U.S. Men's National Team

Dempsey winner caps strong team effort as USMNT tops Costa Rica in snow storm

Clint Dempsey

Photo by ISIPhotos.com


COMMERCE CITY, Colo.– The snow started falling in the afternoon, but few could have imagined the sort of blizzard-like conditions that would develop and help make Friday night’s World Cup qualifier at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park a match for the ages.

Playing on a snow-blanketed field, the U.S. Men’s National Team turned in a strong group performance in conditions most players admitted were some of the worst they had ever played in. The heavy snow didn’t stop the U.S. from putting passes together, and defending well and turning in the kind of complete effort they needed after their forgettable showing against Honduras last month.

Clint Dempsey once again stepped up to deliver a goal when the U.S. needed it the most, finishing off a 16th-minute strike that held up as the game-winner in a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica that helped catapult the Americans from last place in the CONCACAF Hexagonal Round of World Cup qualifying to second place. An ideal position heading into Tuesday’s vital clash against Mexico at Estadio Azteca.

The snow didn’t stop the U.S. from controlling much of the play in the first place. The snow-covered field made it easier for the Americans to pass the ball and they combined passes better than they had in recent memory. They broke through in the 16th minute when Dempsey took a ball deflected off Costa Rica defender Roy Miller and buried it for the early lead.

Goalkeeper Brad Guzan and the U.S. defense made that lead stand up on a night when they were able to deal with a Costa Rica side that never quite adapted to the snow-covered field. Guzan made five saves and dealt with every threat that came his way. U.S. centerbacks Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson were stout in the air, clearing away most aerial threats.

On a night when so many players stepped up, veteran DaMarcus Beasley was a popular pick as Man of the Match. Deployed in the unfamiliar role of left back, a spot he hadn’t started at for the U.S. since an awful showing there against Costa Rica in 2009 World Cup qualifying, Beasley was outstanding all night. He broke up countless plays and covered the entire left side of the field, helping keep Costa Rican star Bryan Ruiz quiet and limiting Costa Rica’s attacking options.

The match looked like it might be halted early in the second half, as several inches of snow collected on the field, but when the referee stopped the match in the 56th minutes, he did so in order to allow field crews to clear the end lines, sidelines and penalty area lines of snow.

The delay led to the packed house at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to start chanting “Let Them Play” as players from both teams urged the referee to let the match continue. Referee Joel Aguilar eventually restarted play.

Costa Rica pressed hard for an equalizer, throwing as many as five players into the attack, but their close chances all went begging, and none seriously tested Guzan.

After the match, Costa Rican head coach Jorge Luis Pinto was irate at the playing conditions and called it a travesty that the match was allowed to continue. Most of Costa Rica’s players echoed those sentiments, with many saying the match should have been postponed early on.

“What is there to say? We know that under normal conditions they don’t beat us,” said Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio.

“The game should have been suspended from the 15th minute,” Costa Rican star Bryan Ruiz said. “It was a joke. I’ve never played in those kind of conditions.”

The U.S. now sit in second place in the Hexagonal standings with three points, and will travel to Mexico City on Sunday ahead of Tuesday’s qualifier against Mexico at Estadio Azteca. The match will be vital for a Mexico side sitting on just two points from two matches (Mexico tied Honduras, 2-2, in San Pedro Sula on Friday).

“We’ve got to get our points at home and we’ve got to make sure on the road we get some points,” Klinsmann said after Friday’s match. “We’re going to start with that Tuesday night at Azteca Stadium.

“We have, obviously, a lot of respect for Mexico. That respect is always there, because it’s a very big soccer nation. We went there last August and came back with a win and that’s what we’re trying to do on Tuesday. But it was crucial to start this doubleheader with three points.”

  • David M

    Got the result. That’s the most important thing. However, it doesn’t obscure a couple of important facts:

    1. Costa Rica was the better team over the last 50-60 minutes.

    2. USA managed exactly one shot on goal over 90+ minutes and forced the Costa Rican goalie into exactly zero saves.


    • GW

      1. It’s a good thing for the US then isn’t it that neither team scored in the last 50-60 minutes.

      2. Zero saves was because he did not save that one shot. Since the game ended one zero, that was all that was necessary.

      They won. That is all that matters. Spain was tied at HOME 1-1 by Finland so just remember that WC qualifiers are not easy for anyone, even the champs.

      This was a great result and what you are doing is whining, bitching and moaning for no particularly useful reason.


