USA vs. Costa Rica: Match Night Commentary

USA vs. Costa Rica: Match Night Commentary

World Cup Qualifying

USA vs. Costa Rica: Match Night Commentary

U.S. CrestCosta Rica Crest

The top two teams in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying square off tonight at Estadio Saprissa as the U.S. national team visits Costa Rica.

You know all the background by now. The Americans have never won at Saprissa. Costa Rica is very strong at Saprissa and a win for either team tonight would go a long way toward helping that team qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Early word around San Jose is that tonight's atmosphere won't be as rabid at Saprissa as in year's past. There will be no alcohol sold and no coins allowed at the stadium. Any coins brought in by fans will be taken away and donated to charity. Souvenirs and food bought in the stadium must be paid for with paper money and no coin change will be given. Also, battery-operated radios won't be allowed (so there won't be any battery tossing.

Those restrictions aren't likely to stop Costa Rica's fans from making it an intimidating place to play tonight. The key will be the Americans keeping things from getting out of hand early on. In fact, you shouldn't be surprised to see the U.S. team on the attack with an offensive-minded lineup.

I will be providing commentary throughout the evening so please feel free to follow the match here. As always, you are welcome to share your own thoughts and opinions on tonight's match in the comments section below.

Enjoy the action (some interesting lineup tibits after the jump):

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FINAL– Now the U.S. team finds itself in second place in qualifying and must now take on a tough Honduras team without Michael Bradley or Sacha Kljestan. It isn't going to be easy.

 That's all for now from me. PLease share your post-game thoughts in the comments section below (And PLEASE keep it clean.).

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FINAL- Costa Rica 3, USA 1. The Costa Ricans dominated this one from start to finishing, proving that speed kills. The Americans couldn't handle the speed on the flanks, or anywhere else for that matter, while some new U.S. players failed in their attempts to earn more playing time.

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90th minute– GOAL USA!!! And it's Landon DOnovan. Just two more goals away (Kidding).

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90th minute– PENALTY. Onyewu is fouled in the area.

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88th minute– SAVE HOWARD on a Centeno free kick.

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87th minute– Adu with a weak effort from distance.

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86th minute– There is Burgos again. He's quietly had a great game, not even counting the goal.

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83rd minute– Adu found out pretty quickly that he can't spend all dayon the ball.

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82nd minute– Jeez Charlie, I was kidding.

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81st minute– Watch those elbows Charlie.

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80th minute– Charlie Davies in for Clint Dempsey, who was invisible today.

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79th minute- Dangerous USA free kick opportunity. AND it's wasted. YUCK.

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78th minute– Costa Rica fans are now chanting "Bring on Mexico." Can't say I blame them. Playing like this they can beat anybody in CONCACAF. 

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77th minute– Donovan hits a 25-yard shot a yard over, took a nice pass from Adu. No need for the rushed shot.

Alvaro Saborio is out, Carlos Hernandez is in. 

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75th minute– Costa Rica with the Oles now. This is getting embarrassing. 

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73rd minute– Marvell Wynne is going to have nightmares about Esteban Sirias when he goes to bed tonight.

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72nd minute– Here's a question. Who will start in central midfield vs. Honduras? Will we see Benny Feilhaber and Torres? 

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71st minute– Where in the world was Beasley?

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69th minute- GOAL COSTA RICA!!!!!!!!!!! Put this one in the books. Pablo Herrera just torched the U.S. defense and beat Tim Howard to make it 3-0 Costa Rica.

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68th minute– Pin-point long pass from Bradley to the flank. The talk about his turnovers is tired because he's bound to have some turnovers considering how much of the ball he gets.

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67th minute– Kljestan's yellow means he will also be out vs. Honduras.

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66th minute– Donovan draws a foul and free kick. Donovan hits the wall with the free kick.

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65th minute– Kljestan with a cynical foul on Ruiz, draws a yellow. Costa Rica's combination play is KILLING the U.S. team today.

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64th minute– A Bradley-Kljestan-Adu midfield now. Will be an interesting 25 minutes.

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63rd minute– Freddy Adu is coming on for Pablo Mastroeni. Who would have thought we'd see Adu tonight? Can he make something happen?

