Skip to content

Last stand in Denver? United States meets Costa Rica, with so much on the line in World Cup qualifying

Mar 22, 2013, 6:30 AM EDT

Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez

DENVER – Dicks Sporting Goods Park outside of Denver seems an unlikely place for a U.S. Soccer last stand – and yet here we are.

Technically, this does not qualify as “do-or-die” in ongoing World Cup qualifying; Jurgen Klinsmann’s team could fall tonight and then again Tuesday down in Mexico, and still have seven matches in this final round to gather up 15 or 16 points probably required for safe arrival into a seventh consecutive World Cup.

But this sure feels like a last stand considering injuries and absences to important figures, bubbling locker room issues and a final round schedule set-up that had this one tagged “critical” long ago. It has the weight of an Alamo-type stand, and the team would certainly drag a battered psychological state out of Colorado with anything less than victory here against Costa Rica.

(MORE: US team news, notes and quotes from Thursday’s final prep)

It’s no big stretch to say that Friday, in a very cold Denver suburb, the United States will either regain its footing in a march toward Brazil 2014 or see the effort possibly be mortally wounded.

So, yes, a sold out DSG Sporting Goods Parks in Denver (fairly light in U.S. national team history) is the site for the most pressure packed World Cup qualifier in at least 10 years. Kickoff tonight is set for 8 p.m. locally (10 p.m. ET) on ESPN.

“We’ve always come through when there’s pressure on,” veteran midfielder DaMarcus Beasley said. “It’s always been that way when I’ve been there, it won’t be any different come tomorrow. We embrace the pressure. We know we are at home, we know we need three points. It’s a very important match, even though it’s very early in the tournament. Everyone knows that. In qualifying you need to win your home matches, for sure. Tomorrow will be no different.”

The team chemistry isn’t right; we can still debate the level of tumult, but it’s safe to say there are issues that need sorting. A provocative Sporting News story put some things on the table, and at a nervous time when the United States faced a near must-win match anyway.

Lose tonight and the very real possibility exists of being 0-3 in final round CONCACAF qualifying; the Americans began this round with a loss in Honduras – where the young back line could not quite pass the test – and do battle down in Mexico next week at Azteca Stadium, where they have never won in World Cup qualifying. Never.

(MORE: Digging into the “Why?” over Klinsmann and his critics)

The sear of concern is particularly intense along a U.S. back line, where three starters are injured. Plus, former captain and stabilizing arm Carlos Bocanegra is not part of this camp, the latest in a series of Klinsmann’s controversial roster or lineup choices.

Tim Howard’s injury absence isn’t making anyone feel better about things, although backup Brad Guzan is having a wonderful season at Aston Villa and sure looks up for the job. As for Guzan playing behind a young and untested defense? He calls that a “Saturday.”

The mood of the camp seems typically relaxed, and even Klinsmann seems underwhelmed by all the ongoing talk of his performance. His response is more or less a shrug and smile and to say something about this being part of his job.

(MORE: Klinsmann responds to criticism and player unrest)

Besides, veteran players like Michael Bradley have come to his defense. So has Herculez Gomez. And from the center of it all, Bocanegra even had positive things to say about it all.

The U.S. attack, at least, is mostly intact, Landon Donovan and his ongoing sabbatical as the one obvious exception. Clint Dempsey has overcome a recent injury with Tottenham and looks set to start. He leads the team with six goals in 2014 qualifying, and has been named captain for this one.

Past the injuries and whispering malcontents in their midst, there is reason to like the U.S. chances here. The weather is to their liking; with more players who earn their living in Europe, they are presumably better equipped to deal with temperatures in the 30s and potential precipitation.

The United States’ dominance in home qualifiers cannot be understated. They have not lost one of these since 2001; the unbeaten streak has reached 22 matches (a 20-0-2 record).

(MORE: Most pressure on a World Cup qualifier in a decade)

The United States is 5-0-2 against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifiers at home. This Ticos version launched the final round with 2-2 draw at home against Panama, so there’s pressure in the Costa Rican camp, too. Plus, leading scorer Alvaro Saborio may have an injury concern, depending on which report you believe.

Either way, the Ticos have other attacking options.

(Look for more later today at ProSoccerTalk, including a lineup prediction)

Latest Posts
  1. 2015 Gold Cup – Group B preview: Costa Rica’s to clash with Canada, Jamaica, El Salvador

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Brazil Soccer WCup Netherlands Costa Rica AP

    Here’s a look at who Los Ticos will have to get by in the group stages. Can Canada and Jamaica make a deep run?

  2. Guardiola urges Manchester United target Schweinsteiger to make up his mind

    Jul 2, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT

    Bayern Muenchen v Borussia Moenchengladbach - Bundesliga Getty Images

    Pep is more than happy to keep Schweinsteiger around at the Allianz next season, but he’s becoming a little restless.

  3. Thursday’s Transfer Rumor Roundup: Pogba to Barcelona, Ramos to Manchester United

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:40 PM EDT

    Sergio Ramos's early brace sparked Real Madrid to a dominant display in Munich. (Photo: AP Photos.) AP

    The latest gossip is right here, with updates on two monster transfers.

