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USA/Costa Rica: A closer look at Costa Rica

CostaRicaSquad (Reuters)

So what about Costa Rica?

U.S. national team fans have been hearing all about Saprissa Stadium and the U.S. team's history of poor results there, but we haven't heard much about the actual opponent the Americans will face.

So what can be said about 'Los Ticos'? It is a young and talented team with some good weapons in attack, but a defense that the U.S. team could potentially exploit depending on the approach the Americans take in tonight's match.

The Costa Ricans are led by attacking stars Brian Ruiz and Walter Centeno, who can both provide goals from midfield. The Tico forwards aren't in the best of form as a group, but is more than capable of finishing chances of Centeno and Ruiz are allowed to create. One thing you won't see Costa Rica do is try to get into a physical battle with the United States. They know the key to beating the U.S. defense is speed and beating American defenders with ball movement and quick transitions.

What will the Costa Rican lineup look like? Only Rodrigo Kenton and his squad knows, but here is a potential starting XI we could see tonight, along with some info on all eleven potential starters:


——————Brian Ruiz———Alvaro Saborio———–

—————————Walter Centeno———————

Esteban Sirias———————————Cristian Bolanos

—————————–Celso Burgos———————–

Junior Diaz————————————-Harold Wallace

————Freddy Fernandez—–Michael Umana————

—————————–Keylor Navas———————–

Player Profiles

Ruiz– Costa Rica's best player. A dynamic winger who is being sought by several EPL clubs. A more naturally right-sided winger, Ruiz is expected to play up top against the U.S. team, where his quickness and skill could cause problems for Onyewu and Bocanegra. Ruiz can also play on the left wing, which is where Rodrigo Kenton couldline him up in order to get away from the potential tandem of Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley, and in order to go after whichever inexperienced right fullback Bob Bradley starts.

Centeno– Costa Rica's talisman, a veteran attacker who can score goals out of midfield as well as set them up. Bradley and Mastroeni will need to shackle the 34-year-old midfielder in order to help neutralize the Tico attack.

Saborio– A World Cup veteran and Costa Rica's most established striker, Saborio is another Deportivo Saprissa product who now plies his trade with Swiss side FC Sion. Not in the best form and could also be benched in favor of Andy Furtado, although Herron is more likely to be benched.

Sirias– Coming off a dream season that saw him help lead Liberia Mia to the Costa Rican title, Sirias is a speedy winger capable of playing at fullback or in midfield. His recent top form has him poised to break into the starting lineup, which would allow Rodrigo Kenton to bench his out-of-form forwards and start Ruiz up top.

Bolanos– Talented right winger who is a regular for Norwegian club IK Start, where he plays alongside former U.S. Olympic teamer Hunter Freeman.

Diaz– Athletic left back who plays for Polish club Wisla Krakow (and was on my flight here from Newark). Is Rodrigo Kenton's preferred choice ahead of Chicago Fire left back Gonzalo Segares.

Wallace– A veteran right back and uncle of D.C. United left winger/left back Rodney Wallace

Burgos– A highly-regarded defensive midfielder who made his debut for Deportivo Saprissa at the age of 16, Burgos made the move to Europe this year, signing with Norwegian club Fredrickstad.

Umana– Smallish central defender who was on the LA Galaxy roster in 2005. Should have trouble dealing physically with the forward tandem of Brian Ching and Jozy Altidore.

Fernandez- Veteran defender is 35, but is actually a late bloomer on the national team scene.

Navas– A young but talented netminder, Navas doesn't have much national team experience but is regarded as the future of the position. He should get the nod over 35-year-old Ricardo Gonzalez. Also a very good poker player (from what my Costa Rican poker buddies tell me down here).


The Costa Ricans do boast a good attack, but its main strikers have all struggled with form on the club level lately. That includes Andy Herron, Alvaro Saborio and Andy Hurtado. The one player coming off a good club season is Esteban Arias, who is considered as having an outside chance of being a surprise pick by Kenton.

Costa Rica head coach Rodrigo Kenton isn't afraid to speak his mind and he has spoken out about the choice of referee for this match. Trinidadian referee Neil Brizan will call the match, which is an issue because Costa Rica has 11 players in yellow card peril and Trinidad & Tobago just happens to be Costa Rica's next opponent.

"This is a situation that, from the very beginning, seemed abnormal," Kenton said. "(Trinidad & Tobago) are our rivals in the very next game."

Would CONCACAF (run by Trinidad & Tobago's Jack Warner) really be trying to pull some shenanigans? Come on, not CONCACAF?


So who are the 11 Costa Ricans in yellow card peril? Basically what should be most of the starting lineup:

Ricardo González, Freddy Fernández, Júnior Díaz, Michael Umaña, Óscar Esteban Granados, Bryan Ruiz, Celso Borges, Cristian Bolaños, Armando Alonso, Álvaro Saborío y Andy Furtado.