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60th minute–  Wow, Wynne with an awful turnover. Bradley sets him up with a great pass and he botches it.

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56th minute– Lots of good performances from Costa Rica today but I have to praise Celso Burgos. The kid has a great future ahead of him and could be the next CONCACAF star.

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55th minute– Harold Wallace is coming out, Pablo Herrera is in.

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55th minute– Bradley gets a yellow card, not sure about that call. Now Bradley will miss the Honduras match. Harsh call considering Bradley hadn't committed many fouls at all.

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54th minute– Better stuff from the U.S., a nice passing sequence leads to a corner.

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53rd minute– Rough night for Altidore, who has been starved for service tonight. He's tried to make things happen, but just can't do it alone.

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52nd minute– Costa Rica comes close yet again.

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49th minute- Klestan is a better two-way player than Torres, but he hasn't exactly been on form in MLS and Torres was passing the ball and keeping the ball well after a shaky first 10 minutes. 

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47th minute– We're back and Costa Rica hasn't lost any energy. Still trying to figure out the Torres sub. Is he hurt? Was he gassed?

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HALFTIME– Sacha Kljestan will be coming in for Torres. Not sure about that sub. Mastroeni has been awful.

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HALFTIME– Costa Rica 2, USA 0. The Costa Ricans came out flying while the Americans looked completely disjointed. Bradley will have to consider a change or two at halftime. Marvell Wynne looks like a lost cause out there, but then again, Beasley hasn't had a great game either. Bradley might want to yank Wynne or Mastroeni. 

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45th minute– One minute of stoppage.

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43rd minute– Just took a peak at the comments. Anybody saying Bradley is having a bad game is nuts. He's been one of the best Americans, if not the best, on the field.

Costa Rica is knocking it around right now, but finally turn it over.

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40th minute– The Diaz-Sirias combo on the left flank has been fun to watch tonight, well, unless yo're a U.S. fan.

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38th minute– Saborio just barely missed a side volley from close. WOW

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38th minute– Lots of miscommunication in the back, due mainly to the deafening noise here.

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36th minute– Mastroeni can't keep up with the pace of the Costa Rica midfield. There's no other way to say it.

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34th minute– Did I mention that I've liked what I've seen from Torres tonight?

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32nd minute– Marvell Wynne is having a rough day. Sirias is burning him and even when he gets on the overlap, he can't beat Junior Diaz.

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30th minute– Freddy Fernandez with the foul on Altidore and he gets a yellow. He will miss Costa Rica's next qualifier, vs. Trinidad & Tobago.

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29th minute– Great play by Ruiz to track back and break up a U.S. attack. He's a quality player who will be moving to a bigger club this summer.

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28th minute– You can definitely tell that some American players are having trouble measuring their passes on this turf.

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26th minute– Dempsey completed shanked the free kick. Awful.

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26th minute– I will say that Torres has settled down and is playing much better now. USA free kick.

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24th minute– Better sequence from the Americans but Altidore can't make the final pass. The Costa Ricans are leaving themselves exposed on the counter but the U.S. team has failed on two occasions to capitalize.

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23rd minute– Donovan has a one-on-one against Michael Umana and he can't beat his former Galaxy teammate. He's got to do better there.

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22nd minute– Beasley got caught badly on the counterattack. He needs to time his runs better and be more aware because Andy Herron looks like a man possessed tonight.

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21st minute– Good long throw from Onyewu but Navas gets to it. The Americans need to get the ball and keep it for a bit.

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19th minute– I questioned Kenton's decision to start Herron, but his move to play Herron on the right flank and have Ruiz up top with Saborio has paid off handsomely.

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18th minute– Costa Ricans are ALL OVER the USA. It's pretty stunning. Shows what team play can do. Americans are not playing like a team right now. Some players look ready, some absolutely don't.

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16th minute– Bradley forces a good turnover but Donovan shanks the subsequent shot.

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15th minute– Mastroeni, Wynne and Torres look awful early on here.

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14th minute– That play just showed that you can have al the speed in the world but if you're positioning is suspect it will cost you.

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 12th minute– The Americans haven't done it yet, but when they string passes together they can unlock the Costa Rican defense. They just need to find the final pass. 

