For a team that entered Friday night with only nine goals in 11 matches in 2017 and whose leading scorer since January 1 was defender Francisco Calvo, it was critical for the forwards to find their scoring boots. Ariel Rodriguez, New York City FC man Rodney Wallace, and David Ramirez all answered the call on Friday night in Los Ticos' Group A finale at Toyota Stadium.
“The return of the goal was very important for the team and for the forwards because [in the 1-1 draw] against Canada we created many chances but the goals did not come," said forward Marco Ureña, who plays his club soccer for the San Jose Earthquakes. "Today we won decisively so that is important for the confidence that it gives us."
However, Wallace was hesitant to call the win over Les Yana Dokos the catalyst that could lead to Costa Rica’s first Gold Cup crown.
“I think that this was a must-win for us," said Wallace. "I wouldn’t say that it is the win that is going to guide us through to the title. I think that we’ve had better performances, but it’s a long tournament and we have to take it as it comes."
Adding to the complexity of Costa Rica’s task in the coming days is that the injury bug has struck the team, with Joel Campbell, Christian Gamboa, Johan Venegas and Bryan Oviedo all currently nursing injuries.
While that has perhaps dented their title hopes to a degree, Ureña feels like the injuries are creating a “circle the wagons” mentality within the squad that will serve them well come the quarterfinals.
“They have called us favorites because we came into the tournament with a full team,” said Ureña to MLSsoccer.com. “But we have had many injuries which has weakened us, but we are going in with a strong mentality into the quarterfinals."
But for Costa Rica, even with two clean sheets in their three group stage matches, it comes back to goals. After all, finding the back of the net is usually synonymous with gaining confidence.
“It’s always important to score goals,” said Wallace to MLSSoccer.com. “It was good for our team to get those goals. I think regardless of what people say, at the end of the day, we are the ones that have to get the job done and I think we stepped up and did what we had to do.”