Direct from San Jose
Americans Ready for Final Exam Against Costa Rica
The United States men's national team continues its never-ending quest for perfection in Costa Rica. Friday's match represents a chance to show off how far they have come in the last two years.
BY Noah Davis PostedSAN JOSE, COSTA RICA—Spend enough time with the United States men's national team and you hear the word "process" over and over. The process of developing a style. The team building process. Process, process, process. At some point, however, you have to take stock in the progress of that process. The match against Costa Rica presents the perfect opportunity to do so. For one, Jurgen Klinsmann called it the "biggest game of the year." For another, the United States have never won a World Cup qualifier here. And this squad, in the midst of a 12-game win streak, feels confident, ready, and prepared for victory. They've been tested all summer, and a victory at Estadio Nacional Friday night would show how far they've come in terms of winning games by dictating the terms. They would earn more than a passing grade. "I think it's a process, and we did well over the last two years to get to more of a mentality to believe in what you are doing if you work hard. You are ready to give it a real fight," Klinsmann said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon. Michael Bradley, one of the process champions, agrees that the U.S. will play its aggressive, flowing game on Friday. "We're coming to play. We're coming to make chances," he said. "We're coming to fight and be hard as a team, but that in every way we're looking to come away with three points." The Ticos, a talented team with a strong home-field advantage, gives the Americans an opportunity to impose their will away from friendly American soil. Taking the game to Costa Rica would be a new show of confidence, and in Klinsmann's mind, a better and safer way to win. "For three years, we have been trying to push out the backline, play quickly through midfield if possible, trying to kind of move the whole thing in their half and keep them away from our goal," he said. "If you sit back against a team like that, and they hit the long balls into [Alvaro] Saborio and Bryan Ruiz is sniffing around and [Michael] Barrantes and all these guys, then you have found more problems." Tim Howard has seen the U.S. strategy—the process—slowly progress over the past few years. And it's working. "We've been pressing teams when we turned the ball over," he said. "We're made that a priority. I think when you do that—as you see with Barcelona who really started all of this—you win the ball back higher up the field. You don't have to do all that work. You've basically made the ball turnover and now you're right there." The same plan the Americans have been working to perfect will hopefully lead to a different result for the U.S. than in past away qualifiers in Costa Rica. A win would mean the Stars and Stripes would, at worst, need a solitary point from the final three matches to qualify for the World Cup. But reaching Brazil isn't a guarantee. "The hardest thing to do is finish it off," Landon Donovan, who would know, said. The same could be said acing the test in San Jose. "If we get the three points, it would be fantastic. If it's the end of the day after a good battle and good game we are tied, we'll take that one as well," Klinsmann said. But, of course, they should do better. "I think the team is maturing. The team is taking those challenges, but there's no guarantee for anything. If Costa Rica is the better team on Friday night, then we give them a compliment to do that," the coach said. "But we will make sure that the result is positive on our end." Noah Davis is American Soccer Now's deputy editor. Follow him on Twitter.
September 05, 2013
September 05, 2013