By Money Mike
Despite all the heavy snow late in the night in Denver, the match went on and it was the USA who came away with the three points they so desperately needed. On Friday night, the U.S. defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in front of a sellout crowd at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. With the win, the U.S. moves up two second place in the hexagonal table. Remember, the top three teams in the group qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the fourth placed team will play New Zealand in a home-and-away playoff for one of the final spots in the World Cup. New Zealand clinched the top spot in the OFC Qualifier with a game to spare after coming away with a 2-1 victory over New Caledonia in their match on Friday. The U.S. have another Qualifying match on Tuesday as they head down to Mexico for a clash against their arch rivals.
In the 15th minute, the U.S. pressured the Costa Rican backline early as the visitors struggled to clear the ball out of their own area. Michael Umana got over Jozy Altidore trying to head the ball clear, but he headed to right to Clint Dempsey who decided to have a go from about 30 yards out, but it was always going high and wide.
A minute later, the Americans took advantage of a poor goal kick from goalkeeper Kaylor Navas and climbed out to an early lead. Graham Zusi picked up the loose ball and fed it to Clint Dempsey, who then turned and found Jozy Altidore from about 19 yards out. Jozy had a go which was blocked by Roy Miller and right there to poke the ball into the empty net was Clint Dempsey to give the United States a 1-0 lead. It was Dempsey's seventh goal of this Qualifying campaign and his fourth in the last three World Cup Qualifying matches. The Costa Rican defenders were claiming offside, but that wasn't even close. Dempsey was well onside on the shot from Altidore so there's no way the linesman would raise his flag on that play.
Five minutes later, the Costa Rican's nearly caught the Americans on the break. Geoff Cameron was looking to feed the ball out wide to Herculez Gomez, but it was cut out by Bryan Oviedo who continued his run and chipped ball toward the back post which took a deflection and bounced off the foot of Christian Bolanos and into the hands of Brad Guzan.
In the 38th minute, Costa Rica had another opportunity to pull level. Bryan Oviedo once again jumped in from the back and worked a 1-2 with Christian Bolanos and looked to square the ball across for Alvaro Saborio, but it took a deflection and once again landed in the arms of Brad Guzan who of course was making his first start in the Klinsmann era, replacing Tim Howard who was out with a back injury.
Now moving on to the 42nd minute, USA should've had a penalty. DaMarcus Beasley curled the ball in the box with his left foot for Jozy Altidore. Kaylor Navas made a dumbass decision coming off his line and try to punch the ball away and he didn't get a finger to it. The ball bounced to Clint Dempsey, who made a cut and was clipped by Roy Miller. The referee was right there and he does not call a penalty. Why? I do not know, but it should've been called.
In the 51st minute of the match, the U.S. had an opportunity to double the lead. Clint Dempsey whipped in a good cross for Herculez Gomez, who flicked the ball to Jozy Altidore, but the momentum carried him away from the goal. Altidore chased the ball down near the end line, cut inside to the top of the penalty area turned and struck the ball near post with his right foot, but it rolls wide of net. It was a nice bit of play though from Altidore. We've seen him do that a couple of times during his early days with the New York Red Bulls. I thought Altidore was lively all game long, making some good runs in the box, getting a couple of good looks at goal.
In the 60th minute, Costa Rica began to push forward and they had another opportunity to pull level. Michael Barrantes played a good long ball for Alvaro Saborio who volleyed it low from a tight angle, but Brad Guzan read it perfectally.
10 minutes later, the Costa Rican's thought they had an equalizer. Not so fast. Michael Barrantes curled the ball out with his left foot and it sailed over everybody in the box. However, Ariel Rodriguez was there to track the ball down and play it back in and the U.S. back stuggled to clear the ball away and Roy Miller poked the ball back to Barrantes who curled the ball to the far post for Joel Campbell who headed the ball off the post and into the back of the net, but the flag was up for offside so the goal did not count. It was the right call as well because when the ball was played in, there were two Costa Rican's in an offside position, including Campbell. If Campbell wasn't in an offside position, then the goal would probably stand, but it wasn't and the U.S. were able to hold on for a big win.
United States - Clint Dempsey (Unassisted) 16'
Costa Rica - Roy Miller (caution; foul) 49'
United States - Jermaine Jones (caution; foul) 69'
Costa Rica - Giancarlo Gonzalez (caution; foul) 90'
Costa Rica - Kaylor Navas; Cristian Gamboa (Juan Diego Madrigal 81'), Michael Umana, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Roy Miller, Bryan Oviedo (Diego Calvo 73'); Ariel Rodriguez, Michael Barrantes, Christian Bolanos (Joel Campbell 62'); Bryan Ruiz, Alvaro Saborio
United States - Brad Guzan; Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Clarence Goodson, DaMarcus Beasley; Michael Bradley, Jermaine Jones (Maurice Edu 83'); Graham Zusi (Eddie Johnson 76'), Clint Dempsey, Herculez Gomez (Kyle Beckerman 94'+); Jozy Altidore