NEW YORK, (Reuters) – The United States take on Costa Rica today when the top two in CONCACAF World Cup qualifying come face to face with both teams knowing their tickets to next year’s finals in Brazil are within touching distance.
Juergen Klinsmann’s U.S. team have won their last 12 games, most recently coming from two goals behind to beat Bosnia-Herzegovina 4-3 in impressive fashion in a friendly in Sarajevo.
The winning streak includes the run to the Gold Cup title in July during which they beat Costa Rica 1-0 in East Hartford.
But the Americans have never won a qualifier in Costa Rica and the game has added spice following the controversial March encounter between the teams in Denver, Colorado.
That match was played in a blizzard with the field covered in snow throughout the second half and, after the Americans ran out 1-0 winners thanks to a Clint Dempsey goal, furious Costa Rica officials complained to FIFA with their coach Jorge Luis Pinto describing the game as “an embarrassment to football”.
Media reports suggest the Americans have been given a frosty reception in Costa Rica and there will be a hostile atmosphere awaiting them at the National Stadium in San Jose today.
“The fans have a lot of passion. It seems they have a lot of hard feelings from the last game in the U.S., and they are really amped for Friday night,” said American midfielder Kyle Beckerman.
The United States are top of the qualifying group on 13 points from six games with Costa Rica two points behind and Mexico on eight points, Honduras seven and Panama six with Jamaica propping up the standings after two draws.
Four days after the Costa Rica clash, the U.S. host rivals Mexico in Columbus, Ohio and four points from those games could see Klinsmann’s team qualify with two matches to spare, although they may get through with fewer if other results go their way.
Traditionally, the Americans have looked for draws away and wins at home but there is a positive and confident mood in Klinsmann’s camp.
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt as confident about getting a result on one of these trips,” said forward Landon Donovan, who was the Gold Cup’s joint-top scorer with five goals, is back for what will be his first qualifier in over a year.