Snow Doubt About It for The US in Denver
By Matt Biggerstaff
The US Men's National Team won a critical World Cup Qualifier in Denver last night against Costa Rica 1-0, behind a Clint Dempsey goal and an overall determination to grind out a result.
If you missed it, I can basically describe the game as soccer in a blizzard. Seriously. The first half the field seemed relatively playable but by the time the second half started, snow appeared to be piling up on the field.
I was relatively surprised the game was not called, and in the 54th minute, it appeared that it was going to be. However, the ref decided to play on, and the US was able to hold on. Chances in the game were hard to come by. Clint Dempsey passed to Jozy Altidore at the top of the box and Altidore was able to cut back inside and shoot into a Costa Rican defender's foot, which deflected the ball back into Dempsey's path for a tap in in the 16th minute. This turned out to be the pivotal moment, and some strong defending from the US back line made this goal stand up. A couple key things from a game where not much was discernible:
The US must stop fouling opponents just outside their box. Again, another game where the best chances for the other team came from free kicks. A critical Clarence Goodson header stopped one that was headed on frame, but this is a trend that has already bitten the US time and time again, and yet they cannot stop committing dumb fouls just outside their box. This is something that needs to be addressed.
Why wasn't every free kick put into the Costa Rica box? Their keeper was clearly having issues with the snow, and with limited chances, every free kick should have been hit towards Altidore or Dempsey within striking distance. This was an adjustment I thought they would make, but never really did.
Home field advantage isn't really an advantage in a blizzard. I get it US Soccer, we want to maximize the cold and duress for warm blooded opponents. I'm very okay with that. But picking a city where there is a strong chance you will be hit by a snowstorm in March doesn't really help the team. Everyone struggled with the conditions, and getting an early goal was both critical and extremely fortunate. Maybe a little more consideration next time?
Overall, a critical three points. With Mexico giving up 2 late goals to Honduras that cost them 2 points, suddenly Tuesday's match at Azteca looms even larger then it did before. If the US can steal some points in Mexico, it could really shake up qualifying.