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11th minute– Mastroeni with a professional foul on Burgos, who is one to watch in this game.

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9th minute– Michael Bradley has been one of the few composed players early on. Herron and Beasley clash a bit. A little former Fire on former Fire battle there.

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7th minute- Costa Rica putting serious pressure on the ball and the Americans look shaky right now.

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6th minute– Jose Torres not off to the best start tonight.

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5th minute– Americans have settled down and have begun knocking it around.

THIS PLACE IS INTENSE.

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3rd minute- GOAL COSTA RICA!!! Alvaro Saborio with a left-footed blast into the far corner. What a start for the Costa Ricans. 

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PRE-GAME– It's time to try and save some battery power until this issue is resolved so I'll be back just before kickoff.

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PRE-GAME– In an interview this week, Andy Herron said the key to beating the U.S. defense was getting balls into space and beating them with pace. Was it just me or did Herron looked pretty darn slow with Chicago last year?

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PRE-GAME– The teams are leaving the field and we are about 20 minutes from kickoff.

Someone just kicked tried kicking in one of the doorknobs on the locked power room and succeeded. Unfortunately the door is still locked. I won't say who it was but I'm pretty sure he was Peruvian.

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PRE-GAME– So here's to the hazards of press boxes/tribunes in foreign countries. There is no power for the media because the room with the power is locked. Steve Goff and I have tried getting the door open and failed miserably. The one trip I don't bring my burglar tools.

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PRE-GAME- Now, on to Costa Rica. With Herron and Saborio at forwards I think it's safe to say we'll see their standard 4-4-2, with Ruiz on the right and Sirias on the left. If Rodrigo Kenton decided to try and play a 4-3-3 as well, with Ruiz up top, that could make for some great action, but I have a feeling Ruiz will come in from the flanks.  

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PRE-GAME– Back to the surprising surprises (yes, I did laugh at some of the sarcasm), it isn't a coincidence that the two surprise absences were an older player with issues playing on turf and another player who has had injury woes the past two years. I think it's safe to say you will see Ching and Spector starting in Chicago against Honduras.

So who plays right back if Wynne happens to get hurt? It wouldn't shock me if Beasley switched sides and Bornstein moved in at left back in that circumstance.

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PRE-GAME– It may not sound like I'm giving Costa Rica a chance here but it needs to be pointed out that the Tico midfield is VERY good and if the Costa Ricans can get their fast possession game going early, it can keep the Americans on their heels. the key once again will be dealing with Centeno and Ruiz.

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PRE-GAME– Why the decision to attack? Costa Rica's defense is vulnerable, and having to deal with Donovan, Altidore and Dempsey will be very tough.

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PRE-GAME– I've just been told the formation will be more of a 4-3-3 than a 4-3-2-1. Something like this:

—Donovan——-Altidore———Dempsey—

——Torres——Mastroeni—–Bradley——-

Beasley—-Bocanegra—-Onyewu—–Wynne

——————-Howard———————-

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PRE-GAME– If that's the formation, then the Americans are coming here to attack and make a statement, something that has to be exciting to U.S. fans. Don't let the three midfielders in front of the back four fool you. If that's the formation they use, you will see torres and Bradley float into the attack, while also overing for Beasley and Wynne when they get forward on the overlap.

How will the Americans deal with Ruiz? Donovan, Torres, and Beasley will be on that side of the field, so Ruiz will have plenty of company over there. As for Walter Centeno, Costa Rica's playmaker? Mastroeni's task will be to stick to him all match.

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PRE-GAME- It just dawned on me that we might see the 4-3-2-1 formation I've mentioned in the past as a possibility for the United States, the same one Bradley deployed against Cuba in the second half of a qualifier last year:

——————-Altidore———————-

————Donovan—Dempsey————–

—–Torres—–Mastroeni—–Bradley——-

Beasley—-Bocanegra—-Onyewu—–Wynne

——————-Howard———————-

Interesting indeed. The U.S. team certainly has the speed on the flanks to make this work.

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PRE-GAME– I tell you what folks, we are in for an exciting game if these lineups are any indication.