  • John

    GUZAN – handled ball well despite horrible conditions except for one missed cross, though blizzard may have something to do with
    CAMERON – aggressive in moving forward but occasionally prone to bad giveaways, one of which led to dangerous CR counterattack
    GOODSON and GONZALEZ – reassured and calmed performance from the back, with both winning a lot of balls
    BEASLEY – MAN OF THE MATCH. Contained CR attack, moved forward aggressively and tracked back on defense. Excellent two way performance. Earned himself another start vs. Mexico and hopefully for more games to come
    BRADLEY – typical workmanlike performance. Makes the game look simple with his textbook passes. Sets the bar high with his quiet yet effective performance such that his contributions are sometimes get overlooked. Prefer for him to be captain since he is more vocal than Deuce.
    JONES – together with Bradley, controlled the midfield but still prone to occasional bonehead plays like that elbow to Ruiz. Gets plus points for continuing to play despite stitches to his leg at halftime; given the conditions, he could have been excused to be subbed but he soldiered on.
    DEMPSEY – right place at the right time with simple goal from deflection. Overall, ordinary 90 minute shift. Would have liked for him to be more vocal being the captain but that’s not his style.
    ZUSI – workmanlike performance with some promising crosses
    GOMEZ – typical excellent work ethic and played well with DMB at the left flank by tracking back when DMB moved forward. Passing was decent with occasional bad giveaways and runs were ordinary but given conditions, pleased with overall performance.
    ALTIDORE – deflected shot led to only goal of game. More aggressive and hold up play slightly improved but still want to see more from him given how he is currently in form in the Eredivisie though weather certainly did not help

    JOHNSON – not suited as a winger. Given his fresh legs, expected him to be more aggressive in pressuring CR’s back but he didn’t. Role should be confined to forward
    EDU – not enough time to make any impact
    BECKERMAN – time wasting substitution made by JK, did not expect him to make any meaningful plays


  • Brain Guy

    FIFA should consider a replay – as soon as they replay every CONCACAF game where fans throw batteries, coins, bags of urine, and cups of vomit on the field.


  • run

    Ives, and fans… Can you help give some historical perspective on games played in the snow? What conditions have led to cancelled games? Finland, Canada and Iceland all play at home. Obviously this is not the first time. Was this game particularly unique? Does it matter that it was a WCQ?


  • Brain Guy

    I couldn’t help noticing that Roy Miller’s bad play and bad luck picked right up where they left off in San Jose. He deflected the Altidore shot that turned into Dempsey’s goal, and then should have been called for an obvious foul on Dempsey in the area.


  • sjm003

    Certainly an ugly game to watch, but the exposure the USMNT got nationally is priceless. This game was definitely a hot topic despite the sloppy conditions.


  • The Imperative Voice

    The weather turned this into anything but normal soccer so I don’t know how we draw sweeping generalizations about US Soccer or Klinsmann. Plus we’re about to head to Azteca, which often enough promotes bad results and discussion of how the coaches and players all suck. So the truth must be somewhere in between. This will get JK through the summer, upshot, and I think if he gets enough results Gulati’s not doing a darned thing.

    The weather was perfect for Jozy, sloppy for everyone. Donovan is out but might be back by June, Dempsey and Gomez are firmly installed. Jozy will probably get plenty of time in Mexico too, and he is definitely re-installing himself firmly in the 18, but this should not be overblown any more than EJ showing up Antigua (disappeared last night). Subbing EJ into a snow game actually told me Klinsi is not a genius.

    DmB lost his man a few times but recovered. I think that makes it mediocre and not MOTM. But given the roster it’s perhaps a one eyed man being king in the land of the blind situation.

    Dempsey knocked a deflection into an open net. Clutch like usual, but actually a quiet night.

    The thing that most impressed me was the overall team effort, overcoming the elements and the press kerfuffle and dealing themselves back into the mix. Most everyone had a mixed bag night, Jones would look good then do something dumb, Beasley would lose his man then catch him, Cameron would win a ball and then pass is somewhere dense, etc. What pleased me was in context they played hard as a team and got the result. Character game.


  • ManGut

    I do not ever again want to read or hear a USMNT team member or a gringo complain and whine about how horrible the fields are in CONCACAF after that display last night. Even on a poorly kept, dried field the ball rolls and the game resembles what it is suppose to be. It is all fair- altitude, heat, humidity, day game, snow and poorer countries with bad fields. Do not whine about conditions ever again.


    • Scott

      Because bad weather is the same thing as purposely making a field small, muddy and not mowing the grass. You are comparing intentional actions to weather. Also, nice to see that non-gringos can continue to verbally flop when unhappy. As to poorer countries, perhaps they could use some of the bribe money to provide a playing surface that doesn’t s-ck even in good weather.


  • baropbop

    It’s amazing to me how willing people are to completely overlook the fact that Jermaine Jones does something that warrants a few yellows and often a red in every single game he plays. He should have received a red for the clearly intentional elbow to the face of Ruiz.
    He was suspended for Schalke’s last match in Champions League. Who knows what happens if he had been available. He is constantly getting suspended in the Bundesliga. Is his up side really that much greater than all of our other midfield options? In tournament play where referees are consistantly in question, I’m surprised that he is unanimously considered worth the risk. Will anyone be surprised when we have to play a man down in a critical match? I like the intensity he brings but I’m surprised it’s not even up for debate.


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