HARRISON, N.J. – Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez thought it was fundamental to select players from MLS who were in midseason form when building his 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup roster.
His decision paid dividends on Friday.
Costa Rica defeated Honduras in an intense Group A battle at Red Bull Arena on Friday night, and the lone goal in the 1-0 affair came as a result of two MLS players connecting on one sweet play.
In the 34th minute, New York City FC winger Rodney Wallace took a ball on the bounce and hit a sizzling cross towards the middle. San Jose Earthquakes forward Marco Ureña sized it up and struck gold with a one-timed effort, giving Los Ticos that one moment of magic that Honduras could not muster in the even and open encounter.
“I’ve followed and watched Rodney a lot here in MLS and know that every time he gets the ball on his left foot he looks for the forward and crosses the ball,” said Ureña. “He does a good job of that with [David] Villa in New York, and he has like eight assists. He’s a player that sets up chances well, so as a forward you just have to be in the area so he can find you.”
The two MLS-based players may have made the difference on that decisive play, but they also contributed plenty of work against an aggressive Honduras side that was intent on finding an equalizer. Ureña constantly made runs into space to occupy defenders and open up room for teammates, and Wallace served as both a wide threat and central outlet by tucking in and checking back to help circulate the ball.
“You have to read the game as well,” said Wallace of his performance. “There were opportunities to play in behind, and there were opportunities to come back and link up.”
With Friday night’s win, Costa Rica are off to a solid start in a tournament they hope ends with their first Gold Cup title. It was not easy for them to pull out the win in their first match, but two in-form players found a way to get the goal that gave Los Ticos three points.
“It’s important for us to get off on the right foot, even more so than the fact that we had not beaten Honduras in the Gold Cup,” said center back Giancarlo Gonzalez. “This gives the team confidence. We started well, and now we have to rest and recover because the game was hard and we have to begin thinking about Canada.”