15
Oct

Costa Ricans welcome El Tri with custom casket

Clearly, Costa Ricans love hosting World Cup qualifiers.

A month after welcoming the United States with a hostile reception at the airport, fans of Los Ticos gave Mexico a similarly friendly greeting.

Mocking El Tri for their grave position in World Cup qualifying with one match to go — if they are to lose to Costa Rica on Tuesday night coupled with a Panamia victory against the United States over two goals, Mexico will most likely be eliminated — a small group of fans rolled up to the airport with a coffin draped in Mexico’s colors propped up on a pickup truck. Inside the coffin: a skeleton wearing a Mexico kit.

The message is pretty easy to decipher: 

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For more on Mexico’s do-or-die match against Costa Rica, read Kyle McCarthy’s preview and key points to the match.

15
Oct

Five key points: Costa Rica vs Mexico

A tortured Hexagonal road comes down to this one match for Mexico: a point or better in Costa Rica tonight guarantees the quest for a berth at next summer’s World Cup to continue for at least a few more weeks.

Mexico will expect to claim the draw required to secure a playoff with New Zealand next month and perhaps even snatch the victory necessary to apply pressure on Honduras, who travel to Jamaica. El Tri enjoys a fine record in Costa Rica (three consecutive victories in World Cup qualifiers), while the hosts possess little incentive to perform with their place in Brazil already booked.

Costa Rica will still attempt to spoil Mexico’s fun, though. It is a threat the visitors must take seriously. At this stage of the proceedings, there isn’t any room for error. El Tri must heed these fundamental tenets in order to avoid the ultimate failure by the end of Tuesday night.

1. Weigh any personnel changes carefully: Mexico coach Victor Manuel Vucetich tailors his tactics to fit the situation at hand. He chose a 4-4-2 formation for the 2-1 victory against Panama on Friday, but he could opt for another setup – perhaps by dropping a striker and inserting a central midfielder to counter the Ticos’ usual 5-3-2 alignment – to reinforce the defensive structure away from home. The tinkering comes with a caveat, though: any potential alterations – even the prospect of keeping the 4-4-2 and replacing Javier Hernández with Raúl Jiménez in a nod to popular sentiment – could disrupt the fragile progress made during the early stages of the new regime.

2. Focus on the task at hand: Mexico controls its destiny: a draw in Costa Rica clinches a two-legged tie against the All Whites next month. Nothing else – not the United States’ visit to Panama and the help it could lend, nor the Honduras-Jamaica game and the potential bounty it could reap – matters. Any distractions from the instant duties within their direct purview could prove very, very costly indeed.

3. Remember the circumstances: Composure and concentration represent the pillars of a successful performance in these fraught conditions. Even a momentary drop can lead to chaos, particularly with Costa Rica’s ability to pose problems on the break and from set pieces. Mexico must maintain the proper application for the duration of the affair – again, a lingering problem for this group that almost dashed any hopes of a World Cup place on Friday – to avoid disaster.

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Ticos fans are relishing the chance to ruin Mexico’s World Cup hopes.


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13
Sep

Joel Campbell reportedly being investigated by FIFA for fake injury

By now, most USA fans have seen the above video of Costa Rica’s Joel Campbell faking an injury that resulted in a yellow card for Matt Besler — which meant he was suspended for the United States' World Cup qualifier against Mexico on Tuesday.

While the United States did defeat Mexico — dos a cero, of course — and the suspension didn’t come back to bite them, Campbell’s acting might.

According to Al Dia, FIFA issued a statement to the Costa Rican Football Federation that announced they had opened an investigation into Campbell’s fake foul.

Apparently that’s not the only thing that FIFA is looking into. On the Encuentro Deportivo radio show earlier this week, Fedefutbol president Eduardo Li said that FIFA is investigating the federation for the actions of their fans.

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(Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Before their World Cup qualifier against the USA, Costa Rican fans reportedly drowned out the United States national anthem with “loud jeers and catcalls,” which is a violation of FIFA’s Preliminary Competition laws.

On the radio show, Li said, “We will pay the fine, yes. But they ought to sanction the rest of the countries that have committed the same mistake.”

Costa Rica may have already qualified for the 2014 World Cup, but they are facing some repercussions ahead of it. Still, there’s no word if FIFA will look into Costa Rica’s trolling cow mascot that interrupted USA manager Jurgen Klinsmann during an interview last week:

9
Sep

This is why Matt Besler will miss Tuesday’s WCQ vs Mexico

Three members of the US Men’s National Team earned themselves a suspension on yellow card accumulation Friday night against Costa Rica. Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler are all ineligible for tomorrow’s clash against Mexico, but no suspension has caused as much of a stir as that of Besler’s.

The defender received his yellow card for bumping into Ticos forward Joel Campbell late in the match and away from the action. The act was not caught by TV cameras, nor was it even seen by the match referee, but today video of the “foul” emerged, and it tells quite a different story. It appears that Campbell blatantly dove to the ground after brushing up against Besler, who was simply walking around minding his own business.

Understandably, Besler was irked by what he saw:


Campbell might want to keep a close eye on his mailbox the next few weeks. He should be receiving his “Best Actor” nomination from the Academy real soon.