For those keeping track, that is a total of seven from the projected starting lineup.


What do you think of this Costa Rican squad? Worried about what Ruiz and Centeno will be able to do? Confident that Jonathan Spector (or Marvell Wynne) will be able to contain Ruiz? Any doubts about Michael Bradley and Pablo Mastroeni shutting down Centeno?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. @TJPierce Thanks for the tip on bars. Probably doesn’t make sense to tailgate due to the potential rain.

    @The Athority Looks like the pre-party will be @Krolls. We’ll probably be there at 5-530. A Latino, An Indian and a Caucasian. Not quite a NOFX album but close enough.

    You can email me at alejandro (dot) hernandez (at) gmail (dot) com

    My name (for the sake of saving pronunciation embarrassment) is Alex.

    Rough game last night. Sheesh.

  2. Those guys look like they belong on a post office wall

    If they start to lose tonight watch out for the cheap shots. CR (and Mexico) are DIRTY if they are losing. Remember, it was a guy from CR that took out Tab Ramo’s knee because he was embarrassing him

  3. Wow This Wallace is the uncle of DC United’s Wallace. Wow thats pretty neat. Talk about sparks if Wallace decides to play for the USA.

  4. Bryan Ruiz did Oguchi Onyewu a very big favor a few weeks ago in the Belgian League regular season finale.

    Gooch committed a rather dumb and unnecessary foul on the edge of the penalty area right at the end of the game against Gent. Ruiz took a weak PK that was saved by Standard Liege’s keeper and preserved their 1-0 victory. That left Standard and Anderlecht tied on points and in the Belgian League that requires a playoff.

    Standard played well in that playoff and beat Anderlecht to win the championship. But if Ruiz had converted his PK a week earlier Anderlecht would have been champs.

  5. CT,

    Not whining. Not that big of a deal. Johnson deserved retribution for his horrific challenge the 1st game in Houston.

    It was not a fair challenge. The referee blew the whistle and called a foul and a free kick. No denying that.

    Johson’s touch was poor which helped contribute, I’m not arguing that.

    As you can see, I can be fair and open minded about discussions regarding my team. Happy to discsuss the topic but it seems that you have it set in your mind that NO MATTER WHAT, Houston and Holden can do no wrong.

    That’s fine, but if that’s the case it’s not worth going back and forth.

  6. The Athority:

    Quit whining about Carlos Johnson’s injury. Holden made a fair challenge. Besides if Johnson wasn’t such an inept ball handler, he could have easily avoided Holden’s challenge.

  7. Ives, did you chat Diaz up? I know a lot of Ticos speak English and/or you speak some, if not a lot of Spanish. Don’t know you too well but anyways.

    So, what did he have to say if you did chat him up?

  8. “Wallace- A veteran right back and uncle of D.C. United left winger/left back Rodney Wallace.”

    Uncle? I thought they were cousins.

  9. 2 things..

    1. K1p, yes terrible touch by Johnson agreed. I have the game on DVR and slow motioned it 5X. Holden’s takle, his studs came directly down on the top of Johnson’s foot, and broke it. The referee blew his whistle and called a foul….not me.

    2. hernangeles, work with me here!!!!!!!

    I just booked a trip to Chicago for work today and am staying the weekend. I totally forgot about the qualifier being there. YES!!!!!

    I’m fron NY also and will definitley get tickets, even if I have to scalp and pay too much.

    Happy to hook up with you and your crew.

  10. hernangeles – there are a couple of bars in the south loop of chicago that are within walking distance of soldier field and chicago trains (roosevelt stop). you could take a cab or the train to the bar and walk to the game from there. Check out Wabash Tap, Grace O’Malleys, or Krohl’s. If you go to Krohl’s, you can use a pedestrian bridge on 18th street to walk over the train tracks and under Lake Shore Drive to get to Soldier Field. If you pick either one of those other bars, just walk east on Roosevelt and you can walk in a tunnel under Lake Shore Drive to get to Soldier Field. Sorry for the length of the post, folks.

  11. Did anyone watch the Costa Rica v. Mexico game. I know it was in Azteca, but Costa Rica looked bad and not very skilled. They couldn’t trap the ball or hit more than two passes. It will be interesting to see how they look tonight, but last time I saw them they were rather unimpressive.

  12. Roberto,

    There are systems available that let you program your TIVO/DVR online. I would like to get one myself as I travel a lot.

  13. Foul? What foul gmen04? If Johnson would have taken care of the ball on the pass, then Holden would not have tackled him.

  14. Roberto – The Womens College World Series was scheduled on ESPN2, but it is over. So now, instead of risking missing the first part of the game to Boston v. Detroit baseball, they moved the game to ESPN2 and gave it an extra half hour of coverage. Hope you are able to watch it.

