It was a very good summer for the USMNT. The month of June saw them move closer to securing a berth at the World Cup in Russia next summer with a home win against Trinidad & Tobago before going down south of the border to get a draw against Mexico at the vaunted Azteca Stadium. July brought a change of goals with the Gold Cup taking center focus. Bruce Arena brought in a number of younger players for the group stage before turning to the veterans to bring home the trophy (which they did, defeated Jamaica 2-1 in the final). Now the goal switches back to attempting to qualify for the World Cup. The next two opponents on the docket? Costa Rica and Honduras.
The US roster for this round of World Cup Qualifiers was released on Sunday and there are next to no surprises on the list. Tim Howard, Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando are all in goal. The backline is missing John Brooks (out with an injury picked up on club duty in Germany) but Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron, Eric Lichaj, Tim Ream, Jorge Villafana and Matt Hedges are all in the squad. The midfield looks to be the strength of this particular team with Michael Bradley, Alejandro Bedoya, Fabian Johnson, Darlington Nagbe, Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola and Crisitan Roldan all in there. And of course so is the wunderkind, Christian Pulisic. Up top Chis Wondolowski is a slightly surprising inclusion but Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris are all to be expected.
Maximum points in these two games are vital for the US. Having dropped three points at home against Mexico back in November (which they followed up with a humiliating 4-0 shellacking at the hands of Costa Rica down in San Jose), the US has very little room for error. Costa Rica is frequently one of the best teams in CONCACAF so they cannot afford to be overlooked. Once the Costa Rica game is done, another difficult road trip is up as the US goes down to San Pedro Sula to take on Honduras. Eight months ago, most US fans would have said that was very tall task indeed. But now there is much more optimism and confidence as Bruce Arena has come back into the US fold and started getting results for the team. He needs to get one or two more to secure that berth in Russia next summer, but with the way the US has been playing, there’s no reason to think it can’t happen.
Costa Rica has had a slightly different go of it this year. Their record is 5-3-6. They finished a disappointing fourth (out of 6 teams) at the Copa Centroamericana in January. They did however make it to the Gold Cup semi-finals for the first time since 2009 where they were bounced out by the US. They currently sit second in the Hex, just three points behind Mexico and just three points ahead of the US. Their squad is as talented as ever as it features a number of players from European clubs including Keylor Navas of Real Madrid, Giancarlo Gonzalez of Bologna, Bryan Oviedo of Sunderland, Christian Gamboa of Celtic and Bryan Ruiz of Sporting Lisbon. They also have a solid number of players playing their club soccer in the US such as Marco Urena of the San Jose Earthquakes, Johan Venegas of Minnesota United, David Guzman of the Portland Timbers and Rodney Wallace of New York City.
• Per Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated, this game is the first time the USMNT has played a World Cup Qualifier in the NYC area.
• The last time the US played a game at Red Bull Arena was in October of 2015, which they lost 1-0 against Costa Rica.
• As of Wednesday, roughly 24,000 tickets had been sold for the game.
When and where to watch the game:
Friday, September 1
Red Bull Arena
6:30pm ET (7pm ET kickoff)
TV and streaming: ESPN, ESPN3, Univision, UniMas, DIRECTV NOW, Sling Orange and fuboTV (7-day free trial)
Series tied at 15-15-6
USA 2-0 Costa Rica
Current FIFA Ranking:
Costa Rica: 21
Tuesday, September 5, 2017
World Cup Qualifying
Honduras vs. USA
San Pedro Sula, Honduras