Medford sets sights on Costa Rica's first Gold Cup title

For Costa Rica, the 2007 Gold Cup opener against Canada Wednesday night at Miami's Orange Bowl is a repeat of its 2003 and 2005 opening games.

The Ticos opened against Canada both times. Canada won, 1-0, in Foxboro in 2003, and the Ticos prevailed by the same score two years later in Seattle.

Like Canada, Costa Rica is a team in transition. Gone is Coach Alexandre Guimaraes, who led the Ticos at the 2002 and 2006 World Cup and will coach Panama at the 2007 Gold Cup. Star Paulo Wanchope announced his international retirement after the 2006 World Cup and is now playing for FC Tokyo in Japan.

Former Costa Rica star Hernan Medford leads the Ticos in his first major international tournament as national team coach. In February, they won their third straight Central American championship. For the Gold Cup, Costa Rica will be at close to full strength with 11 holdovers from the 2006 World Cup and four players based overseas, including former Los Angeles Galaxy defender Pablo Chinchilla, who now plays in Austria. Johnny Cubero of Guatemalan club Xelaju was a late replacement for Bryan Ruiz, who suffered a broken collarbone in last Saturday's 2-0 win over Chile in San Jose. Mario Camacho was called in for Alonso Solis (foot injury) after the Ticos were unable to secure the release of the Columbus Crew's Andy Herron.

Medford will count on playmaker Walter Centeno, who played at both the 2002 and 2006 World Cup, and Rolando Fonseca, the Ticos' all-time leading scorer with 46 goals, to lead Costa Rica in its revamped 3-5-2 formation.

Medford's goal is to win the Gold Cup -- no Central American team has ever won the competition -- but he is also looking ahead to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.

"We have a combination of young players and veterans," he says. "They'll allow us to work for the future."

GOLD CUP RECORD:
Appearances: 7
Record: 10 wins, 12 losses, 7 ties

COSTA RICA ROSTER:
Goalkeepers: Wardy Alfrado (Alajuelense), Dexter Lewis (Perez Zeledon), Jose Francisco Porras (Saprissa);
Defenders: Allan Aleman (Saprissa), Gabriel Badilla (Saprissa), Pablo Chinchilla (Cash Point SCR/AUT), Victor Cordero (Saprissa), Jervis Drummond (Saprissa), Jose Freddy Fernandez (Perez Zeledon), Leonardo Gonzalez (Herediano), Michael Umana (Herediano), Harold Wallace (Alajuelense);
Midfielders: Randall Azofeifa (Gent/BEL), Michael Barrantes (Puntarenas), Christan Bolanos (Saprissa), Walter Centeno (Saprissa), Andres Nunez (Saprissa), Rodolfo Rodriguez (Brujas);
Forwards: Mario Camacho (Puntarenas), Johnny Cubero (Xelaju/GUA), Rolando Fonseca (Alajuelense), Windell Gabriel (Perez Zeledon), Alvaro Saborio (Sion/SWI).
Coach: Hernan MEDFORD.

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