As the United States national soccer team prepares for its fiercest rivalry, another is starting to linger.
The U.S. and head coach Jurgen Klinsmann will play Mexico Tuesday night at the Azteca Stadium, in search of the program's first win there in World Cup qualifying. Meanwhile, though, last Friday's win over Costa Rica has not been forgotten.
On Monday, Costa Rica launched an official appeal with FIFA over the U.S.'s 1-0 win in snowy conditions in suburban Denver. U.S. captain Clint Dempsey scored the winner in the 16th minute as the snow's intensity increased steadily throughout the match.
The Costa Rican Football Federation said lines and pitch markings were invisible at times and that the players' "physical integrity" was in jeopardy. The referee halted play briefly early in the second half but allowed the game to resume.
"It was terrible," the Costa Rican Federation's president Eduardo Li told the Zona Tecnica football show. "While the match was being played, at the same time, machines and people came onto the field to clean the lines.
"We fought—we talked to the (match) commissioner, who totally rejected our complaint. These are embarrassing situations we should not accept."
According to the CNN report, Costa Rica also asked for FIFA to punish the match officials for allowing the game to begin.
The U.S. Soccer Federation did not comment on the CNN report, but immediately after the match, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati defended the decision to play.
"We’re worried about the safety of the players and being able to see the ball, and the referee and match commissioner made the decision that the game could continue and I think it was the right decision," Gulati said (via USSoccer.com).
The appeal is unlikely to succeed, according to Ives Galarcep, editor-in-chief of Soccer By Ives. As Galarcep tweeted Monday:
Clint Dempsey confirms that there was NO protest from Costa Rica's captain after the match, a requirement to file a protest to FIFA.— Ives Galarcep (@SoccerByIves) March 25, 2013
UPDATE, Tuesday, 11 a.m. ET: FIFA has ruled against Costa Rica's appeal. In a statement, FIFA says it considers the result of Friday's match "valid" (per FIFA.com). END OF UPDATE.
With the Costa Rica appeal hanging over their heads, the U.S. players will be out to make history in Mexico City. No American team has won a qualifying match in Mexico, and the program gained its first win of any kind there only last August.
The U.S. has recorded a World Cup qualifying point in Mexico only once, on Nov. 2, 1997. Klinsmann, however, said the Americans would not be over-awed.
"Playing Mexico in a sold-out stadium in Mexico City, it's awesome," he said (via Los Angeles Times). "We're here to get not only a result; we want to win here."
Kickoff is scheduled for 10:30 p.m. ET with American television coverage on ESPN.
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