The United States Men’s National Team will be looking to gain three points against Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying.
After winning the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, head coach Bruce Arena and the USMNT will be aiming to keep their momentum going against Costa Rica.
These are two teams who know each other very well. In fact, the U.S. narrowly defeated Costa Rica 2-0 in the semifinal round of the Gold Cup. Prior to that game, Los Ticos handed the U.S. an embarrassing 4-0 loss in Costa Rica.
With that in mind, the U.S. will be in for a challenge against Los Ticos on Friday. At this stage in World Cup Qualifying, every point matters. Getting even a single point against Costa Rica will not be an easy task.
Costa Rica Analysis
There are few teams in the CONCACAF that have given the U.S. as much trouble as Costa Rica has. With a talented and experienced roster made up of players primarily from Europe and the MLS, Los Ticos are a familiar foe for the United States.
Coming off of a narrow 2-0 defeat to the U.S. in the Gold Cup, Costa Rica will be looking to bounce back in World Cup Qualifying. So far, Los Ticos have a (3-1-2) record in qualifying. They have only lost to Mexico.
Even without Real Betis’ Joel Campbell, Costa Rica has other forwards like Bryan Ruiz and San Jose’s Marco Urena, who could give the U.S. backline plenty of trouble.
Los Ticos also have a talented backline led by Celtic’s Cristian Gamboa and Sunderland’s Bryan Oviedo. The overall experience and disciple of this backline could pose a challenge for the American forwards.
Perhaps the biggest difference maker for this team is goalkeeper Keylor Navas. The Real Madrid player missed out on the Gold Cup but now has the chance to lead his nation in World Cup qualifying.
With currently 11 points in qualifying, Costa Rica is currently second in the hexagonal table. They have a three-point lead over the United States, so a positive result on Friday could help them finish off qualifying on the right foot.
This Costa Rica team has the experience and talent needed to beat the United States. No one should be surprised if Los Ticos walk away on Friday with three more points.
Since Bruce Arena took over as head coach last November, the United States has gone 9-0-5. The team has not lost a game in nearly 10 months.
This success has come through Arena’s ability to create well structured teams featuring both younger and experienced players. Unlike past rosters however, this unit features players who have all played under Arenas at some point or another.
This familiarity amongst the players should serve the team well. For starters, the usual guys up top are here. Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Jordan Morris and Bobby Wood were all on the 2017 Gold Cup team.
The only new forward on this roster is San Jose’s Chris Wondolowski. The 34-year-old striker has played well this season despite his age, scoring 11 goals and collecting five assists.
Most of the midfielders from the Gold Cup roster are on this team, with the addition of Christian Pulisic and Fabian Johnson who play in Europe.
The biggest issue heading into this matchup for the U.S. is that defenders John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin won’t be available for the game. Even still, the team has more than enough depth to cover those positions.
The Omar Gonzalez-Matt Besler pairing looked great in the Gold Cup. Geoff Cameron could also squeeze in and the USMNT would be fine. Then, either Graham Zusi or Jorge Villafana could cover for Yedlin at right back.
All in all this is a very talented roster with enough depth to work through a few injuries. Given how guys like Pulisic and Darlington Nagbe have played recently, the U.S. should pull out a close win over Costa Rica.
Prediction: USMNT 2 – 1 Costa Rica
How to watch
When: Friday at 6:55 p.m. ET at the Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
TV: ESPN and Univision Deportes