9
Sep

Five things to watch for during USA vs. Mexico

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COLUMBUS, OHIO

In falling to Costa Rica for the seventh consecutive time on the Ticos’ home ground, the Americans added yet more gravitas to the already-loaded build-up for their World Cup qualifier against Mexico here on Tuesday. So, having allowed some time and space for hindsight, here are the relevant lessons drawn from the 3-1 loss as they relate to yet another crucial bout:

1. Michael Bradley is indispensable

Folding over his ankle in the final movements of the warm-up and ruling the central midfielder out of the game plainly unsettled the team. He is their emotional leader, after all, the man leading by his combative example and, from the looks of it, verbally too. But when he fell away, they lost more than that. What Bradley brings to the table, nobody else can replicate. Shuttling between boxes, he sets the pace, tone and rhythm of the run of play. He covers much ground defensively, distributes from deep and gets counterattacks started. Geoff Cameron, the late replacement for Bradley, tried to fill that role but he hasn’t the range and simply isn’t as tidy with the ball. Bradley’s absence against Mexico will have to be compensated for; his many roles filled by a combination of others.

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5
Sep

Five things to watch: Costa Rica v USA

SAN JOSE, COSTA RICA

On Friday, the United States men’s national team plays its seventh of ten games in the final stage of World Cup qualifying against Costa Rica.

Here are five urgent questions heading into the game:

Is Jozy Altidore ready to go?

The young target man, newly of Sunderland, is recovering from a hamstring injury. After getting an MRI in Miami upon joining the team, he was given the go-ahead by the medical staff. But how effective he will be, and how durable, remains to be seen.

His importance can hardly be overstated. There is no other striker available who is so proficient at holding up the ball and getting the adjoining attackers involved. And Altidore has scored in his last five USA games, a record, tallying seven goals in all.

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Image courtesy of AP Images

Who will play right back?

Steve Cherundolo is still out with an injury. Timmy Chandler is unavailable too. And Brad Evans, who has played in the spot most recently, was a late scratch from the team because of a calf injury. He was replaced on the roster by Michael Parkhurst, but he, like fellow candidate Geoff Cameron isn’t a natural at the right back position.

Both have their limitations going forward. And both are fourth-stringers at best.

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4
Sep

No surprise: USA gets hostile reception in Costa Rica

When the United States men’s national team squared off against Costa Rica last March, a snow storm hit Colorado making the game one of the most memorable contests in sports history.

Costa Rica wasn’t happy the game was allowed to continue. Maybe that’s because Costa Rica lost. Needless to say, the Ticos certainly haven’t forgotten about the incident.

A crowd of Costa Rican fans are heard chanting “No fair play!” as members of Team USA deplane and board the team bus on Tuesday. You can see exactly how much the perceived injustice earlier this year still sticks in their craw.

One might assume the confines of a bus would bring an end to the pestering. Wrong. According to the Tico Times, eggs were also launched in the salvo against the United States.

Perhaps they just thought the Americans needed a late breakfast after their flight? That’s a stretch. Either way, it should shape up for an even more interesting match come Friday.

1
Sep

Jozy Altidore’s absence creates cause for concern for US, Klinsmann

By Kyle McCarthy

The absence of Jozy Altidore from Sunderland’s 3-1 defeat at Crystal Palace on Saturday creates some cause for concern for United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann ahead of the upcoming qualifiers against Costa Rica and Mexico.

Sunderland announced Altidore missed the defeat at Selhurst Park with a hamstring injury on its official Twitter feed. The extent of the injury remains uncertain:

He is expected to link up with his American teammates in Miami and receive further evaluation by the U.S. medical staff, a U.S. Soccer spokesperson confirmed on Saturday.

Altidore’s importance to the side in recent months makes the diagnosis particularly influential. The former AZ striker has scored in each of his past five appearances, including a hat trick in the 4-3 victory at Bosnia-Herzegovina on Aug. 14. His recent form (he leads all scorers in the Hexagonal with three goals) and his status within the ranks leaves Klinsmann with a quandary if he is, for some reason, unable to feature.

Landon Donovan’s return to the ranks creates additional depth and flexibility in the attacking third, but Altidore plays a particularly vital role given his willingness to lead the line. Most of the players at Klinsmann’s disposal – including Donovan and captain Clint Dempsey – prefer to drift into dangerous areas from a variety of angles and operate in the space underneath a center forward. Altidore instead provides the touchstone required to allow other players to thrive. And there is no player in the current squad capable of replicating those exact contributions.

If Altidore cannot feature against Costa Rica or Klinsmann opts to hold him out to provide him with more recovery time (or sidestep a potential second booking), then the Americans must figure how to adapt without him.

There isn’t a simple answer to the quandary. Eddie Johnson probably presents the most natural swap – he isn’t a prototypical target player, but he does stave off defenders and surge behind the line – on a night when the Americans might have to soak up some pressure. Dempsey supplies the primary alternative given his dexterity and the potential opening created for Donovan, but a tethered position up front reduces his ability to influence the game in other ways. And Klinsmann – as evidenced by his willingness to deploy Johnson on the left side of midfield and use DaMarcus Beasley and Brad Evans at fullback – possesses the imagination to explore other options as well.

Klinsmann will certainly hope he does not have to pursue any of them. Altidore remains the firm first choice up front. But he will have to wait and see whether Altidore’s health will dispel any uncertainty in the coming days and permit him to take his usual place up front in San Jose on Friday night.

Images: Getty Images

16
Jul

Gold Cup: Five things learned from USA’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica

By Kyle McCarthy, FOXSoccer.com

EAST HARTFORD, Conn.

United States winger Brek Shea struck eight minutes from time to give the Americans a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica on Tuesday night. Shea’s late goal ensured the Americans finished atop Group C and secured a quarterfinal date with El Salvador on Sunday in Baltimore.

The nature of the victory in this dour affair will give Jurgen Klinsmann plenty to ponder – including these five points – as he prepares for the knockout stages.

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