Desperately needing at least a point to stay afloat in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying, the United States knocked off Costa Rica, 1-0, on Friday night at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Denver.
With everyone else in the group ending in a draw on the night, the Americans moved into second place with three points. Honduras sits at the top with four, while Mexico, Panama and Jamaica trail the U.S. with two. Costa Rica sits in last place with just one.
We may have just officially entered spring, but you wouldn't have been able to tell from all of the snow flooding the pitch. Massive snowflakes dumped down for all 90 minutes of the match, and the yellow ball slipped in and out of sight to make for a truly treacherous battle.
Newly minted United States captain Clint Dempsey got the scoring started in the 16th minute, pulling off a lovely turn to lose his defender and find Jozy Altidore, who delivered a low shot on target. The ball deflected off a defender and right back to Dempsey, who almost effortlessly tapped it in for the goal.
As the snowfall got increasingly heavy, the amount of scoring chances dwindled. It appeared the Americans had earned a penalty kick late in the first half when Dempsey was clearly tripped inside the box, but the referee would not point to the spot.
The powder piled on even thicker in the second half, and there was a slight stoppage of play in the 56th minute for the referees to discuss a possible delay. At that point, things looked something like this (via Sports Illustrated's Chris Burke):
Chris Burke @ChrisBurke_SI
Play all sports in blizzards! http://t.co/IOD4ce1ciC3/23/2013, 3:36:21 AM
But as fans rang out with chants of "Let them play," and the players from both sides pleaded with the refs to keep going, play resumed.
Costa Rica put the ball in the back of the net about 10 minutes later, but the goal-scorer was judged offsides, and the Americans strolled to a victory that was largely obscured by Mother Nature.
Clint Dempsey: A
Not only did Dempsey knock in the deciding goal, but it was also his wonderful turn that set up his own score.
He looked intent on attacking the goal for most of the game, and when he is aggressive, the Americans are a much more dangerous squad.
Jermaine Jones: A-
While Jones looked a little bit like Cold Miser from The Year Without a Santa Claus, his play was tremendous.
Pro Soccer Talk's Steve Davis highlighted his brilliant performance:
Steve Davis @SteveDavis90
Oh, and this ... I and everyone else have had our say on Jermaine Jones. But I WANT that guy on my team today. He's been HUGE. Best US man3/23/2013, 3:15:59 AM
Jones made a boneheaded foul in the second half that almost indirectly led to a Costa Rica goal, but that doesn't take away from the rest of his top-notch night.
The grounds crew: A+
Shoveling snow at every possible moment and pretty much doing everything in the book to make sure this match was actually played deserves credit in my book.