2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifier (CONCACAF): USA vs Costa Rica
Red Bull Arena – Friday, September 1 – 18:55 ET (23:55 BST)
Match Odds: USA 7/10 – Draw 23/10 – Costa Rica 4/1
USA vs Costa Rica: Preview
The USA (2-2-2) host Costa Rica (3-1-2) in a crucial World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena on Friday night. The United States have not lost a game since Bruce Arena took over as head coach from Jurgen Klinsmann. But the USA’s last defeat did come in their 4-0 qualifying loss at Costa Rica last December.
That heavy defeat left the USA bottom of the Hexagonal after back-to-back defeats. Klinsmann’s time was up and Arena was brought back in. Things have improved dramatically since.
The USMNT now sit third in the Hex, three points behind Costa Rica with four games to go. If they can win here, they will move ahead of Los Ticos on goal difference.
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Recent form suggests the USA should prove too strong. They are unbeaten in 14 under Arena and have won five-straight games. They beat Costa Rica 2-0 on their way to winning the 2017 Gold Cup Final against Jamaica last month and are on a roll.
Costa Rica haven’t played since that semifinal loss to the United States at last month’s Gold Cup. They started the Hex in blistering form, scoring six goals in two games without conceding. But they have since won just one of their four qualifiers.
They still have a squad strong enough to win any game in qualifying, but they must get back to where they were at this stage last year. They went unbeaten from June to January last year, posting a 7-0-3 record in that run.
The USA haven’t lost a home World Cup qualifier to Costa Rica since 1985. They have won six of their last eight home games against Los Ticos since that loss 32 years ago.
USA vs Costa Rica: Team News
USA head coach Bruce Arena hasn’t included any surprise call-ups in his squad for the upcoming qualifiers. 18 of the 26 players play in MLS and are in optimum shape at this stage of the regular season. While stars from European clubs such as Christian Pulisic, Geoff Cameron and Fabian Johnson will all expect to start. Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, Matt Besler and Jozy Altidore will all pick up a suspension if they receive yellow cards on Friday night.
Costa Rica will have to cope without star winger Joel Campbell. He is recovering from knee surgery and is ruled out for some time. Los Ticos do still have top talent to call on though, with Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas the standout name in the roster. Seven MLS players are included in the Costa Rica squad, including Vancouver duo Kendall Waston and Cristian Bolanos as well as Portland’s David Guzman and NYCFC’s Rodney Wallace. San Jose Earthquakes’ Marcos Urena might start up front.
USA vs Costa Rica: Key Points
USA’s last five: W/W/W/W/W
Costa Rica’s last five: W/D/W/W/L
Key Stat: The USA are unbeaten in 14 games since Bruce Arena took over from Jurgen Klinsmann last December. They’ve gone 9-0-5 under Arena in 2017.
Key Player: Clint Dempsey – The USA veteran needs one more goal to become the USMNT’s all-time leading goalscorer. He is currently tied with Landon Donovan on 57 and will break the record if he finds the back of the net here. He has four in his last seven internationals and comes into Friday’s game in good form with the Sounders. He’s also the leading scorer in the Hex coming into Friday’s fixtures.
USA vs Costa Rica: Prediction
USA 2-0 Costa Rica – The USA have won their last two home qualifiers without conceding a goal. That shouldn’t change on Friday as they arrive in high spirits with an experienced squad of stars. Costa Rica’s qualifying campaign is almost the complete opposite of the United States’. They started well but now look vulnerable and a resurgent USMNT should get the job done at Red Bull Arena on Friday.