By IVES GALARCEP
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica– The history of the USA-Costa Rica rivalry isn’t exactly a prestigious one for the U.S. Men’s National Team. At least not when it comes to visit to this Central American nation. Eight World Cup qualifying visits here have yielded just one point, with seven straight losses being the streak the Americans must look to end on Friday in the latest installment of the rivalry.
That losing streak isn’t on the minds of the current U.S. team. Another streak is. The team’s current 12-game winning streak, the best run in the world at the moment, has the Americans feeling very confident as they prepare to face off with the Ticos at Estadio Nacional on Friday night.
“We obviously know that,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said of the team’s winless record in Costa Rica. “One of the things that’s been good is we’ve had a lot of firsts under Jurgen so it gives us confidence that we can do it again. Because we’re so close now our sole focus is getting a win. If it happens to come, and it’s a first, that’s great too, but that’s not really that important.”
The U.S. team heads into Friday’s World Cup qualifier brimming with the confidence that comes not only from winning 12 straight, but also winning games on the road like they did last month in a come-from-behind victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“It’s not a fluke that our team has won 12 games in a row,” Donovan said. “You could say a few games along the way maybe we didn’t deserve a win here or there, but to win 12 in a row is impressive.
The streak doesn’t matter to the U.S. as much as the fact the Americans are on the cusp of qualifying for the World Cup.
“Not only with us being so close (to qualifying), but also because the expectation has changed,” Howard said. “We’ve won games on the road, away from home. Not just here (in CONCACAF) but in Europe as well.
Howard acknowledged that the winning streak has made an impact on the team’s mood heading into the next round of qualifiers.
“When it comes to game time we’re still nervous and raring to go, and all that, but it changes the atmosphere outside of the field,” Howard said. “It gives it a bit of a light-hearted feel. But we’re still focused, and that’s what happens when you have confidence, and you know you’ve been winning and you’re capable of winning.”
Howard credited the U.S. team’s new aggressive attacking approach with being part of the reason the team has been able to put together a record winning streak.
“In large part, we’ve been pressing teams when the ball turns over, and we’ve made that a priority,” Howard said. “I think when you do that, as you see with Barcelona, who really kind of started all this, you win the ball higher up the field. You’ve got less work to do. You don’t have to build and break a team down. You’ve basically made the ball turn over and you’re right back at them.”
The U.S. won’t be going into Friday’s match looking to take a defensive-minded approach like past U.S. teams have taken in tough road qualifiers. Jurgen Klinsmann and his players made it clear the U.S. will look to go after Costa Rica.
“We don’t want to change a whole lot,” Donovan said. “We have a lot of guys that are playing very well and are very confident, and we just want to keep going.
“We have what it takes to beat this team on Friday,” Donovan said. “And there’s no reason why we can’t go in there with the attitude that we can win this game.”