SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica – If Mexico can end a 44-year World Cup qualifying drought and beat the USA on American soil, then surely Jurgen Klinsmann and his US national team can dream of pulling off a similar feat and defeat Costa Rica on the road for the first time ever, right?
But USMNT captain Michael Bradley says that the 2-1 last-minute home defeat to Mexico on Friday has nothing to do with what awaits them in Costa Rica on the second of 10 matchdays in the CONCACAF Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying.
“History is just that – history,” Bradley told reporters on Monday from the field of San José’s National Stadium, where Los Ticos await the Americans on Tuesday night (9 pm ET on beIN Sports and NBC Universo). “There’s nothing anybody can do to change that [Mexico defeat of USA last Friday] and, quite honestly, we don’t spend a whole lot of time worrying about it.”
For the US, another historic trend could present itself problematic if they don’t get a positive result in San José. That’s because no team has ever opened the CONCACAF Hexagonal round with two losses and finished in the top three – or the automatic advancing positions – of the qualifying table.
“You guys probably spend a little more time thinking about all that than we do,” Bradley told reporters. “For us, we’re just trying to recover from a tough game Friday, mentally and physically.”
Though the US got off to a slow start Friday after sending out an uncharacteristic 3-5-2 lineup to begin the game, Bradley said he was encouraged by the team’s ability to respond in the second half. Bobby Wood’s goal in the 49th minute and a few close calls put the US in position to win before Mexico’s legendary captain Rafa Márquez scored the last-minute goal off a free kick.
In the loss, Bradley admitted that Mexico’s spacing gave the USA clear problems and made it difficult to defend. Costa Rica, though it employs a five-man backfield, also likes to use the far edges of the field to bring up its wings and midfielders in attacking positions.
And in front of its home crowd during World Cup qualifiers, Costa Rica have been unbeatable this year, outscoring opponents 7-1 in three games thus far. On top of that, star goalkeeper and Real Madrid star Keylor Navas returns to goal after being held out of June’s 4-0 Copa America blowout in Chicago.
Though the US would love to find a similar result to the one they had at Soldier Field, history says otherwise. They’re a long way from Chicago now.
“This is still a very, very difficult place to play,” said Bradley, recalling the atmosphere from the 2013 World Cup qualifier here when Costa Rica won 3-1 in a match that was decided with two early goals from Los Ticos.
“In that game we got down a goal early and the second goal came not long after,” Bradley said. “You play good teams in their stadiums and you can’t afford to give away goals.”