After a rough week approaching the second match in hex qualifying, it felt like kick off would never come for the U.S and Costa Rica. With blustery winter weather at hand, the pivotal match had an added level of intrigue. The lineup was a big question heading in with all the injuries and coach Jurgen Klinsmann called it a must win match.
USMNT Lineup: Guzan; Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Jones, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey (c), Gomez; Altidore
Ticos XI: Navas; Gamboa, Gonzalez, Miller, Umana, Oviedo; Bolanos, Ruiz, Barrantes, Rodriguez; Saborio.
The yellow ball would be in play as snow convered the pitch. The grounds crew did a great job to clear the area for Brad Guzan as captain Clint Dempsey led the team out of the tunnel.
The ball was tough to see with the weather but the U.S. had early possession. DaMarcus Beasley was asked early to press and helped to win early throws in the offensive end. A Herculez Gomez free kick went just past Clarence Goodson in the 5th minute.
Beasley and Omar Gonzalez would collide on a clearing header attempt in the 9th minute sending DMB off the pitch momentarily. The U.S. was keeping possession and Jozy Altidore was evident in his movement. He had a slick back heel to spur one attack. Then his shot in the 17th minute from just outside the 18 would deflect to an unmarked Dempsey for a tap in. Altidore was available and getting service. Roy Miller kept Dempsey onside for the goal.
The snow continued to fall and the play was a but sloppy. Jermaine Jones took a slap to the head early and limped off in the 26th after being stepped on. He came on shortly after.
Soon after Brad Guzan was asked to make his first save on a diving shot attempt. With this Costa Rica began pushing harder. Bryan Ruiz was threatening but Guzan was in control. A scramble near goal and a diving deflection by Omar Gonzalez led to the Ticos first corner nine minutes before the half.
It would go to the half with the U.S. up one and having 62 percent of possession. There we no subs at half but the momentum switched. After a Miller yellow Costa Rica threatened. Bryan Ruiz got a free kick just outside the box followed by a corner.
Then the whistle blew to stop the game. After some consultation the match resumed in the 55th minute following “Let them play” chants from the crowd. Immediately after play resumed Alvaro Sabario would test Guzan but the U.S. keeper was solid.
Jermaine Jones fouled Ruiz in the 69th and escaped a yellow despite sending an elbow toward the attackers head. Perhaps it was the snow fro, but the Ruiz gamesmenship was not enough to warrant a card. The Ticos continued to press with a free kick then a corner. A goal was called back on offside as Costa Rica looked for the equalizer. Geoff Cameron may have kept the play onside.
Jurgen Klinsmann would use his first sub with 14 minutes to go as Graham Zusi was replaced by Eddie Johnson. It was a good move as even in the snow Zusi’s form seemed less than par. EJ’s speed was neutralized by winter storm Virgil as the ball would stop in snow divots. A couple other balls would be directed toward Guzan, but he would control and the U.S. would begin to kill clock. Dempsey would take a fall. Klinsmann would use his other two substitutions as regulation and five minutes of stoppage time wound down. The accumulation from the first half to second half was evident visually and through statistics. Total pass completion percentage went down 17% in the second half. The people shoveling all night were struggling to keep up. Cameron helped push one across the field.
As the final whistle blew the U.S. had avoided a collapse and fought off a big winter storm. Beasley was in command at left back and Guzan did what he was suppose to and got a clean sheet. It was what this U.S. team needed. After they thaw out they look forward to Mexico next week.