The match between the U.S.A and Costa Rica figures to be quite contentious. Americans knew that the Ticos would be frustrated after their perceived slight stemming from the “Snow Bowl” played earlier this year in Denver, but do you think they were expecting this? They felt that the U.S. gained an unfair advantage by playing in the snow, though I don’t see how that’s really possible. As a result, the reception for the U.S. Men’s National Team in Costa Rica has been frosty, to say the least (see what I did there?). Keith Olbermann shed some light in a humorous fashion on the ridiculous welcome that the U.S. has received so far.
The Costa Rican team would love nothing more than to complete their nation’s revenge plot by beating the U.S. Friday night. After coming out and looking rather cautious in the game in Denver, Costa will more than likely come out with a much more offensive-minded game plan. Look for them to push players further up the field and attack the right side of the American defense. Whoever Klinsmann chooses to start at RB (I’m saying it will be Cameron) will need to be on their toes as the majority of the Costa Rican chances have come from the left side.
One of the calling cards of the Klinsmann tenure has been his desire to change the identity of the U.S. from a team that simply endures pressure and tries to attack on the counter, to a team that controls the tempo and pace of the game. It will be interesting to see if the U.S. really tries to impose their will on the Ticos in an incredibly hostile environment where the Costa Ricans will surely feel a bit more empowered, or if they will be content to concede the pace of game to their opponents in the hope of safely securing a draw or stealing winner against the run of play.
Costa Rica has been house of horrors for the Americans. Would a draw be considered a success or has the U.S. progressed to the point where wins should be expected regardless of venue? The U.S. hasn’t won a World Cup Qualifying match in Costa Rica. Ever.
Here’s the lineup that I think we will see Friday night:
- Nobody knows if Altidore is healthy enough to play or not (hamstring). If there are no concerns about his health and his ability to recover in time for the upcoming Mexico clash, I would expect for him to start. If not, look for Eddie Johnson in this position (it’s too early and the stakes are too high for an Aron Johannsson appearance). Watch for him to receive the ball with the intention of holding it while other attackers arrive. His ability to hold off opposing defenders and complete passes is huge to the attack, especially in the first half when he will likely be the lone forward. Klinsmann occasionally likes to start the 2nd half with another striker alongside of him (see the Bosnia game). Confidence level – 62% due to health concerns
Center Attacking Midfielder:
- Dempsey isn’t a forward but he isn’t a midfielder either. He will float in and out of the spaces between Altidore and the midfielders, finding space to pick up the ball and get into dangerous places. He’s an expert in being in the right place at the right time. He can also occasionally rip off a well placed shot from the top of the box. Confidence level – 100%
Michael Bradley – CM
- The engine of the U.S. is an automatic start. His passing distribution in the midfield is crucial, and his positioning to slow oncoming attacks and to cover for attacking fullbacks is exceedingly important. Confidence level – 100%
Jermaine Jones – CM
- Jones can be erratic and brash, but when you walk into an opponent’s building there is an immediate advantage that can be gained if you can somehow flip the intimidation around. That’s where Jones comes in. Look for him to break up attacks using any means necessary and make the occasional charge down the field. Confidence level – 97%
Fabian Johnson – LM
- The U.S. has just simply played better when FJ has been on the left side. He makes things happen and provides better cover for Demarcus Beasley when he comes forward than other options at LM. Landon Donovan is also an option here if Klinsmann wants to keep Zusi on the right side. The U.S. prefers to attack down the left side so Fabian should see a lot of action. Confidence level – 68%
Landon Donovan – RM
- It would be shocking if Donovan wasn’t on the field at some point in this game, the questions though are where and when? It’s a great problem to have if you’re Klinsmann. Do you start him over Fabian on the left or Zusi on the right? If Klinsmann starts Zusi and the U.S. is stuck at 0-0 or losing then I would surely expect to see Donovan at RM at some point in the 2nd half. Donovan won’t naturally want to stay wide so look for him to move centrally around the box to look for opportunities. Confidence level – 52%, Zusi – 48%
- Beasley continues his renaissance by starting another World Cup Qualifier at LB. Look for him to keep bombing up and down the left side and using his speed and quickness to give the Costa Ricans headaches. Confidence level – 93%
- He’s been the most reliable CB the U.S. has had so far. John Anthony Brooks poses a slight threat because of his raw abilities, but this is a game that Klinsmann won’t want to take chances with. Look for him to stick with Besler in this difficult environment. Confidence level – 98%
- The partnership between Gonzalez and Besler has worked so far throughout these qualifiers. Few would say that Gonzalez has been the better of pair, however. As mentioned before, Klinsmann most likely won’t risk experimenting or shaking things up at this crucial stage. Geoff Cameron looms large in Gonzalez’s rear-view mirror, though, once the U.S. has qualified. Confidence level – 88%
- It’s obvious that Klinsmann trusts Cameron, seeing that he has started at 3 different positions during his regime. Filling in for an injured Brad Evans at RB, the position he plays at Stoke, will be an interesting task in Costa Rica. Cameron won’t look to get forward too often and will have to remain alert so as to not get turned around by dangerous Costa Rican wingers. That said, the trust Klinsmann has in him is why he will get the start over Parkhurst. Confidence level – 79%
- Howard will start every meaningful game for Klinsmann from now until Brazil. Confidence level – 100%
- Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez vs. Bryan Ruiz from Costa Rica. Ruiz plays for Fullham in the EPL and could be considered Costa Rica’s Clint Dempsey. He makes things happen and it capable of brilliance. His long-range shot can be quite dangerous (see the 1:30 mark) and he is always a threat on set pieces. It will be key for the U.S. to make sure he doesn’t get opportunities to burn them. Ruiz figures to play the center attacking midfielder role for Costa Rica, meaning that the burden of responsibility falls to Besler and Gonzalez.
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