USMNT Report: Taking on the Ticos

The US readies for a rematch with Costa Rica in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup
by Herb Scribner   |   Tuesday, July 16, 2013

USMNT Report - coverage of the United States Men's National Team

Clumps of snow littered the pitch. The wind howled as players searched for the thin line of high-altitude air. Play was chaotic and disoriented. And the United States Men’s National Team, without any well-working strategy, salvaged a victory over Costa Rica.

But tonight at Rentschler Field in Hartford, Conn., conditions will be different as the Americans and Costa Rica will contend in humidity and closer to sea level in the final group play game of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

THE ROAD TO NOW: The USA enters this match on a 7-game winning streak, which is tied for its all-time record set back in 2007. Most recently, the Americans dominated Guatemala in a friendly before scorching past Belize and Cuba in the 1st pair of Gold Cup group games.

PRE-GAME CHATTER: USMNT manager Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t treating this game lightly. Instead, he wants the result to send a message to Costa Rica.

“This game is like the final for Group C,” he said. “This is a team that we’re going to fight for World Cup qualifying points in September, and we want to send them a signal. We take this very seriously and everybody is ready for this battle. … We won’t save anybody for the game against Costa Rica.”

Klinsmann doesn’t think the game will be an easy one either.

“It’s one of the great battles of CONCACAF,” he said. “They’ve developed a very strong team over the last few years. Beating them is very difficult and we know that. For us, it’s a really good benchmark because we want to show them who is number one in CONCACAF after this tournament, and therefore we’re going to take them very seriously and we want to beat them.

Costa Rica manager Jorge Luis Pinto said his team is extremely wary of the revived Landon Donovan.

ANALYSIS: The Americans are walking into their toughest battle in the Gold Cup thus far.

It’s not only a game against a more formidable opponent, but it's also against a side seeking redemption and revenge against the USA.

These 2 teams battled to the brink in Commerce City, Colo., back in March, trudging through a snow-packed field from a Colorado blizzard. La sele was so displeased with the conditions and the 1-0 loss that they filed a protest to FIFA about the result. It was denied.

For the United States to break the 12-12-6 deadlock with the Ticos, the Americans will have to play more aggressively and feverishly than they did for the majority of the game against Cuba. Slowly moving through the game and sluggish play won’t work against Costa Rica, which is on its own 7-game winning streak and has won 9 of its last 10 Gold Cup games.

It won’t be easy for many of the US breakouts to get going as well as they did in the previous games. Chris Wondolowski has scored 6 goals in his last 3 contests, but that has been against easier opponents than the Ticos, who haven’t let up a goal in 704 minutes. Joe Corona did extremely well against Cuba with his blasting runs and slick moves in the attacking third. But Costa Rica will close down the space and hone in on the central ball players, like Donovan and Kyle Beckerman, which could serious disorient the United States.

A draw would suffice for the Americans, as they’ll still finish 1st in the group and advance to the quarterfinals. But Klinsmann isn’t looking for that result. He wants the win and he wants to make a statement, which is something this entire team can do with a victory tonight in Hartford.

For the duration of the Gold Cup, as well as the weeks beforehand, the Gold Cup squad was hailed as a B team. From the outside looking in, this squad resembled a top USA squad of years past. But the last 3 showings – 6-0 over Guatemala, 5-1 over Belize, 4-1 over Cuba – have shown this USA lineup has a flair and aggressiveness that the top squad didn't show during the recent World Cup Qualifiers.

Tonight, though, will be the true test, and the first time we’ll see how good this United States team really is. All the excitement and hype surrounding Wondolowski (and his Ws), Donovan, Corona and this Gold Cup squad could be very well put to rest if a poor result sneaks up on the US.

NEXT UP: July 16 – Gold Cup: United States vs. Costa Rica, Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Conn. 8 p.m. EST, FOX Soccer Channel, UniMas, Univision Deportes.

Herb SCRIBNER

Nationality:
USA
College:
UMass Amherst
Club Domestic:
RSL
Club Foreign:
FC Barcelona
SN managing editor and award-winning journalist, Herb has always been known as "The Soccer Guy" wherever he goes. He's a leftback in most outdoor and indoor leagues. He also writes for Deseret News National.
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