US coach Jurgen Klinsmann dubbed Friday's World Cup 2014 home qualifying match against Costa Rica a 'must-win' a term which might apply to his future as coach as well as to the team's hopes of qualifying.
Now the former German star striker and national team coach, who took over 20 months ago, could have his job on the line when the Americans try to rebound from a 2-1 defeat by Honduras in last month's opening qualifier.
"After the loss to Honduras, the game on Friday night is a must win," said Klinsmann. "We learned quite a bit out of that game. You're going to see a completely different game. It's a must-win and we're confident to achieve it."
While the Costa Ricans visit Denver, Mexico will travel to Honduras and Jamaica will entertain Panama in other matches of the six-team North American (CONCACAF) final round qualifying group that will decide three spots in Brazil.
A report Tuesday in The Sporting News citing interviews with 11 unidentified American players and 11 others connected to the team saying that faith in Klinsmann's leadership is dimming and confidence in his methods is eroding.
"Things are boiling over," one source told the Sporting News. "The feeling now is that this is (Klinsmann's) last chance against Costa Rica."
Toppling the Americans has put Honduras atop the group after draws by the other four teams, but the Catrachos will be tested by Mexico, the region's best team according to Wigan midfielder and Honduran star Roger Espinoza.
"It will be tough for us," Espinoza said. "We are ready for the challenge and we are hungry to succeed.
"We have a big chance to reach Brazil if we stay mentally prepared."
The Americans travel to Mexico's Estadio Azteca next Tuesday, where they have never won in World Cup qualifying and only recorded their first triumph last August in a friendly, ending a 24-match winless streak that lasted 75 years.
If the US team comes away from the next week still seeking their first point of the hexagonal, it might be too far back to recover in time to reach Brazil.
Adding to injury woes for the US squad are the absences of former captain Carlos Bocanegra, who was demoted to the substitutes bench in Honduras in favor of younger talent, and Landon Donovan, who is completing a four-month break from football.
Players told the Sporting News they found Bocanegra's last-minute ousting from the starting lineup in Honduras "a bit disturbing" and "to not have him in a game like that was really peculiar. It was just everyone on their own terms. Everyone was doing their own thing. And it showed."
Klinsmann defended his style of keeping players uncertain of their status in the starting lineup and out of their comfort zone in workouts, saying it toughens them for the World Cup and forces them to work harder to improve.
"All those elements we throw at them now, because if we don't do it, it's too late in the World Cup," Klinsmann told The Sporting News.
"The only way we get them to that next level is to run them through this uncomfortable period, and they have to learn and they have to swim in the cold water. And we're going to convince the world later."
Eight US players are injured, including goalkeeper Tim Howard with a back injury, defender Steve Cherundolo with a knee injury and defender Jonathan Spector with a sore ankle.
But Klinsmann was ready to turn the page to new faces, including a defensive unit with only three players with any qualifying experience and none in more than a handful of matches.
"We know we have a big task ahead of us, and we are confident our group will get the job done," Klinsmann said. "There are many players out with injuries, and that means the next person in line has a chance to step up."