  4. Mark Sampson: “England achieved things no one thought we could”

    Jul 2, 2015, 1:04 PM EDT

    Japan v England: Semi Final - FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Getty Images

    England’s head coach was full of pride and admiration for his team despite falling at the semifinal hurdle.

  5. Clint Dempsey replaced by Michael Bradley as USMNT captain for Gold Cup

    Jul 2, 2015, 11:57 AM EDT

    Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley

    Kilnsmann reveals he has decided to take the armband off Clint and hand it to Bradley.

  6. Despite devastating World Cup exit, England’s women inspired a nation

    Jul 2, 2015, 10:25 AM EDT

    Despite defeat to Japan, England's women have inspired a nation this summer. Despite defeat to Japan, England's women have inspired a nation this summer.

    Describing the scene from England, as the Lionesses helped to inspire a nation this summer in Canada.

  7. Report: Abou Diaby heading to MLS, FC Dallas after Arsenal release

    Jul 2, 2015, 9:23 AM EDT

    Stoke City v Arsenal -  Barclays Premier League Getty Images

    French international is reportedly mulling over an offer from FCD. What do we think about this?

  8. Huge blow for Mexico: Javier Hernandez breaks collarbone, out of 2015 Gold Cup

    Jul 2, 2015, 8:47 AM EDT

    Javier Hernandez Javier Hernandez

    Manchester United’s “Chicharito” will not play for El Tri this summer after being injured in a friendly.

  9. US ask Switzerland to extradite seven FIFA officials

    Jul 2, 2015, 7:40 AM EDT

    65th FIFA Congress Previews 65th FIFA Congress Previews

    The U.S. Department of Justice wants to bring FIFA officials accused of corruption to the USA.

  10. Round 3: USA-Japan Women’s World Cup final a familiar matchup

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:59 AM EDT

    150702-Wambach-Sawa Getty Images

    Japan beat the U.S. to win the 2011 World Cup. The U.S. beat Japan to win the 2012 Olympics. Round 3 takes place Sunday in the 2015 Women’s World Cup final.

  11. Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Dwyer bags four, RBNY top Cosmos, quarterfinals set

    Jul 2, 2015, 12:28 AM EDT

    Sporting KC's Dom Dwyer (14) heads a ball over the New England Revolution's Jose Goncalves (23) in the first half at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., on Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (David Eulitt/Kansas City Star/TNS via Getty Images) Getty Images

    A Major League Soccer franchise is going to win the 2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

  12. “She’s in a hard place”: England boss Sampson consoles, praises Bassett after semifinal loss

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:57 PM EDT

    Sampson consoles his players after the crushing defeat. Getty Images

    Mark Sampson spoke in detail about the character of Laura Bassett and how he hopes girls in England are inspired for the future.

  13. Bassett’s long journey takes cruel twist, but England women show future is bright

    Jul 1, 2015, 11:11 PM EDT

    Laura Bassett of England is comforted by her teammates. Getty Images

    Full credit to England for an inspiring World Cup, and to Japan for getting to a second straight World Cup final.

  14. Clavicle injury could cost Mexico’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez his Gold Cup (video)

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:51 PM EDT

    during practice for the Canadian Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve on June 5, 2015 in Montreal, Canada. Getty Images

    Three weeks from tonight are the Gold Cup semifinals, with the final on July 26 in Philadelphia.

  15. The world wants Laura Bassett to know that her own goal is nothing to be ashamed of…

    Jul 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT

    during the FIFA Women's World Cup 2015 Semi Final match between Japan and England on Canada Day at Commonwealth Stadium on July 1, 2015 in Edmonton, Canada. Getty Images

    From Brandi Chastain and Jeb Brovsky to total strangers from England and beyond, my goodness, people are trying to console Laura Bassett.

  16. Minnesota United misses MLS stadium deadline; Deputy commissioner speaks out

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:12 PM EDT

    BLAINE, MN -JULY 19: Minnesota United FC defenseman celebrates with fans after scoring a goal on Swansea City in the first half of their friendly soccer match on July 19, 2014 at the National Sports Center in Blaine, Minnesota. Minnesota United FC defeated Swansea City 2-0.(Photo by Andy Clayton-King/Getty Images) Getty Images

    United says it remains committed to bringing MLS to Minnesota, and it’s worth wondering if the rival Minnesota group is hampering progress.

  17. Stoppage-time own goal sinks England, sends Japan to Women’s World Cup final

    Jul 1, 2015, 9:02 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Defending champion Japan advances to second straight Women’s World Cup final.

  18. Targeted by Man Utd and other giants, Ilkay Gundogan extends deal with BVB

    Jul 1, 2015, 8:20 PM EDT

    MUNICH, GERMANY - APRIL 28:  Philipp Lahm of Muenchen challenges for the ball with Ilkay Gündogan of Dortmund during the DFB Cup semi final match between FC Bayern Muenchen and Borussia Dortmund at Allianz Arena on April 28, 2015 in Munich, Germany.  (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Big story for Dortmund, even if it’s a bit under-the-radar.

Featured video

PST Extra: Done deals & transfer gossip