HARTFORD, Conn. – Never forget. Nunca se olvida.
That seems to be the rallying cry of the Costa Rican public and press corps ahead of Tuesday night’s Gold Cup Group C finale against the United States (8 pm ET | Fox Soccer, UniMas | Live chat on MLSsoccer.com).
Indeed, neither head coach Jorge Luis Pinto nor his players have allowed the now-infamous Snow Game in March, a 1-0 loss to the US that effectively deprived them of first place in the Hexagonal, to fade from their collective memories. How could they, after a failed appeal granted the North Americans a result still considered farcical in Costa Rica?
“I've said a thousand times: That was an absurdity for the world of football,” Pinto said in his pregame press conference on Monday. “After the game, there were many federations and media around the world saying the game shouldn't have been played. It's not on anyone's head to play a game under those conditions.
“We are still hurt for what happened in Denver, we can't deny that. But this is a football game apart from that, and still we are going to give everything. It’s a different game. Above all, our wish is to win.”
Six starters from that disputed World Cup qualifier are on the Costa Rican Gold Cup roster, plus seven players who froze on the bench, meaning the memory and the desire for venganza should still be fresh when the teams take the field at Rentschler Field.
Taking revenge is the only way for Costa Rica to finish atop the group – and thereby avoid Honduras in the quarterfinals. Los Ticos must beat a US team that has the same number of points (six) through two matches but boasts a superior goal differential (plus-8 to plus-4).
And despite struggling to put away Belize on Saturday in Salt Lake City, only collecting all three points after a late own-goal spoiled a dogged effort from the group minnows, Costa Rica displayed a confident front on Monday, with Pinto admitting the US are on a roll but also emphasizing that the way in which they’re disposing of their opponents is no mystery.
“Tactically, [Jurgen] Klinsmann has followed a similar approach to when he coached in Germany,” he said. “We have him pretty well identified. We know what he's going to show us tomorrow. We know what is the concept he is going to bring.”
The Ticos are also riding a rich vein of defensive form that’s seen them string together seven consecutive shutouts since losing 1-0 in that winter wonderland back in March. But this match won’t be played on a blanket of snow, and this US team is quite different from the one that handled business in Colorado.
Still, nobody on either side is pretending the first matchup between these two teams following the Snow Game is inconsequential. They may have shared a plane on the way from Salt Lake City here to Hartford, but neither wants to share the Group C spoils.
“The game in Denver was very complicated,” defender Giancarlo González said. “Conditions were not optimal to play football, but I feel that is past. We're playing the US. They're a team who has been playing well, and we want to be against them face to face. We want to be the first seed in the group, and the game in Denver is just the past.”