Preview: Besler, Zusi and USA to face Costa Rica in Gold Cup semis

U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Costa Rica
2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal Round
Saturday, July 22 | 9 p.m. CT | FS1, Univisión, UDN
AT&T Stadium | Arlington, Texas

With hopes rising and margin for error narrowing, the U.S. Men’s National Team will attempt to knock off Costa Rica for a spot in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final. The match will kick off at 9 p.m. CT Saturday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, with live coverage on FS1, Univision and UDN. The winning team will move onto the Gold Cup Finals which will take place next Wednesday at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California.

Sporting KC Duo in the Mix

If the pattern holds true, Sporting KC defenders Matt Besler and Graham Zusi will be involved in Saturday’s semifinal. The duo started the U.S. MNT’s first and third group stage matches against Panama and Nicaragua, respectively, but were rested for the second group stage match against Martinique as well as Wednesday’s quarterfinal win over El Salvador. The World Cup veterans bring plenty of experience to the table and could be called upon again in this high-stakes encounter.

Two Countries, Too Similar

Both sides have had impressive 2017 Gold Cup campaigns that have resulted in no losses for either team. Along with unbeaten streaks, both squads head into the match riding consecutive clean sheet performances.

Historically, the U.S. and Costa Rica have had a pretty split series, with the Yanks winning 14 games, Costa Rica winning 15 and the two sides splitting draws on five different occasions. The last two times the squads met, the game ended 4-0, with the U.S. MNT taking the June 2016 Copa America meeting—highlighted by a Graham Zusi goal — and Costa Rica taking the November 2016 World Cup qualifier.

This weekend’s showing will break one side’s unbeaten streak, and should determine who has the upper hand in the battle…for now.

The Need to Capitalize

With both teams trying to continue their winning ways, the game could fall to just one or two moments of exploiting an opposing error. The U.S. attack will need to work on capitalizing on scoring chances, as the Costa Rica defense has only allowed four shots on target in its last two games. The U.S. has been able to net nine goals during its Gold Cup run, but both manager Bruce Arena as well as U.S. MNT members have voiced their frustrations with the team’s missed opportunities.

“We can’t be coming out flat like that,” said U.S. MNT forward Jozy Altidore of the team’s last match against El Salvador. “As games get tougher, a good Costa Rica team will punish you early on for coming out like that.”

With Costa Rica’s tricky defense, the Yanks will need to have an opportunistic look to their attack.

Dempsey Is Still Knocking

Clint Dempsey remains a lone goal away from tying Landon Donovan’s all-time record of 57 goals for the U.S. MNT.

Although he made his impact with a perfect lead pass that landed in the wheelhouse for defender Eric Lichaj’s first international goal, Dempsey was not able to net one himself last match. Dempsey and Donovan remain the only two Americans in the 50-goal category, with the next closest scorer being Altidore with 37.

The 34-year-old forward last found the back of the net in a 1-1 draw against Panama in a November World Cup qualifier. After playing all 90 minutes in Wednesday’s match, Dempsey might make his record-setting attempt in a substitute role, but neither he nor his teammates would value it any less.

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