Clint Dempsey is set to win his 100th cap for his country when the United States attempt to take a step closer to World Cup qualification with a clash against Costa Rica in San Jose. There is even a scenario where Jurgen Klinsmann’s side could seal its place in Brazil next year, but for that convoluted sequence of events to pan out it will first require a first ever qualifying win in Costa Rica.
Dempsey was once again to the fore when the two sides met in the reverse fixture in March as the midfielder scored the only goal of a match that is remembered for much more than the result. Certainly Costa Rica have not forgotten about the blizzard that the match was allowed to go ahead in and their unhappiness has resulted in some rather unwelcoming treatment for the U.S. team in San Jose.
It is the result that will be at the forefront of the minds of Klinsmann and his squad, however, in San Jose. Four points from their next two matches, against Costa Rica and then against Mexico in Ohio next Tuesday, will secure the U.S. qualification for the World Cup. A historic win in Costa Rica, combined with a tie between Mexico and Honduras and a Panama tie or defeat against Jamaica would even see the U.S. celebrating a World Cup berth early.
Dempsey, with 12 World Cup qualifying goals during his distinguished international career will again be paramount if that scenario is to play out. Landon Donovan could also be back alongside the Seattle Sounders man. After returning to the U.S. setup in spectacular fashion at the Gold Cup, Donovan is set to feature in his first qualifier in more than a year.
Klinsmann’s main fitness worry is over Jozy Altidore. The striker, who scored a stunning hat trick in the Yanks' last outing against Bosnia last month, returned to training earlier this week after suffering from a hamstring complaint. Two players who made their debuts in that friendly win, defender John Brooks and striker Aron Johansson, are once again included.
Costa Rica lie in second place in the Hexagonal, two points behind the U.S., and looking to hold off the challenges of Mexico and Honduras for a top three berth and automatic qualification. The Ticos will look to maintain their solid defensive record, while relying on the attacking talents of Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz, Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio, and Joel Campbell currently on loan at Olympiakos from Arsenal.
Costa Rica (probable)
D: Gamboa, Umana, Gonzalez, Oviedo
M: Borges, Rodriguez
Bolanos, Ruiz, Campbell
D: Cameron, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley
M: Jones, Bradley
Zusi, Dempsey, F. Johnson
Coverage details: Friday’s World Cup qualifier from the National Stadium in San Jose will start at 10 p.m. ET. Coverage will be provided be beIN Sport, with a free live stream available on beIN Sport Play.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.