Three Big Storylines:
- Dos a Cero, no mas. The USMNT were beaten at home by Mexico 2-1 on Friday snapping their run of 2-0 home wins over Mexico in World Cup qualifying. Manager Jurgen Klinsmann has had to endure some criticism for starting a very unfamiliar 3-5-2 (or 3-4-3) formation in such an important game. Once the USA switched back to the more familiar 4-4-2 midway through the first half the game switched in their favor. Expect a more traditional lineup to start today led by the burgeoning strike partnership of Jozy Altidore and Bobby Wood with 18 year old Christian Pulisic providing a creative spark.
- Not Saprissa. The USMNT is 0-8-1 (W-L-D) all time in World Cup qualifying in Costa Rica, with the only draw coming in their first game, a 1-1 draw on May 26th, 1985 in Alajuela. The next seven losses were all at intimidating Saprissa Stadium; this game, however, will not be held in the stadium known as La Cueva del Monstruo. Today they play at the much more modern and less intimidating Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica. The USMNT did lose 3-1 in the new stadium in the last hex, their only time here (Costa Rica's last minute petition to move that game to Saprissa in response to the Snow Classico in Colorado was denied). The US has used road results to help it to the top of the hex each of the last three cycles; the reduced stadium intimidation factor may give them as good a chance as they've had recently to come out of Costa Rica with points.
- Costa Rica are playing well. Atmosphere will only gain you so much. Costa Rica have won five straight games since losing 4-0 to the USMNT in the Copa America Centenario group stage, against quality opponents like Colombia, Russia, and Panama. They won their Hex opener on Friday 2-0 in Port of Spain against Trinidad and Tobago on Friday and enter today's game with three points. Recent results are no fluke, either - this is a team that can easily take it to the USMNT. Costa Rica, in what was their best World Cup result, finished atop their World Cup group in Brazil, beating Uruguay and Italy before drawing with England. After beating Greece in the round of 16, it went all the way to penalty kicks before they were eliminated by the Netherlands in the quarterfinals.
National TV Listings:
The host nation controls the TV broadcasting rights and beIN Sports has been very aggressive in procuring rights in Central America and the Caribbean. Thus every USMNT away game besides Mexico will be on beIN Sports this cycle. While not the most widely distributed channel, it is a much better situation than in the recent past when the USMNT secured their berth to World Cup 2010 South Africa while on Closed Circuit TV from Honduras.
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Middlesbrough/ENG), Ethan Horvath (Molde/NOR),
Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids) (Injured Friday), William Yarbrough (Club Leon/MEX)
DEFENDERS: Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Steve Birnbaum (D.C. United), John Brooks (Hertha Berlin/GER), Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham Hotspur/ENG), Timmy Chandler (Eintracht Frankfurt/GER), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca/MEX), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Moenchengladbach/GER), Michael Orozco (Club Tijuana/MEX), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United/ENG)
MIDFIELDERS: Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Lynden Gooch (Sunderland/ENG), Julian Green (Bayern Munich/GER), Jermaine Jones (Colorado Rapids), Sacha Kljestan (New York Red Bulls), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund/GER), Caleb Stanko (FC Vaduz/LIE), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Aron Johannsson (Werder Bremen/GER), Bobby Wood (Hamburg/GER), Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy)
GOALKEEPERS: Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Esteban Alvarado (Trabzonspor)
DEFENDERS: Bryan Oviedo (Everton), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), Umaña (Alajuelense), Johnny Acosta (Herediano), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Leonardo Gonzalez (Herediano) (yes, the same Leo Gonzalez that played for the Sounders from 2009-15), Allan Miranda (Herediano)
MIDFIELDERS: Celso Borges (Deportivo de La Coruña), Christian Bolaños (Vancouver Whitecaps), Rodney Wallace (Sport Recife), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact), Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne), David Guzman (Saprissa), Pablo Salazar (Herediano)
FORWARDS: Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), Joel Campbell (Sporting Lisbon), Marco Ureña (Brondby), Ariel Rodriguez (Bangkok Glass)