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PRE-GAME– Here is the Costa Rica lineup:

————Herron—-Saborio————–

——————Centeno——————-

Sirias———————————–Ruiz

——————Borges——————–

Diaz——Fernandez—Umana——Wallace

——————-Navas———————-

BENCH- Gonzalez, Alonso, Furtado, Herrera, Hernandez, Segares, Bolanos

I got 10 of 11 starters from my projected Costa Rica squad, with the missing one being Andy Herron for Cristian Bolanos.

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PRE-GAME- Here is the formation:

————–Altidore—–Donovan

Torres—————————–Dempsey

———–Bradley—–Mastroeni———–

Beasley—-Bocanegra—Onyewu—-Wynne

——————-Howard——————-

Very athletic lineup tonight.

So why no Ching. It's probably the one move we should have seen coming. Ching is known for struggling on turf because of the wear it puts on his body. He has sat for Houston against teams on turf, and sitting him tonight should allow him to start vs. Honduras.

Whether the US deploys a 4-5-1 or 4-4-2, U.S. fans will be loving the sight of Altidore and Torres in the lineup.

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PRE-GAME– Here is the USA lineup:

 1-Tim Howard; 6-Marvell Wynne, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 3-Carlos Bocanegra, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 4-Pablo Mastroeni, 12-Michael Bradley, 9-Jose Francisco Torres; 8-Clint Dempsey, 10-Landon Donovan, 17-Jozy Altidore

Subs: 18-Brad Guzan, 2-Ricardo Clark, 11-Freddy Adu, 13-Jonathan Bornstein, 14-Jay DeMerit, 15-Charlie Davies, 16-Sacha Kljestan

Yep, surprises.

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PRE-GAME- So why might Spector not be dressing? Good question, but I'm wondering whether Bob Bradley is choosing to go with Marvell Wynne's speed at right back to neutralize the speed Costa Rica could have on that flank, particularly if Ruiz is deployed as a left winger. There is also the turf factor. Spector has a history of injury issues and could be vulnerable playing on the awful turf here, while Marvell Wynne plays on turf for Toronto FC. Just a thought.

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PRE-GAME– I have actually seen quite a few U.S. fans in the past few minutes. A decent number, but a group that will still be drowned out by the Costa Rican fans.

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PRE-GAME– O-LE, OLE, OLE, OLE. TI-CO, TI-CO!

I'd rate the atmosphere here as more of a party atmosphere than an intimidating cauldron (at least for now).

Oh no, the main Costa Rica section is deliver loud chants using Thunder Stix of all things. Corny, but effective.

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PRE-GAME– So is the "surprising lineup moves" buzz legit or just a smokescreen? We will be finding out in a few minutes.

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PRE-GAME– The announcer here just introduced the U.S. team and a loud chorus of whistled rained down. The crowd here is ready to make some noise tonight.

It must be said that for as downtrodden as this stadium is, the atmosphere is great. Ultimately, it's the fans who make a stadium, not the concrete and steel.

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PRE-GAME– The team has arrived at the stadium and I have to say it was one of the more tame motorcades I've been a part of. No word on the U.S. lineup yet.

We are less than 90 minutes from kick and the crowd is filling in nicely. The ends are more full than the lower tiers on the wider sides of the field. Looks like the people with more expensive tickets are taking their time to get here. I've seen a few American fans sprinkled in, but the similarity in colors between the teams will make spotting them pretty tough. Then again you can still spot the clusters of American flags.

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PRE-GAME– The bus is set to depart from the team hotel. It should be an interesting ride to Saprissa. I'll provide some details of the ride once we arrive.

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PRE-GAME– The buzz I'm hearing is that the U.S. lineup tonight will be a surprising one with some unexpected selections. Just what those surprise are remains to be seen. If I were guessing I'd say that we might se Jozy Altidore and/or Jose Francisco Torres.

A source has told me that defender Jonathan Spector is not dressing for this match (not sure why). If this is true then Marvell Wynne should get the nod at right back. I just saw Spector and he didn't appear injured. I'll look to get confirmation of this ASAP.

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PRE-GAME– We are just over two hours to kickoff and the weather is still beautiful. Here's hoping it stays that way.

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