A record 12-game win streak has taken the United States to Gold Cup glory and the verge of securing their place in Brazil next year, but in order to extend that run it must do something it has never before managed: win a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica. In such good form, the time would seem right for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side to make history. However, their opponents have arguably never had as much motivation to put one over the U.S.
The now infamous World Cup qualifier between the two sides in Colorado in March still looms large in the minds of everyone connected with Los Ticos. Of course, the U.S. triumphed on that occasion in a fierce blizzard, which later led Costa Rica to lodge an official complaint with FIFA about the match being allowed to finish in such brutal conditions.
The U.S. have been given clear reminders at the depth of anger that still exists as they touched down in Costa Rica. The squad was not given access to a private terminal at the airport in San Jose and instead was forced to face a public that pelted them with chants of “No fair play, USA.”
For Klinsmann, though, the focus is on emerging with a win and putting his side one step closer to the 2014 World Cup.
“This is probably the biggest game in the year 2013 coming up in Costa Rica,” he said, according to the US Soccer website. “We want to win there for the first time ever in World Cup Qualifying, and we want to get as close as possible to Brazil. I think everybody’s optimistic. Everybody is confident but also very anxious about getting down to San Jose and getting started, so we’re looking forward to it.”
The two sides’ last meeting was in this summer’s Gold Cup when the U.S. again prevailed 1-0 in the group stage of the Gold Cup. Landon Donovan made his comeback for the national side in that tournament after a sabbatical at the start of the year and the LA Galaxy forward is now set to make his first appearance in a World Cup qualifier in more than a year. And the 31-year-old claims that with this group of players he feels better than ever about getting a result in Costa Rica.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as confident about getting a result on one of these trips,” he told the US Soccer website. “We need to go in with the mindset that we absolutely can win this game, and that has to be the mentality. If we carry that energy and that belief onto the field Friday night, everyone is going to sense it on both teams and we have a real chance to do something special.”
The U.S. sits two points clear of Costa Rica atop the Hexagonal standings and look all-but assured of qualification having rebounded exceptionally from an opening 2-1 loss in Honduras. Klinsmann has since focused on defensive discipline away from home, none more so than emerging with a valuable goalless draw in Mexico.
Even more so, Costa Rica have built their campaign around solid defending. After coming back from a 2-0 deficit in Panama to begin the final round of qualifying, just one further goal has been conceded. Jorge Luis Pinto should be slightly more adventurous with his tactics on home soil, but far from radically so. While Klinsmann is confident that the internationally in-form Jozy Altidore will be fit, goals are likely to be at a premium on Friday evening.
Prediction: Costa Rica 0-0 USA
Where to watch: The World Cup qualifier will kick-off in San Jose, Costa Rica at 10 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided by beIN Sport.