EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Saturday’s Gold Cup quarterfinal against Honduras will likely go down as one of the worst moments in a Costa Rican national team jersey for Real Salt Lake forward Álvaro Saborío. But we won’t get to hear how the veteran striker feels about it — at least for now.
A Costa Rican national team spokesperson confirmed that Saborío was selected for postgame doping tests and was unavailable to speak to media after missing two penalty kicks — one during regulation and the other in the decisive penalty kick shootout. One eyewitness claims he took a cart ride straight to the team bus after the doping tests were completed.
“We had the game there for the taking,” Costa Rica manager Ricardo La Volpe said in the postgame press conference. “We had a decisive play and we didn’t convert because sometimes that’s soccer. We were better than [Honduras].”
That “decisive play” cited by La Volpe was a 76th-minute penalty kick whistled by the referee in favor of Costa Rica with the score knotted at 1-1. After theatrics from Honduran goalkeeper Noel Valladares made for a long lead-up to the spot kick, Saborío’s attempt was a weak one. It was easily saved by the netminder, who will feel like his gamesmanship paid dividends in what wound up being the turning point of the match.
“He’s the best penalty shooter and he’s the surest when he shoots them,” said Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz after the match. “Lately he’s shot a lot of them for the national team and he has scored the majority of them. He wanted to shoot it, and we respected it and unfortunately it didn’t go in.
“It wasn’t predetermined. He got the ball and looked at me and I told him, ‘If you want to shoot it, shoot it.’ He did and he missed it, but that’s not why we didn’t go through.”
Given the penalty kick failure during regulation, La Volpe was asked to address the fact that he allowed Saborío to have another go of it during the penalty kick shootout. That attempt finished against the middle of the crossbar, the second Costa Rican penalty kick to suffer that same fate during the shootout.
“I imagine he wanted his revenge,” said La Volpe, who indicated that he gave Saborío and his other veterans the option to take one of the PK shots. “It’s a difficult situation and each one makes his own decision. You go back to leaders and the players with more experience and we spoke with each of them and each took their responsibility.”
La Volpe refused to give any credit to Honduras following the match, instead crediting his team’s response after a heavy defeat to Mexico, citing the fact that his cycle with Costa Rica is just beginning and criticizing the Hondurans for feigning injuries and interrupting play.
“When a team does that, it’s because we’re better than them,” La Volpe said. “I don’t have no doubts. So they get by on penalty kicks and they’re phenomenons? And if you don’t you’re bad? It was the end of the game where we had the best chance. There’s no better chance than a penalty kick and we didn’t put it in.
“They’re not phenomenons and we’re not busts. If there should have been a winner, Costa Rica was better, without a doubt.”