Who will start in the U.S. defense? Captain Davis have us his “educated guesses,” but as Jurgen Klinsmann made clear in Thursday’s press conference, he wants to keep people on their toes. That means no hints for us and, by extension, no information for the Costa Ricans. Whomever is going to fill the gaps at left and right back, we won’t find out for a few more hours.
Regardless of who starts, the challenges remain the same. Costa Rica has a deep, rich, and diverse group of potential goal scorers, with these five the most likely candidates to give the U.S. a scare tonight at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park:
1. Alvaro Saborio (Real Salt Lake)
The Real Salt Lake No. 9 has 30 international goals in 80 appearances. The rest of Jorge Luis Pinto’s team has 37 combined.
With earlier rumors he may miss the match subsequently dispelled, Saborio’s expected to be front-and-center in the Costa Rican attack.
Stat line: Three goals in as many games for RSL this season; 17 in 33 league appearances last year.
2. Bryan Ruiz (Fulham, England)
Ruiz will be familiar to American soccer fans not only from his CONCACAF exploits but from the season he shared at Fulham with Clint Dempsey before the U.S. captain moved on.
Fast, skilled, and versatile, Ruiz is capable attacking any weakness in the U.S. defense, be that creating for Saborio or putting his shots on goal. His 10 international goals are tied for second in Pinto’s squad.
Stat line: Two goals in 20 appearances for Fulham this season; Two in 27 games last.
3. Jairo Arrieta (Columbus Crew)
Amid speculation Costa Rica will set up conservatively in Colorado, it’s unlikely Arrieta will start. If he does, he’ll be the workhorse that opens things up for Saborío and Ruiz.
But Arrieta’s more than a worker bee, as his Major League Soccer goal totals can attest. He may have only two goals in his international career, but that’s in nine appearances. Arrieta’s been a late comer.
Stat line: One goal in three games for Columbus this season; Nine in 18 games after joining the Crew mid-way through the 2012 season.
4. Joel Campbell (Real Betis, Spain, on loan from Arsenal)
Raw but with tremendous physical talent, Campbell’s speed and shooting ability make him a potential game-breaker, whether he’s deployed as a wide man or a more traditional forward. Only 20 years old, he’s already been capped 20 times and racked up seven international goals, including one against Spain in Nov. 2011.
Stat line: Two goals in 20 Spanish Primera Division games. Last year, between two levels of French soccer, Campbell had four goals in 30 games.
5. Celso Borges (AIK, Sweden)
Borges is one of three players on this team that has scored double-digit international goals. At 24 years old, he’s racked up 10 goals in 46 international appearances.
Capable of playing striker as well as central midfield, Borges gives Costa Rica the potential of a late-arriving threat that can take advantage of the space created by Saborío and Ruiz.
Interestingly, all 10 of his international goals have come in competitive matches (none in friendlies).
Stat line: Eight goals in 29 games last year in the Swedish first division.