[USA-COSTA RICA]First place is at stake in the Gold Cup's Group C when the USA plays Costa Rica plays at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Conn. (kickoff: FOX Soccer, UniMas, 8 p.m. ET). Tuesday's match is slightly less important than the game, with first place on the line in the Hexagonal, that will take place Sept. 6 at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose, but Coach Jurgen Klinsmann says he'll send out his best lineup for the seventh Gold Cup encounter between the teams.
“We are very well aware of Costa Rica and [it is] the first real benchmark for us,” Klinsmann said after the 4-1 win over Cuba, the second cupcake opponent the USA faced at the Gold Cup. “Everybody has respect for Belize and Cuba, but the benchmark for us starts with Costa Rica. We need now where we’re eye-to-eye with the opponents, where we know it’s going to go down to the wire and therefore we’re really looking forward to that match.”
Klinsmann made six changes in the U.S. starting lineup between the first and second games, and he could make at least that many for the third game against Costa Rica.
He'll be able to make up to four changes on the U.S. roster for the knockout stage, and he'll only bring new players in if he plans to use them, so this could be the last chance for several players to make their case to him for the Gold Cup -- and possibly the 2014 World Cup.
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto singled out three Americans -- Landon Donovan, Kyle Beckerman and Jose Corona -- who started both games as keys to the U.S. success.
“We know they have a lot of important players in the attack," he said. "Donovan is raising his game, Corona sees the field and opens it well, Beckerman is someone who provides quite a bit ..."
Both the USA and Costa Rica won their first two games, so they are through to the quarterfinals, where they will play at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday.
The USA, which won the first five Gold Cup meetings with the Ticos before playing to a 0-0 tie with them in 2005, will win the group with a win or tie. The Group C winner will play one of the two third-place qualifiers -- Martinique or El Salvador, if Belize beats Cuba or vice versa by four or more goals -- while the Group C runner-up will play Honduras, the Group B champion.
RECORD WATCH.The USA will break a national team record with eight wins in a row with a win on Tuesday.
Group C Schedule:
July 16 in East Hartford, Conn.
Cuba vs. Belize, 5:30 p.m.
USA vs. Costa Rica, 8 p.m.
Group C Results:
July 13 in Sandy, Utah
USA 4 (Donovan pen. 46+, Corona 57, Wondolowski 66, 85) Cuba 1 (Ciprian 36).
Costa Rica 1 (own goal 49) Belize 0.
July 9 in Portland, Ore.
Costa Rica 3 (Barrantes 51, 77, Arrieta 67) Cuba 0.
USA 6 (Wondolowski 12, 39, 43, Holden 58, Orozco-Fiscal 73, Donovan pen. 76) Belize 1 (Gaynair 42).
Group C Standings:
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/-
6 USA 2-0-0 10/2
6 Costa Rica 2-0-0 4/0
0 Belize 0-0-2 1/7
0 Cuba 0-0-2 1/7<