CARSON, Calif. – Costa Rica's stunning march past title contenders Uruguay and Italy and into the World Cup's round of 16 might be unexpected, but those who dismissed the Ticos ought to have looked a little more closely.
That's the thinking of Galaxy veteran Marcelo Sarvas, who spent two years in Costa Rica with Alajuelense before arriving in Southern California in 2012.
"This is very good for soccer," the Brazilian midfielder said as he exited the Galaxy's training session Friday morning at StubHub Center shortly after Costa Rica completed a 1-0 triumph over Italy. "This is what soccer is about, you know?
"It's a very good lesson for people that think very smart, expert in soccer, do predictions, say some things, [because] soccer is inside the field. You saw Costa Rica [is a] very coordinated team, play with very good effort, doing the right things, and just congratulations to the Ticos."
Costa Rica pulled off the upset of the first series of group-stage matches with a 3-1 triumph over Uruguay in Fortaleza, and Friday's triumph over the Italians in Recife, thanks to a Bryan Ruiz goal just before halftime, might be enough to sway the doubters.
"I think everybody is surprised, even if you know how they can do and you believe in them," Sarvas said. "But now they are confident they can beat every team, for sure. I wish they go through and go to the final."
Sarvas, 32, won two titles with LD Alajuelense, where his teammates included five players who are part of the Costa Rican delegation in Brazil, including starting defender Giancarlo González, now with the Columbus Crew, and Russia-based forward Marco Ureña, who has come off the bench in both matches and scored the third goal against Uruguay.
Several others – forward Joel Campbell, goalkeeper Keylor Navas, defender Oscar Duarte, and midfielders Yeltsin Tejeda and Michael Barrantes – faced off against Sarvas with Saprissa, Alajuelense's archrival.
"I think it's a good generation," Sarvas said. "You see almost every player that is in Europe is doing good with their teams, and they have a very good coach [in Jose Luis Pinto]. You see how the team plays, fantastic. How they fill the space. I know these guys, I play with they, and they [play with a lot of heart]."
- Get more Galaxy headlines at LAGalaxy.com
A lot of the attention has gone to Ruiz, who plays at PSV Eindhoven on loan from Fulham, and Campbell, a 21-year-old forward based in Greece with Olympiakos on loan from Arsenal. Campbell scored the Ticos' first goal against Uruguay, pulling them even early in the second half.
"They are the biggest names in this team, the guys who show more for the media and the fans because they are guys who score," Sarvas said. "But you have to see all the team and how they work behind the ball. They are very good."