Bitter rivalry in the making? USA vs. Costa Rica rematch
The US Men's National team will look to extend their unbeaten streak to eight games in all competitions when they face Costa Rica in Gold Cup play tonight in Hartford. In hoping to clinch the top spot in Group C, team USA is already through to the knockout rounds and the winner of this match will avoid having to play Honduras on July 21. Both teams head into the game with two wins a piece, but USA lead with a plus eight goal differential over Costa Rica's four.
Costa Rica is on a seven game win streak as well in all competitions, and are unbeaten in nine of its last 10 Gold Cup games.
The last time these two met in a competition was in Denver during World Cup qualifying when USA defeated the Ticos 1-0 in a blizzard, when officials almost called the match because the conditions were so bad. The famous snow victory included four players from this Gold Cup roster on the field on March 22: DaMarcus Beasley, Kyle Beckerman, Herculez Gomez and Clarence Goodson. Tony Beltran, Joe Corona, Sean Johnson, Nick Rimando and Brek Shea were all on the bench.
Having met six times in Gold Cup play, the Ticos have become the USA's most common opponent alongside Mexico. USA remains unbeaten in the series with five wins and one draw. This year's Gold Cup marks Costa Rica's 12th appearance in the event, with their best performance coming in 2002 when they finished second on goals from Josh Wolff and Jeff Agoos.
The Ticos' 2013 Gold Cup roster features four players currently playing in Major League Soccer: forwards Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake) and Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew), midfielder Rodney Wallace (Portland Timbers) and defender Roy Miller (New York Red Bulls).
Costa Rica will come into Hartford tonight hungry for a win after the bitter loss in Colorado, and are by far the toughest opponent of Group C for Team USA, so expect that Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann will come armed with a lot of power up top and in midfield.
Chris Wondolowski will be a likely starter after his performance in the last two games, scoring five goals, and becoming the third player in USMNT history to bag a hat trick in a Gold Cup match. He now leads Gold Cup scoring with five out of ten goals.
Landon Donovan has nabbed a goal and an assist for himself, after becoming the only player in US Soccer history to record 50 goals and 50 assists in the USA's friendly against Guatemala on July 5. He now boats 53 and 51, respectively, and is also the only player to have scored against Costa Rica in Gold Cup play.
Stu Holden is fit and has proven he deserves to be here, ranking alongside Joe Corona and Kyle Beckerman in being effective for the last two games in this tournament. Corona has been sharper as he's advanced, and scored his first international goal against Cuba. Edgar Castillo can move from defense to offense well as he proved in the last game against Cuba, drawing a penalty for Landon Donovan to convert and playing a big part in Wondolowski's second goal. Alejandro Bedoya and Jose "Gringo" Torres have had some decent runs as well.
While the performance between the USA's unfamiliar "B" squad has gelled well so far and scored lots of goals, the opposition hasn't exactly been of tough quality, and Costa Rica will be a bigger threat than the other previous teams the US has faced so far. Ticos' manager Jorge Luis Pinto was quoted recently affirming his every intention to come out strong and aggressive, giving it everything they've got. If the USA can fight off their vengeful opponents and manage a win, not only will they break a US Soccer record, but they will head into the knockout rounds with a lot of confidence.