While the United States has looked impressive in dispatching of Belize and Cuba by a combined score of 10-2, the team will face its first major test against Costa Rica.
The two teams are currently atop the hexagonal standings in the last phase of World Cup qualifying and last met on a snowy pitch in March, when the United States won 1-0. If you think Costa Rica has forgotten about that, well, think again.
This one promises to be a very spirited, very competitive affair despite both teams having already qualified for the knockout phase. Let's break it down.
When: Tuesday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET
Where: Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut
Watch: FOX Soccer
Streaming: FOX Soccer 2Go
What They're Saying
While two wins against Belize and Cuba were nice, the United States hasn't really gotten a good litmus test for teams trying to break into the United States A-team.
That won't be the case against Costa Rica, and should give Jurgen Klinsmann a better idea of which players deserve a shot, writes Doug McIntyre of ESPN:
With six goals in the last three games, including two as a second-half sub versus Cuba, Chris Wondolowski continues to shine for the second string. Landon Donovan keeps doing all the right things, showing that he's a no-brainer to be recalled for the final stretch of qualifying. Even Oguchi Onyewu, the veteran central defender who had been away from the U.S. team for over a year, has taken advantage of rare playing time, rebounding with a dominant second-half performance against Cuba's fleet-footed attackers after being, at least, partly responsible for the visitors' surprise opener.
Then there are youngsters like Joe Corona and Mix Diskerud. Corona scored his first U.S. goal Saturday, a peach of a strike that stood up as the game-winner. Diskerud again showed skill and vision in midfield.
But again, running up the score against regional minnows is one thing. Keeping the goals flowing against Costa Rica and in the knockout stage is another. The U.S. will certainly have to be sharper than it was in the first half against Cuba, but the way it battled back from an unexpected deficit will serve them well in the elimination games, when there's little margin for error.
United States Player to Watch: Landon Donovan
While Donovan (two goals, two assists) has proven he hasn't lost a step—or at least he hasn't lost a very big one—in the first two games, all eyes will be on the forward in the United States' first big test against Costa Rica.
Donovan is probably the best player in this tournament, period, and he should once again be a vital member of the United States squad in Brazil next summer. But for now, the impetus is to finish first in this group, which the United States will do as long as it wins or draws.
Can Donovan lead this team to a perfect start? Will he be as dynamic as he was against Belize and Cuba?
Don't bet against him, folks.
Costa Rica Players to Watch: Jairo Arrieta and Alvaro Saborio
The striking pair and MLS duo should have a few opportunities to get on the board against a shaky United States back line that hasn't kept a clean sheet thus far. In fact, sneaking an early goal and forcing the United States to press could be Costa Rica's best chance in this game.
Arrieta has scored for Costa Rica thus far, while Saborio has taken a team-high seven shots. The two promise to be busy and could very easily swing the result in favor of Costa Rica.
Which team wins?
The United States enter this game smoldering, and while Costa Rica is a quality side, I don't see it overcoming the Stars and Stripes. Look for the United States to delight the home crowd and come away with a 2-1 victory.