Out of the Monster's Cave: Costa Rica abandon plan to host USMNT at Estadio Saprissa in September
When the US national team resumes CONCACAF World Cup qualifying in Costa Rica in September, they won't have to enter their longstanding house of horrors to do so.
The Costa Rican Football Federation announced on Wednesday that it has abandoned its hopes of staging Los Ticos' Sept. 6 Hexagonal qualifier against the USA at the antiquated but atmospheric Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, and will host the match at the Estadio Nacional instead.
With steep, concrete stands towering over the field of play and a firm, worn artificial-turf playing surface, Saprissa, nicknamed "the Monster's Cave" by locals, is a daunting cauldron of noise and intensity that makes life difficult for visiting teams. The USMNT has never won at Saprissa, carrying an 0-7-1 mark in World Cup qualifiers at the venue – and in their last three visits, the Yanks have been outscored 8-1.
Enraged that their March Hex match with the US at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., was allowed to proceed amid a massive snowstorm (the USMNT won 1-0), Costa Rica announced its intentions of moving September's clash to their old home in order to maximize their home-field advantage.
But that required improvements to Saprissa's playing surface and lighting, work which apparently could not be completed in time to pass FIFA muster.
"Anticipating that Saprissa will not be ready as requested by FIFA,” Rafael Vargas, a member of the federation's executive committee, told FutbolMLS.com, “the committee chose at once to confirm that the match against the United States will be played at the National Stadium.”
Located in the San José suburb of La Sabana, Los Ticos' new home debuted two years ago. It was built by the Chinese government and features a top-notch natural-grass surface, but it is also ringed by a running track, which is thought to detract from the impact of the home crowd.