  15. Re the ref and Jack Warner, the Tico v T&T match will be in Tobago. No direct flights from Costa Rica to Port of Spain. They’ll have to go via Miami and then onto Tobago afterwards. Unless they charter something direct, it will be alot of pre-match travel. Good ole Jack Warner.

  16. There it is….now I know why the switch to ESPN2 ; womens college softball…womens f*##%g college softball . Brilliant ESPN!! You people are arrogant and moronic, no respect whatsoever

  17. Slightly off topic. Anybody tailgating in Chicago on Saturday? Unfortunately, it looks like it’s gonna rain. Flying out from NY with a couple of friends but not renting a car, hence no tailgating from us. Would like to meet up with some fellow SBI readers.

  18. The MLS ref at Azteca did give a very questionable penalty on a Pardo dive. I’m not saying it was anything but incompetence, but it did affect the game.
    Probably the biggest advantage the US has from the ref is most Caribbean refs seem to allow a more physical game.

  19. Micronesia justin – just when i was going to get a little excited about the US ranking I went and looked at the table. I saw that England is ranked higher than Argetina!!! FOTFLMAO. FIFA needs to give up the ranking business.

  20. What is wrong with ESPN why are they so inept and annoying I cannot stand them, now I’m left without game because of a last minute change as I left it recording… What did they favor now? College womens waterpolo match? Or over 50 state bowling? Darts??? What are they stupid?? I’m sick of this!!! Why don’t don’t you give at least 48 hours notice????????

  21. Good insight. We should be able to get at least a point. We have more European based players (meaning playing against and with better competition) and just more overall talent. I know rankings don’t really matter, but some of y’all get off on this stuff: USA jumped up a spot to #14 and Costa Rica stayed even at #41.

  22. the athority, yes i know he is he out the fould occurred right in front of my seats, i am asking if he was fit is he now an automatic selection for the Ticos

  23. Great insight Ives!

    gmen, Carlos Johnson has a broken foot and will be out 3 months thanks to Stuart Holden’s sloppy takle and foul. Nice of the ref not to even book Holden.

    Ken from CT, you have my empathy. Good luck and hope you really enjoy the match.

    What BellesLudas is referring to is the last time we played a qualifier in CR. Last minute controversial hand ball and Bruce lost his mind. He wound up getting suspended the next game. Also, Captain USA Claudio Reyna lost his mind and thew the Captain’s arm band at the referee. He was also suspended the next game.

    On a positive note, the referee from that game got 1,000 tickets to WC 2006 Germany to scalp.

  24. Fantastic post Ives! Kudos for providing far deeper and better analysis of the costa rican team than any of your colleagues. The game will be more interesting to watch because of your coverage. If only you could fix the espn/espn2 switch fiasco…

  25. I am shocked and appalled that someone would ever think Jack Warner was capable of such shenanigans. 😉

  26. ruiz is the only one that scares me. im confident that we will be able to contain centeno. i dont think they have the talent in the middle of their defense to stop our attack. saprissa stadium is far more intimidating than this team.

    1-0 to the yanks

  27. It does looks like we are playing the stadium. MB and PB can shut down grandpa Ceteno. Ruiz will be the key to this match it sounds like. Which ever side he’s on I would move Deuce to his side for defensive cover and to free up LD (assuming we play the same 4-4-2 as TNT). Deuce may ahve to take one for the team. After that this game looks like the atmosphere will be our biggest hurdle.

    Good ‘ol Jack Warner at it again….

  28. As a Costa Rican – American, these are my two favorite teams, i follow them very closely.. and i hold the up most respect for both of them..
    i believe Furtado is the future of the Costa Rican strike force and can be very dangerous, he reminds me of Wanchope already.. i also wish Junior Diaz And Segares would get the start in defense, theyre both too talented to be benched..
    i am a massive US fan, but seeing how CR needs more help qualifying then the US do, im hoping for a good result for CR

  29. I originally listed Herron as a projected starter but I’m hearing that Esteban Sirias is expected to get the nod on the left wing, which would free up Ruiz to play up top. Expect Ruiz to float all over the field, and not just sit up top.

  30. Funny that Kenton commented negatively about the official. He did the same thing not too long ago when they went into Azteca. It was an American ref that time and he was pretty much excusing himself for the loss even before it happened because he didn’t think the American was a good choice to officiate the match.

    Anyway…Andy Herron? Wow, I didn’t think he was still a starter on the national team.

  31. I’m actually not too worried about shutting down their strikers if Andy Herron is a projected starter. I’d be more worried about Ruiz and Centeno although I’m confident in Spector handling Ruiz. I actually think Beasley on the left is more of a defensive liabilty than the right back.


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