We are one week and counting now from what promises to be a nervous moment for U.S. Soccer supporters. The United States meets Costa Rica in Denver in what looks to most of us like a “must-have.”
U.S. Soccer says that ain’t so – and the argument has technical merit. (It’s all about points available, places available, etc.)
But the problem was never the points per se. Rather, it’s about the strong pull of psychological riptides that could develop, about the jeopardy of mounting pressure and what it could do to the reach for Brazil 2014, about the media holler for Jurgen Klinsmann’s job that would surely rise, adding further tangle and distraction.
The looming red-tinged hue of a defeat next week, more than the black-and-white of three points from victory in the six-team table, makes the Costa Rican clash so crucial.
That’s why everyone will watch with interest as a group of Americans tries to get back on the field this weekend. Word is coming that Clint Dempsey will make the bench as Spurs meet his old team, Fulham, Sunday at White Hart Lane. Dempsey has been out since late February with a calf injury.
He has been training with Spurs this week (but did not make the trip into Italy for Thursday’s Europa League achievement – white-knuckle triumph though it was.)
Johnson’s ability to get on the field in those fancy new Centennial Edition kits is vital given the lack of U.S. cover at left back.
Then there’s the case of Michael Bradley, who isn’t starting lately for Roma. The U.S. midfield general appeared as a sub two weeks ago but was suspended for last week’s draw with Udinese. Roma meets Parma on Sunday.
Any concerns over full fitness (cardiovascular fitness, that is, not just full health) are exacerbated by the contest’s location, at 5,000 feet above sea level in the Denver suburb of Commerce City.