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Costa Rica focused on attacking soccer, not revenge ahead of USMNT Gold Cup showdown

Mauricio Castillo

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EAST HARTFORD, Conn. — Costa Rica is focused on doing one thing in their Gold Cup group stage finale against the U.S. Men’s National Team, and it’s not what most might initially think.

Rather than set their sights towards obtaining revenge after suffering a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in a memorable World Cup qualifier played on an extremely snowy night in Colorado back in March, the Ticos are aiming on trying to play attacking soccer when the two nations meet again at Rentschler Field on Tuesday night.

Costa Rica enters the match with some question marks surrounding an offense that needed an own goal to knock off Belize, 1-0, last Saturday. That is not discouraging them from trying to go blow-for-blow with an in-form U.S. team that has scored 16 goals in its past three games, especially since Costa Rica’s defense has posted seven straight shutouts since that unforgettable match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“We just went over the film from the Belize game and defensively all we conceded was one attack from a free kick,” Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto said during his pre-game press conference on Monday. “That was it in the whole game. We also had 178 passes in the second half, which indicates we dominated possession.

“Obviously, the U.S. are going to be a team that is more aggressive, that is going to fight for the ball just as much as we do, that can recover quickly and will look to use the ball. We’re going to be cautious of that, but more importantly is that we’re going to try to have the ball and attack.”

The Ticos opened their Gold Cup with a 3-0 win vs. Cuba, a match that saw them held to a 0-0 halftime score. The Belize match saw them create a plethora of chances, but they were unable to finish any of them.

The lack of goals might be a cause for concern, but Costa Rica is still entering Tuesday’s match confident about being able to create chances, though even the Ticos players acknowledge they will need to step up their game to have a chance of beating the in-form Americans.

“I thought we played well in the attack [vs. Belize],” said center midfielder Michael Barrantes, who scored twice in Costa Rica’s win vs. Cuba. “Maybe we didn’t score the goals that we wanted, or thought we could, but what mattered was the three points.

“All games are different and we need to improve,” added Barrantes. “The United States is different than Belize and different than Cuba so we have to improve to be ready for that game.”

From a defensive standpoint, Costa Rica will have its hands full. The U.S. attack, led by Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski, has found goals in abundance in its last few matches and confidence amongst the Americans is pretty high.

Still, Costa Rica knows that being careful with the ball and negating a U.S. midfield corps that includes Donovan, Joe Corona and Kyle Beckerman is critical in order to have any shot of picking up three points against Jurgen Klinsmann’s side.

“We have to know how to control the game,” said Pinto. “We know they have a lot of important players in the attack. Donovan is raising his game, Corona sees the field and opens it well, Beckerman is someone who provides quite a bit and [Diskerud], too. At the same time, we have to make the U.S. think about us a bit, too.”

All this is not to say that the Costa Ricans have completely forgotten about the snowy World Cup qualifier back in March. In fact, they remember it quite vividly, even if they are not using it as a source of motivation for Tuesday’s encounter.

“I’ve said 10,000 times that no we shouldn’t have [played that game in those conditions]. It was absurd,” said Pinto. “After the game, everyone from federations and from soccer around the world said that didn’t make any sense. No one in their right mind would have allowed a match like that to be played.”

Costa Rica may not have completely wiped that 1-0 defeat from their minds, but the game plan for the U.S. remains the same, and that could lead to a free-flowing game that might pan out in the Ticos’ favor if they show a little more sharpness and composure in the final third.

“We have to be compact because we know they attack well down the wings, so we have to try and negate that,” said Roy Miller, “but we also have to play to our strengths and continue to try and create chances and get goals.”


  1. God, butt hurt much. The day we don’t have to come down there and play in your crappy fields, humidity, heat, and flying urine is the day you can complain that the U.S. had an advantage in the snow. #Puh-lease

  2. It is really too bad that Costa Rica are so petty about their loss. What is particularly resentful is the undertone that this was some kind of ploy to lure a poor Central American side into the frozen tundra where the northerners possessed an innate advantage.

  3. I think it’s gonna be end-to-end action. We will allow no fewer than a half-dozen good looks at goal, it’s just up to CR to take them.

    How many will we get? I’m hoping to see more shooting and less back-passing but at this point we should probably focus on getting the result (a 0-0 draw gives us 1st place) and avoiding any silly bookings. Despite their claims to the contrary, I seriously doubt CR is going to keep less than 9 behind the ball at all times so we should be able to control the game and drain the clock.

  4. I like this coach, Pinto. He seems levelheaded. So I’m sure the Costa Ricans will run him out a few months before the World Cup.

    • Their revenge could come sooner than the Hex match. While this particular match doesn’t really mean anything for either team (we’re both qualified for next phase of the tournament)…we could, face CRC in the knock-out rounds…where if they beat us would hinder our chances of going to the 2018 Confed Cup.
      My worry is that most of the teams advancing to the knockout rounds will augment their squads (4 player replacements) and that the US will stay pat with the players they currently have. If that is the case I will be more concerned about our chances to win.

      • I think there’s plenty to play for here. The Group C winner is, in all likelihood, going to be getting Martinique as their QF matchup. The second-place team will be taking on Honduras, probably only to turn around and play another game against the Group C foe. If the emphasis is on winning this tournament (and it should be, considering how down Mexico are right now), then this match is an absolute priority.

        I also think we’ll be making some shifts in the knockout rounds. At the very least, Shea will be gone.

  5. Both teams had to play in conditions that are not a specific advantage for either player base.

    How many of our players grew up playing in the snow? How many play in a region where snow is common for their club?

    The day nations to our south can’t play in heat, humidity and poor fields is the day I’ll listen to any of these tired excuses.

  6. And I also think it has been said 10,000 times that the U.S. played in the same conditions and were equally hampered by the weather. When play was stopped in game, the Costa Rican players appeared to want play to continue. Only after the result ended in a loss (which was fair, the U.S. was the better team on the night) did they suddenly protest the supposed unfairness of proceedings. But, like an earlier poster said, typical CONCACAF flim flam.

    • Could be to our advantage if we play vs. Honduras in the next round and Velasquez has to sit due to the ketchup coupon

  7. I actually agree that the game should have been called…except for the fact that every other team in CONCACAF is doing everything THEY can to create advantages, whether it being crappy fields, fans outside of hotels all night, etc. It was not soccer, but that kind of stuff is par for the course in this region, so when in Rome…

    On another note, can’t wait for this game. If the US can’t boss the midfield, the shaky defense will have their hands full with Arrieta and Saborio. Glad we don’t have to win this game and that they don’t, either. Could make for a great night of attacking soccer… I predict two more Wondo goals, whether he starts or is a sub


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