Following the horrible start to World Cup qualifying that finally ended the Jurgen Klinsmann era, the United States turned to a tried-and-true head coach in Bruce Arena. He’s gotten the USMNT back into an automatic qualifying spot with a tried-and-true pattern: wins at home, draws on the road. If that pattern holds, the US should be expected to defeat Costa Rica tonight.
Patterns don’t win games, though, and Costa Rica (currently three points ahead of the USMNT in CONCACAF’s Hexagonal) is the most difficult opponent left for the Americans. While this particular fixture has gone well for the US (6W-2D-1L with only 4 goals conceded all-time, and that defeat came in 1985), a loss could really complicate things. The USMNT would - barring a Panama win at Mexico - stay in third, but a one or zero point gap ahead of playing two of their final three qualifiers on the road is a shaky place to be in.
6:21pm Update: Here are the actual starting lineups for both teams:
This is most likely a flat 442, with Pulisic wide right and Nagbe in the middle. We’ll see though, it could still be a diamond with Nagbe and Johnson as the nominally wide midfielders.
As for Costa Rica, pretty much what we expected.
Location: Red Bull Arena (Harrison, NJ)
Kickoff time: 6:30pm Eastern
Projected USMNT starting 11: (442) - Tim Howard; Graham Zusi, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez, Jorge Villafaña; Christian Pulisic, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Fabian Johnson; Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood
Bench: Brad Guzan, Nick Rimando, Eric Lichaj, Matt Hedges, Tim Ream, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Paul Arriola, Alejandro Bedoya, Dax McCarty, Cristian Roldan, Darlington Nagbe, Clint Dempsey, Jordan Morris, Chris Wondolowski
Johnson already pretty much gave away that he’ll be at left midfield rather than playing as a fullback or over on the right. Bruce Arena could go for a diamond, dropping Acosta for Arriola or Nagbe, but I think we’ll see a more run-of-the-mill 442. Altidore plays best with a partner, and the 442 also suits Dempsey as the ace up Arena’s sleeve.
Something to keep an eye on: Altidore, Arriola, Bedoya, Besler, Bradley and Cameron are all one yellow card from suspension.
Projected Costa Rica starting 11: (541) - Keylor Navas; Cristian Gamboa, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Johnny Acosta, Kendall Waston, Bryan Oviedo; Bryan Ruiz, David Guzman, Celso Borges, Christian Bolaños; Marco Ureña
This is a bit of a stab in the dark, but one thing I do expect is the 541/343 hybrid preferred by the Ticos for years now to stay in place. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Referee: John Pitti (Panama)
Available TV: ESPN, Univision, Univision Deportes
Available streaming: WatchESPN, Univision Now
For listings in other countries, check out LiveSoccerTV.com.
What are you drinking?: Probably a simple lager of some kind. I made a lot of chili, so I’ll probably be going through two or three rounds during this game.
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