DENVER – For the US national team’s Major League Soccer contingent, several of Costa Rica's most dangerous weapons will be quite familiar during Friday night’s World Cup qualifier (10 pm ET; ESPN/UniMas, live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Tico forwards Álvaro Saborío and Jairo Arrieta are two of the league's live-wire frontrunners for Real Salt Lake and Columbus, respectively, and the Yanks expect one or both to be central to their visitors' plans on Friday.
“Arrieta never stops. He's always moving up top, he makes very good movements,” US and Houston Dynamo midfielder Brad Davis said at the outset of the USA's training session on Thursday afternoon. “Saborío is a good finisher, holds the ball up very well for them.
“The attack is pretty much all through him, they're trying to play balls into him even with one, two three guys in the box, he's trying to make the most of every opportunity that he gets. But they don't have a problem sometimes force-feeding him the ball. And he's a big, strong boy.”
With Costa Rica's well-known history of home dominance over the US at the imposing Estadio Saprissa in San Jose, the Americans always know the Ticos will take the initiative on their own soil. But there's much less certainty about the tactics the Central Americans will employ for Friday's visit to Dick's Sporting Goods Park.
“I don't really know,” Davis said when asked whether Costa Rica would park the bus and play for a draw. “I can see them sitting back a little bit and trying to get a point out of the game, but we've got enough [attacking] guys here that we think we can break them down, still.”
Gonzalez ready for second chance
LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez appears to be on the cusp of his second consecutive start in a World Cup qualifier in Friday’s match against Costa Rica, and he said before the team’s final training session that he feels more comfortable this time around than before his WCQ debut last month in Honduras.
“It’s definitely a lot better, having played in the last game,” he said. “I don’t think the games get easier from here on out, but it’s good just getting that last one under my belt. I think I’m coming in a lot more confident.”
Gonzalez started and played the full 90 minutes against Honduras, but took some blame for his role in Honduras’ game-winning goal from Jerry Bengtson in the 79th minute.
“I said I was disappointed right after the game, but after looking back on it, I wasn’t as disappointed,” he said. “It was a big game to step into, and it was definitely tough. The circumstances were really difficult and I think that I held my own except for that one little mishap at the end. I’m feeling great now, and that game is long gone now.”
New high for American Outlaws
U.S. Soccer officials said they expect more than 2,000 members of the American Outlaws to attend the match on Friday, setting a new attendance record for the US national team’s largest traveling supporters'group. The match is sold out and USSF officials are expecting a crowd of roughly 20,000 on Friday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, topping the 18,086 typically allowed for a soccer match.