The United States Men’s National Team heads into the tonight’s World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica atop the table in the Hex, and in excellent position to qualify for the World Cup. It would take a disaster for the team not to qualify, but the USA can end any doubt with a win in San Jose.
A win would give the USA a six point lead with three games to play, a completely insurmountable gap. Better yet, it would remove any and all pressure the team faces heading into Tuesday’s clash with archrival Mexico. The US defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in the infamous snow game in March, and the Costa Ricans are out for revenge.
Winning road games in CONCACAF is always difficult, especially against a team as talented as Costa Rica. However, the US as the ability to pull off the victory. Striker Jozy Altidore may not be able to play, but backup Eddie Johnson has been in excellent form with the national team. The return of Landon Donovan should make things even better, as Donovan figures to provide Altidore, Johnson and Clint Dempsey with excellent service.
Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez have settled in nicely as the center-backs for the U.S., and Tim Howard is back in goal after his back injury. If the US wants to win, they need to keep the game low scoring, and Besler and Gonzalez bear the brunt of that responsibility. However, everything is falling into place at the right time for this team, and Jurgen Klinsmann has them believing in themselves and playing at the top of their game.
It will be interesting to see how Klinsmann stuctures his midfield, specifically whether or not he will give Donovan the start. Donovan was incredible in the Gold Cup, and remains one of the top two or three American players. If he starts, it figures to be on the right, with Dempsey central and Fabian Johnson on the left. The speed, skill and creativity of these three make them lethal on the attack, and they should be able to create numerous goal scoring opportunities.
This game is a huge opportunity for the USA to remove all doubt from their qualifying campaign. A win tonight takes all the pressure off them going forward, allowing them to focus on their World Cup preparations.