[USA-COSTA RICA] Next time U.S. Soccer hosts a snow blizzard game, it might want to consider an orange ball and a lot more shovelers – but it all ended well for the Jurgen Klinsmann's men. They froze out a usually more lively Costa Rica in a 1-0 win that puts the USA back on track to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Late in the game, U.S. defender Geoff Cameron actually helped push one of the toilers responsible for shoveling snow off the field. Anything to prevent this game from being called off, because the USA led on Clint Dempsey’s 16th minute goal and these three points needed to be put in the bag.
Having lost their Hexagoal opener in Honduras, and facing Mexico at Azteca on Tuesday, the Americans wanted this win badly.
On a more playable field, the Ticos would likely have posed more problems. But credit the Americans for taking control. In their white jerseys, snow sticking to their hair, they may have looked like snowmen, but they proved quite mobile -- moving much better than the Ticos.
You rarely saw the Kentucky Bluegrass of Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, and barely saw the yellow ball, but there were always more Americans around it than Costa Ricans.
DEMPSEY, OF COURSE. A quarter hour went by without a shot. Then Dempsey tried from 25 yards and missed five yards wide. Within a minute, Jozy Altidore pulled the trigger, the ball bounced off Roy Miller, into the path of Dempsey, who tapped it into the net. It was his seventh goal in eight games of this qualifying campaign. And it was all the USA needed to go from a team that seemed in turmoil to second place in the Hexagonal standings.
BEASLEY’S BACK. DaMarcus Beasley has been with the national team for 13 years, but hadn’t played in a competitive game since the 2009 Confederations Cup. The 30-year-old earned his true comeback with his play in the Mexican league, and stepped in at left back, where the USA was running out of options. He’s an attack-minded player, with moves that got him the “Jitterbug” nickname. His performance against the Ticos should get him another start at Azteca Stadium, where without snow on the field we might see even more of the creative play that made him so delightful to watch when he was a U.S. regular.
JONES GOT LUCKY. The referee, Salvadoran Marlon Mejia, deserves credit for a decent job in a game where it couldn’t have been easy to see. But he missed an obvious penalty kick when Dempsey was fouled by Miller. And Jermaine Jones was particularly fortunate that Mejia didn’t eject him when unprovoked he struck Bryan Ruiz in the face. Jones, dubbed a “serial offender” in his native Germany for his frequent yellow cards and suspensions, is a red-card waiting to happen – which the USA can’t afford at Azteca.
OMAR’S ALL RIGHT. Central defender Omar Gonzalez was made the scapegoat for the USA’s 2-1 loss at Honduras even though there were many other reasons for the defeat. Klinsmann stuck with him, going as far as dropping longtime captain and central defender Carlos Bocanegra. Gonzalez saved the USA by blocking Bryan Oviedo’s point blank shot in the 45th minute and marshaled the backline superbly. Of course, it will be a bigger test for the 24-year-old at Azteca.
PERFECT AT HOME. The win in Colorado keeps the USA's streak alive …
Hexagonal home openers:
2013 USA-Costa Rica 1-0 in Commerce City, Colo.
2009 USA-Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, Ohio
2005 USA-Guatemala 2-0 in Birmingham, Ala.
2001 USA-Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, Ohio
1997 USA-Canada 3-0 in Palo Alto, Calif.
March 22 in Commerce City, Colo.
USA 1 Costa Rica 0.Goal: Dempsey 16.
USA --Guzan; Cameron, O.Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Jones (Edu 82), Bradley; Zusi (E.Johnson, 75), Dempsey, Gomez (Beckerman 94+); Altidore.
Costa Rica --Navas; Gamboa (Madrigal, 81), G.Gonzalez, Miller, Umana, Oviedo (Calvo, 73); Bolanos (Campbell, 62), Ruiz, Barrantes, Rodriguez; Saborio.
Yellow Cards:Costa Rica -- Miller 64, G.Gonzalez 90.
March 26: Mexico-USA
Kickoff: 10:30 pm ET.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, Univision
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
4 Honduras 1-1-0 4/3
3 USA 1-0-1 2/2
2 Panama 0-2-0 3/3
2 Mexico 0-2-0 2/2
2 Jamaica 0-2-0 1/1
1 Costa Rica 0-1-1 2/3