Costa Rica vs. USA | 2018 World Cup Qualifying Preview
Costa Rica vs. USA
2018 CONCACAF World Cup Qualifier
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 9 pm ET | Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
TV: beIN Sports, NBC Universo
The US national team will aim to get back on the saddle in the hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, as they head to Central America to face 2014 World Cup quarterfinalists Costa Rica on Tuesday evening. The teams enter the second matchday of the hex following vastly different results in the opening round, and both countries, among the favorites to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia, will look to rack up points in their qualification quest.
The first two rounds of the hex are among the toughest of the 10-game gauntlet for the USMNT. Ahead of the Costa Rica trip, the Americans lost 2-1 to Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Friday, their first ever loss to Mexico in that city in World Cup qualifying. Add to that a historic 10-game run of futility for the US in Costa Rica, and there's a very real possibility the Yanks could be on zero points through the first two matchdays.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, are off to a dream start, having beaten Trinidad & Tobago 2-0 on Friday in Port of Spain, Trinidad. While conventional wisdom in CONCACAF is that teams seek to pick up wins at home and grab rare points when they can on the road, the Ticos' road triumph puts them in the early lead in the hexagonal standings.
THE CASE FOR THE USA
Spirits may be dampened for the US national team after the late loss to Mexico -- the game was tied until the 89th minute -- but this team has been through trials before. In fact, this very USMNT under current boss Jurgen Klinsmann have been in this position before. They dropped their first match of the hex in 2014 World Cup qualifying, a 2-1 loss on the road against Honduras, before bouncing back with a home win over, yes, Costa Rica in matchday 2. And they ended up qualifying for the last World Cup fairly comfortably.
While there's a likely difference between facing Costa Rica at home and in Costa Rica, the US have enough talent to beat any team in CONCACAF. Yes, history shows it would not be an easy task, but there's nothing to suggest the Americans need to throw in the towel before they even reach Central America. And hey, if Mexico can turn back 15 years of losing history in Columbus against the Americans, who's to say the US can't do the exact same thing and reverse decades of negative history with a significant win in San Jose?
THE CASE FOR COSTA RICA
If Mexico and the US are the heavyweights of the region, Costa Rica are firmly nestled right below them at the moment, with talent, experience and tradition to upset conventional wisdom about the rest of CONCACAF.
They are not the same side that reached the quarterfinals in the 2014 World Cup, with Jorge Luis Pinto, the architect of the World Cup run, long gone, but Oscar Ramirez has steadied the ship since taking over last year, following a period of instability following Pinto's shock departure after the World Cup. Costa Rica had a disappointing Copa America Centenario this year, finishing third in the same group as the USMNT and failing to reach the knockout stage of the special tournament, but have won five straight since getting blown away 4-0 by the Americans in the Copa America group stage in June.
Ultimately, what can Costa Rica hang their hat on? They have proven to be difficult to beat at home. Make that impossible for the US, who enter the match with a 0-8-2 mark all-time against the Ticos in Costa Rica. Friday proved history can be overcome, but one figures the special Central American atmosphere will be relied upon, along with a stout collective effort, to hold back the Americans and keep that streak intact for another qualifying cycle.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Brad Guzan, GK, USA: Assuming Tim Howard's groin injury will prevent him from even traveling to Costa Rica, as projected, Guzan will once again be the No. 1 for the USMNT. In that way, Jurgen Klinsmann's previous plan to platoon the duo will likely be good for Guzan. But considering he's the backup at Middlesbrough right now and was slated to be Howard's understudy for these World Cup qualifiers, will there be rust? Can Guzan step up and deliver a performance on the road that will force Klinsmann to consider rotating his 'keepers once again?
Christian Bolanos, M, Costa Rica: The Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder scored the winner for the Ticos against T&T on Friday and with the likes of Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell likely to start and take up the lion's share of the US defense's attention, Bolanos may be able to go under the radar and strike a decisive blow on home soil.
- With Mexico showdown in the books, USMNT turn attention to getting result vs. Costa Rica
- Hexagonal Matchday 1 round-up: Costa Rica grab big road win
- Howard doubtful to travel to Costa Rica after suffering groin injury
GOALKEEPERS (4): Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG), Ethan Horvath (Molde/NOR), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), William Yarbrough (Club Leon/MEX)
DEFENDERS (9): Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG)
MIDFIELDERS (9): Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz/LIE), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS (4): Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen/GER), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER)
GOALKEEPERS (3): Keylor Navas (Real Madrid/Spain), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense/Costa Rica), Esteban Alvarado (Trabzonspor/Turkey)
DEFENDERS (9): Michael Umana (Alajuelense/Costa Rica), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic/Scotland), Johnny Acosta (Herediano/Costa Rica), Bryan Oviedo (Everton/England), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense/Costa Rica), Francisco Calvo (Saprissa/Costa Rica), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pablo Salazar (Herediano/Costa Rica)
MIDFIELDERS (7): Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna/Spain), Christian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano/Costa Rica), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne-Sport/Switzerland), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact), David Guzman (Saprissa/Costa Rica), Rodney Wallace (Sport Recife/Brazil)
FORWARDS (4): Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Club/Portugal), Joel Campbell (Sporting Club/Portugal), Marco Urena (Brondby/Denmark), Ariel Rodriguez (Bangkok Glass/Thailand)