The United States currently occupies last place in CONCACAF hexagonal qualifying for the 2014 World Cup after a loss to Honduras in the group-opener. While it's too early to panic, another defeat at the hands of Costa Rica would sound off the alarms.
Even though the match is on home soil, it's far from a slam-dunk three points for the Americans. The squad is dealing with numerous injuries, the continued absence of Landon Donovan and a Costa Rica side that fought back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point against Panama in its opener.
Along with Donovan, Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo and Timmy Chandler are all absent from the American roster for the next two qualifiers. The United States travels to Estadio Azteca to face Mexico on Tuesday and doesn't want to enter that match with no points.
What will be the match result?
It means Friday's clash will be filled with tension for American fans. Here's all the key viewing information for the match, followed by some players to watch and a prediction.
Where: Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
When: Friday, March 22 at 10 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN3.com
United States Player to Watch: Jozy Altidore
American fans want to know when the version of Altidore that shines for AZ Alkmaar at club level will show up for the United States. The level of play is certainly different, but the 23-year-old also doesn't seem to play with the same confidence for the national team.
He's scored 25 goals across all competitions for the Dutch side. Given the lack of offensive firepower the USA has dealt with for a while now, getting that type of form from Altidore would provide a major boost to the attack.
The most important thing is getting him involved early. Get him some touches in dangerous areas and let him go to work. If he doesn't get off to a quick start, he tends to fade into the background and it becomes even tougher for the Americans to generate chances.
Costa Rica Player to Watch: Alvaro Saborio
Fans in the United States that track the MLS know Saborio. The Real Salt Lake forward finished fourth in the league with 17 goals last season and the veteran already tied for the lead during the new campaign with three.
It's safe to say he's the biggest concern for the makeshift American back line. Along with his recent success at the club level, he's scored 30 goals in 80 appearances for the national team, including one against Panama in the last qualifier.
Saborio is going to provide a tricky test for an inexperienced group at the back. Clarence Goodson has 34 caps, but his fellow defenders have just 19 combined. If they give Costa Rica's most dangerous player too much room to operate, another letdown is likely.
Which GK will give his side the edge?
Matchup to Watch: Brad Guzan vs. Keylor Navas
The aforementioned Howard has been a stalwart between the pipes for the United States. Going into a crucial match without him definitely raises some concerns, but Guzan is capable of filling the void. He's having a strong season for Aston Villa in the Premier League.
In terms of being a pure shot-stopper, Guzan shouldn't have any issues. Building instant chemistry with a defensive unit that isn't even used to playing alongside each other will be the biggest problem, especially early in the match.
At the other end for Costa Rica will likely be Navas. He's split time with Gustavo Munua at Levante, playing most of the club's matches outside La Liga. His ability to control the box and slow down the pace of the match will be vital for the Ticos.
Ultimately, Guzan and his American teammates should be able to do enough to secure three points. Not without some drama first, though.
United States 2, Costa Rica 1