USA vs. Costa Rica: Keys to Victory for Americans in World Cup Qualifier

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistSeptember 5, 2013

SANDY, UT - JUNE 18: Jozy Altidore #17 of the United States celebrates  his goal against Honduras during the second half of an World Cup Qualifying March June 18, 2013 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. The USA beat Honduras 1-0. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
George Frey/Getty Images

The United States is this close to clinching a spot in Brazil, and with a win against Costa Rica, a trip to the 2014 World Cup will all but be assured. 

But what will the United States need to do to win a crucial away contest against Costa Rica, currently second on the hexagonal table behind the Americans?

Let's find out.

Weather the Early Pressure

With the game being held in Costa Rica and the home side knowing three points would put them in excellent position to qualify for Brazil, expect the hosts to come out absolutely buzzing in this one. Add in the fact that the United States beat Costa Rica in March in blizzard-like conditions, and you have all the makings of a very intense and hungry home team.

For the United States, weathering the first 15 minutes, wrestling control of the game and even getting on the board first will be key. If Costa Rica dominates possession early or scores quickly, the home crowd will remain in a frenzy and an already difficult away draw will be made all the more formidable. 

But if the United States can control play and take the crowd out of the proceedings, there is no reason to think the Stars and Stripes can't steal three points away from home.

Get the Attack Going

With Jozy Altidore in impeccable form for the United States, Landon Donovan returning to the World Cup qualifying team and Clint Dempsey always a difference-maker, you could make a strong argument that the United States attack is as dangerous as at any point in the country's history. 

Add Michael Bradley pulling the strings from the midfield and Fabian Johnson making threatening runs up the wing, and you have the makings of a compelling offense.

The temptation may be to sink into the defensive third and play for the away point, but this Untied States team has the talent to steal three. If Donovan can get in sync with Altidore and Dempsey off the bat, the Americans will be too much to handle for Costa Rica. 

Defense, Defense, Defense

The United States has a dangerous attack and the Bradley-led midfield is steady as any in CONCACAF. But the danger for the United States lies in a sometimes shaky defense that has seen several personnel permutations over the past year. 

If this unit remains steady, avoids any dumb mistakes and avoids turnovers in the defensive third, the midfield and attack should be able to win this game for the United States. It's a big "if" against a solid Costa Rica side, and will likely be the key to this game.

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