Who could possible forget the Snow Clasico, the surreal scenes from late March just outside of Denver? People who wouldn’t bother to walk across the street if Leo Messi himself were handing out game-worn jerseys (soccer haters, that is) were tuning in to ESPN that night just for the novelty and the remarkable aesthetics as the United States found a goal in the fluffy white madness against Costa Rica
I carefully negotiated the treacherous, slippery way into the interview area that night, where Costa Rican officials were thawing things quite nicely with red-hot opinions pouring out for anybody willing to listen about how the World Cup qualifier was managed.
Remember how an official protest to FIFA was filed? Remember also that Costa Rica soon after indicated that they would pass on hosting the United States this summer in the country’s fancy, new national stadium; instead, they would stage the Sept. 6 contest inside the older, less comfortable and more intimidating Estadio Ricardo Saprissa.
So, when reports began emerging that Costa Rica was tightly focused on Gold Cup advancement, and that revenge for perceived mistreatment had been reduced to distant subplot, well, forgive me if I got a little skeptical.
I’ve talked to people who have traveled recently to Costa Rica, and the fans there have hardly forgotten. That means the players and team officials are constantly reminded of the white madness that framed this unforgettable Denver night. As such, they will certainly have some extra motivation in a match that is only about elimination round positioning; both teams at Rentschler Field in Hartford (pictured above) tonight have already advanced out of Gold Cup group play and into this weekend’s quarterfinals.
Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto did address the circumstance in late March in Colorado. What he said at Monday’s press gathering: “I’ve said 10,000 times that no we should not have [played in the conditions]. It was absurd. After the game, everyone from federations and from soccer around the world said that didn’t make any sense. No one in their right mind would have allowed a match like that to be played.”