Already under pressure following his side’s defeat in Honduras in their opening game of the final round of World Cup qualifying, United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann faces something of an injury crisis as he prepares his squad to face Costa Rica on Friday.
The U.S. will crave three points to kick-start their Hexagonal campaign, especially with a match at Azteca Stadium against Mexico to follow on Tuesday. But Klinsmann, without the on-sabbatical Landon Donovan, will also be missing a host of defenders in Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson, Steve Cherundolo, Edgar Castillo and Jonathan Spector. Goalkeeper Tim Howard and midfielder Danny Williams are also ruled out.
Klinsmann has attempted to put a positive spin on things, by focusing on the opportunity the injuries will create for some inexperienced players like full-backs Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow, of Real Salt Lake and San Jose Earthquakes, respectively.
“There are moments where things just come together and it works in a certain way,” he said, according to the U.S. Soccer Web site. “But I think the good thing about it is that whenever somebody can’t come in, that’s a huge opportunity for the one who is stepping in and wants to prove his point.
“Another good thing is that we had a January camp in which we got a closer look at a lot of the players and that’s why Tony Beltran and Justin Morrow are in the picture.”
The U.S., whose buildup has been dogged by a story in Sporting News that carried critical comments about Klinsmann from several anonymous players, has not beaten Costa Rica since 2005. Jorge Luis Pinto’s side recovered from a 2-0 deficit in their opening Hexagonal match in Panama last month to earn a creditable 2-2 draw.
Pinto will also be boosted by the news that captain and striker Alvaro Saborio is likely to have recovered from a bruised knee to start in Denver. The Real Salt Lake man has scored three times in as many games in Major League Soccer this season.
D: Cameron, Edu, Gonzalez, Beasley
M: Zusi, Bradley, Jones, Johnson
F: Dempsey, Altidore
Costa Rica (probable)
D: Gamboa, Gonzalez. Umana, Oviedo
M: Borges, Rodriguez
Bolanos, Ruiz, Campbell
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off from Denver’s Dick’s Sporting Goods Park at 10 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by ESPN, with a live stream available on Watch ESPN.