Make way, USA vs. Mexico. There's another Clasico in the CONCACAF region.
At least that's according to Costa Rican national team manager Oscar Ramirez, who previewed Tuesday night's key Copa America Group A matchup between the USA and Costa Rica at Chicago's Soldier Field (8 pm ET on FS1, Univision, UDN).
“The game is a CONCACAF Clasico," he said in Monday's press conference. "It’s a defining match for us and we’re looking for three points just like the United States."
Whether you agree with Ramirez or not, the fact is that USA vs. Costa Rica is a burgeoning rivalry that has provided its share of memorable moments, highlighted by the USA's 1-0 victory in blizzard conditions during a World Cup qualifier in October of 2013. And it doesn't hurt the rivalry that Costa Rica has not won a match in official competition on US soil since 1985 and the US has never won a World Cup qualifier in Costa Rica (0-8-1).
Tuesday night's matchup is likely to provide another one of those moments since a win by either side would essentially spell the end of the other in the Copa America Centenario.
“It’s important for us to have some authority in the CONCACAF region,” said Costa Rica midfielder Celso Borges, who plays for Spain’s Deportivo La Coruna. “I think it’s a very different game once you play for qualification for a World Cup and Copa America or a Gold Cup. It’s always been very complicated for us to face the US here on their soil. I think it’s going to be a nice game to watch and a nice game to play. Hopefully we can take the result with us and get the three points that we need.”
Borges isn’t buying all the chatter about the US looking like a team going through a rough patch. The Americans' opening loss against Colombia may have been a negative result, but Borges – like US boss Jurgen Klinsmann – still believes it was a strong showing.
“I think the goals that Colombia scored were in very important stages of the game. At the beginning, and at the end of the first half,” Borges said. “It’s a whole different game once you start losing 1-0 after 10 minutes. What they showed early, it was pretty clear what they wanted to do. They wanted to wait for Colombia to take the initiative in the game and then from there they could exploit the space that they had in front of them. It’s new style that I hadn’t seen them in before. They have progressed in that part of their game. I think we have to be very cautious with that.
“I didn’t see a US that was a disaster or that they played poorly on the ball," Borges continued. "They had good ideas and in the second half and they could have taken one goal that maybe could have evened out the chances a little bit more. I’m a little bit cautious of what to think of the US now. We can’t let ourselves go and think they’re in a bad position just because people say it. I think what we saw in the game was pretty solid and we have to be at our best for us to be able to beat them."
If you're looking for another sign of a rivalry, maybe it's this: Costa Rica feel they know just how the Americans will react when they take the field in Chicago. Their head coach Ramirez is wary of what’s ahead.
“You have to respectful,” Ramirez said. “The United States historically has character. In difficult times they try to get out of it and they’re at home. We have to prepare for what they plan to do and affect that. For me there’s always respect for them.”