put his hands over his face and smacked his thigh in disgust.
That's the way soccer goes, even a miss, even one that early, managed to loom large.
"Once they scored a goal — they were waiting for a counter-break the whole game though — and it makes it even more difficult," Klinsmann said. "They kind of put up a wall with 10 guys in front of the 18-yard box."
Tempers flared late. Costa Rica's uniforms may have been white, but American striker Brek Shea saw red when he was challenged by defender Michael Umana in the 78th minute. Shea drew the yellow card after the slight push of Costa Rica's keeper, Keylor Navas, who played it to the hilt and went down.