The United States men's national team returns to its spiritual home of Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night for its latest CONCACAF World Cup qualifying match.
The major difference between Wednesday's match in Columbus and previous World Cup qualifying cycles is Mexico is not the opponent coming to the home of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew.
Instead, the USMNT will take on Costa Rica, who was perceived as its second-toughest foe at the beginning of the qualification process.
Both teams come into the sixth match of qualifying in need of points for different reasons. The USMNT is looking for a bounce-back win after losing in Panama, while Costa Rica is trying to steal points on the road after picking up four points in the last two matches.
Mexico is on top of the eight-team CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table with 11 points. The USMNT is second with eight. Costa Rica is fifth on six points.
The top three teams at the end of the qualification cycle automatically advance to the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The fourth-place squad faces an intercontinental playoff.
USMNT vs. Costa Rica Info
Date: Wednesday, October 13
Start Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: ESPN.com or ESPN app
Odds (via DraftKings Sportsbook): USMNT (-260; bet $260 to win $100); Costa Rica (+650; bet $100 to win $650); Draw (+350)
USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter comes into Wednesday under pressure after his poor lineup choices led to the loss in Panama.
Berhalter swapped out seven starters from the 2-0 win over Jamaica last Thursday, and the move backfired on him.
The Americans did not put in a noteworthy performance in Panama, and that allowed the Central American side to gain ground and move into third place in the "Octagonal" round.
Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie should be back together in midfield, and 18-year-old phenom Ricardo Pepi will most likely start up top.
Pepi has been the breakout star of World Cup qualifying for the Americans. He leads the region with three goals. Four other players have two strikes, including USMNT attacking midfielder Brenden Aaronson.
Look for Aaronson to play a major role in the attacking setup once again. The RB Salzburg player has been a nice piece in between Adams, McKennie and Pepi when those players have started together.
Aaronson provides a goal-scoring prowess out of the No. 10 role in support of Pepi. He should look to make a handful of carving runs in between the Costa Rica defense to help the 18-year-old FC Dallas player with chance creation.
In defense, Antonee Robinson and Sergino Dest will likely be back in the starting full-back roles, while Miles Robinson could be paired with one of a few different candidates. Walker Zimmerman and Mark McKenzie both started in Panama.
Zimmerman partnered Robinson in the Jamaica win, and Berhalter may not be willing to use the Nashville SC man for all three games in this international window.
If that is the case, Chris Richards may receive a start over McKenzie. Richards has played well on loan at Hoffenheim from Bayern Munich, and he has the potential to be a permanent starter in the American defense.
Even though Mexico is not the opponent in Columbus, the USMNT should benefit from a clear home-field advantage inside the new Lower.com Field.
The Americans played El Tri in Columbus in every World Cup qualifying cycle dating back to 2002. The rivalry will renew in November in Ohio, but in a different city. That game will take place at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati.
Costa Rica will attempt to spoil the party in Columbus with an experienced squad, led by PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas.
However, the Ticos will be without forward Joel Campbell after he sprained his right ankle. They called in 39-year-old Alvaro Saborio and 37-year-old Christian Bolanos for Wednesday's match.
Costa Rica picked up four of its six WCQ points in the last two matches. The Ticos picked up a road point in Honduras and then beat El Salvador at home. They experienced a disappointing start in September with draws against Jamaica and Panama and a home loss versus Mexico.
The next two games are crucial to Costa Rica's qualification campaign. It opens the November window on the road in Canada.
Canada and Mexico should pick up more points in Wednesday's other matches. Canada welcomes Panama to BMO Field in Toronto and Mexico visits El Salvador. Honduras hosts Jamaica in the fourth match on Wednesday's slate.
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