Mar 23, 2013, 2:02 AM EDT
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. – Three points is three points, and if the United States does eventually earn its way to Brazil, the points gathered during a snow globe-worthy scene in suburban Denver will count just the same as any others collected in the long qualifying chain.
But what a scene it was, pretty and yet messy and certainly meaningful all at once Friday for the Americans, whose 1-0 win over Costa Rica should help quiet some unrest and put the team in a better place heading into a razor wire-tough match in Mexico City.
As for the soccer game itself, well, it wasn’t much of one.
“It was a real snow battle,” U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. “By the second half it was a battle for second balls. For both teams it was tough to create a passing game or good chances. … We all just had to adjust to the snow. Battle it out. Finish it out and then move on.”
He was underselling the difficulty of it.
The footing was always treacherous, even in the first half when some green of the grass was still visible. By the second half, as the snow accumulated (against the best efforts of the shovel bearers at DSG Park), dribbling or passing over pretty much any distance was somewhere between difficult and impossible.
Clint Dempsey’s early goal was absolutely essential – perhaps one of his most important yet in U.S. uniform, and he has a bunch of them. (In fact, with his 12th in World Cup qualifying the Texan is now tied with Landon Donovan for the all-time U.S. lead.) It took the pressure off of the United States, not to mention getting something on the scoreboard when worsening conditions was making any offensive maneuvering increasingly tricky.
Every athlete has been in backyard games where elements and obstacles rule; it did look at times in Friday’s fluffy proceedings as if the visitors had been in more of them. They seemed to adjust better.
The Americans seemed destined to get themselves in trouble with their insistence on playing patiently out of the back. The Ticos, by comparison, recognized the danger more quickly of doing so.
At halftime Klinsmann urged his team to get balls into the opposition end faster, and warned off certain balls that should not be messed with on such a night.
Still, there were times in the second half when the United States seemed determined to pass the ball through the midfield. Meanwhile, the Ticos were all about aiming balls to highly stationed Alvaro Saborio.
U.S. center back Clarence Goodson and Omar Gonzalez dealt well with the long stuff, but the danger always seemed present.
“The beginning of the game it wasn’t so difficult,” said Gonzalez, making only his second World Cup qualifier start. “The snow was actually making the ball move pretty nicely. Once the stuff started sticking, it made it difficult to get your footing, to put together some passes or just to dribble.
“At halftime we said, ‘Don’t risk any balls to the sidelines out of the back, any balls to the keeper. If you feel like the heat is on you, just put it up in the channels and let the forwards make a play. Just don’t risk anything.”
Individually, few players really excelled out there; some just managed the elements better than others.
DaMarcus Beasley got the assignment at left back, answering one of the vexing questions of the week. When the game still had some kind of shape, for about 30 minutes, the converted midfielder attempted to play as a very aggressively stationed left back, as the United States attempted to push forward against the visitors.
On the right, Geoff Cameron attempted runs up the right but sometimes was not on the same page as Graham Zusi, who seemed to have particular trouble with his footing.
Jermaine Jones showed everyone a lot, looking quite comfortable, bossing the midfield in the first 45 minutes (to the extend anyone could) and even playing through a nasty gash that required halftime stitching.
“He’s an example in this team,” Klinsmann said. “They look at him and see him go again and go again, it gives a lot of positive energy to the team to see him battle through the way he does. In the end, I took him off because he was just exhausted.”
And then there was goalkeeper Brad Guzan, who handled almost everything better than he could have been expected to.
“In these conditions, you just try to get everything you can behind the ball, to make sure you have a good barrier behind it,” said Guzan, was started in place of the injured Tim Howard. “The guys in front of me did a good job of limiting their chances, and the few opportunities they did have I was able to deal with them.”
Sep 15, 2014, 8:34 PM EDT
Newcastle United players and their manager have come under fire from ex-Liverpool back Jamie Carragher, who blasted the club on “Monday Night Football”
Sep 15, 2014, 7:45 PM EDT
The Sounders have three titles and won their first win Le Toux. Soccerly hosts an essay on his quest to deny them a fourth.
Sep 15, 2014, 6:55 PM EDT
The English FA asked FIFA to extend Anelka’s quenelle suspension beyond Britain’s borders.
Sep 15, 2014, 5:54 PM EDT
Oktoberfest begins Sept. 20, and 1860 Munich is going all-in when it comes to their away attire.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:53 PM EDT
Abel Hernandez, Enner Valencia, Mohamed Diame and Diafra Sakho all made their presences felt on NBCSN at the KC Stadium on Monday.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:34 PM EDT
Certainly one of the goals of the early season, as West Ham continues to tempt the highlight reels despite a tough start to the season.
Sep 15, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
Brek Shea had a loan debut to remember, while Julian Green had one to forget and both Tim Howard and Brad Guzan kept clean sheets.
Sep 15, 2014, 3:49 PM EDT
Abel Hernandez has a goal and had another creation ruled offsides as the hosts rose to steal the first half with late heroics.
Sep 15, 2014, 3:20 PM EDT
Schedules, chances of making the last 16, predictions. Your one-stop shop for all the info as the UCL group stages begins for four PL teams.
Sep 15, 2014, 2:30 PM EDT
Record-signing Abel Hernandez (Palermo) makes his Hull City debut as the Tigers look to pick up their second win of the season.
Sep 15, 2014, 2:19 PM EDT
Ferdinand: “It killed me. Inside I wanted to scream and grab him.”
Sep 15, 2014, 1:32 PM EDT
All four Spanish teams are looking odds on to make it out of the group stage. What about the big clubs from England and Germany?
Sep 15, 2014, 12:41 PM EDT
All the news and quotes ahead of the Monday afternoon matchup.
Sep 15, 2014, 11:50 AM EDT
PST’s lead writer and editor takes an alternative look at all the action from Week 4.
Sep 15, 2014, 10:34 AM EDT
Calderon claims that Ronaldo is frustrated with life at Real after several high-profile exits.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:59 AM EDT
Beckham: “What unites us is much greater than what divides us. Let’s stay together.”
Sep 15, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
Potters to link up with youth teams across USA and Canada, grow brand overseas.
Sep 15, 2014, 9:00 AM EDT
Will Hummels arrive a balance out a top-heavy United squad?
Sep 15, 2014, 8:30 AM EDT
After Ronaldinho’s Liga MX debut, huge traffic jams in Queretaro reportedly cause politician to racially abuse the Brazilian.
Sep 15, 2014, 7:58 AM EDT
Will these two be reunited in Manchester?
- Hull City 2-2 West Ham United: Debut goals a-plenty in fun draw 0
- Americans Abroad wrap: Brek Shea assists in Birmingham debut (video) 0
- Champions League preview: How will the four Premier League teams get on? 0
- Watch live: Hull City vs. West Ham United (Lineups) 0
- Premier League Playback: Manchester United shine bright like a diamond 0
- Stoke City launch initiative to set up academies across North America 2