Background: There are two notable story lines heading into this match. First, inexperience. Tim Howard, Timmy Chandler and Fabian Johnson are injured. Captain Carlos Bocanegra has been dropped. A liability at the best of times under Jürgen Klinsmann, this back four has little international experience, and even less experience playing with each other.
Second, discord. A damning report with comments from current players exposed discord within the U.S. camp and disaffection with Klinsmann. Like Phillipp Lahm before them, it seems many U.S. players feel they are being “over trained and under-coached.” Not everything can be solved with yoga.
Must Win: Dropping points at Azteca is all but a certainty, thus losing against Costa Rica could leave the U.S. with zero points from three matches. The position would be damning, with seven matches still to play. But it might prove damning for the German coach’s future. Ineptitude two years and more than twenty matches in is not an “uncomfortable period.” It is failure.
Precedent: The U.S. is 5-1-2 all-time in home qualifiers against Costa Rica. They have a 20-0-2 record in their past 22 home qualifiers dating back to 2001. That said, the gap has closed between CONCACAF and the U.S. Something not having happened before provides scant comfort, when the team is playing like crap.
Weather: It will be miserable. Denver’s forecast calls for freezing temperatures and snow around kickoff. That would seem to play toward the U.S., though that’s not really an advantage for either team. The U.S. has a number of players from Texas and California, while Costa Rica has six outfield players who play for clubs in Scandinavia.
Prediction: An ugly 2-1 USA win that comes unnervingly late.
[Photo via USA Today Sports Images]