CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON - Tuesday, June 2, 2009
Landon Donovan will lead the US
The US national team face their second away match of the final round of World Cup qualifying on Wednesday night, when they attempt to nab their first ever win against Costa Rica at the hostile Estadio Ricardo Saprissa in San Jose.
Wednesday's match will be the first of a crucial two-game series this week to solidify first place and put the US in prime position at the halfway mark of 2010 World Cup qualification. On Saturday, the Yanks host Honduras at Chicago's Soldier Field.
Coach Bob Bradley will look for firepower from the strike force of Clint Dempsey, Brian Ching, Landon Donovan and Jozy Altidore. In their last qualifier, an Altidore treble off a trio of Donovan assists provided the US with a three-goal rout of Trinidad & Tobago.
To make the task more daunting for the Americans, the Ticos themselves are currently riding a six-game unbeaten home record, most recently toppling El Salvador with a Walter Centeno tally. In their first two qualifiers, Costa Rica topped Honduras thanks to two by Herediano's Andy Furtado, and suffered a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Mexico at an equally hostile Azteca Stadium.
Both teams bring into the game a 9-1-1 record in qualifying thus far. The US holds a slight edge in previous encounters between the two nations with a 11-10-5 record, but the US will try to erase distant memories of their last outing here on Oct. 8, 2005, when the Ticos bested the already-qualified B-team by a score of 3-0.
The Costa Ricans have been led in the qualifying rounds by KAA Gent striker Bryan Ruiz with four goals to his credit. US defender Oguchi Onyewu has recent memories of the May 16 encounter against Ruiz in the final game of Belgium's Jupiler League season, which Standard Liege pocketed 1-0. MLS-based players will recognize Chicago Fire's wingman Gonzalo Segares and former Fire frontman Andy Herron, who are also regulars on the Tico national team.
Bob Bradley has yet to finalize his 18-man starting lineup, selected from the 25 who made the trip. Maurice Edu misses out with the knee injury picked up over a week ago against Dundee United with Ricardo Clark a last minute to replace Frankie Hejduk, who is still recovering from a groin injury.
Altidore, Dempsey, Onyewu and Michael Bradley each carry a yellow and will miss out on Saturday's showdown with Honduras if they pick up another one.