USMNT-Costa Rica preview

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The CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table is tight, and will have many U.S. Soccer supporters feeling nervy ahead of Friday’s home tilt against Costa Rica in New Jersey.

With John Brooks and DeAndre Yedlin out with injury, the anxiety is a bit higher. And memories of a 4-0 shellacking in Costa Rica that cost Jurgen Klinsmann his job won’t help things, either.

That said… everybody exhale.

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As noted in Wedneday’s Four Keys post, the Yanks of this generation don’t lose meaningful home games to Costa Rica, and Los Ticos have not been impressive in World Cup qualifying aside from that beatdown last November.

In fact, Costa Rica has struggled to perform on away days this year, especially when considering the opposition:

July 22 – at USA – L 0-2
March 28 – at Honduras – D 1-1
March 24 – at Mexico – L 0-2
Jan. 22 – at Panama – L 0-1

Los Ticos like to work the right of the field, putting pressure on the left side of the opposition. That means another big test for Jorge Villafana (probably), as well as left midfielder Fabian Johnson and whoever Bruce Arena slots into left center back.

Six points from these next two matches, Friday and then Tuesday in Honduras, essentially assures the Yanks a berth in Russia (It would take a home loss to Panama and a road loss to Trinidad and Tobago in October plus other results going against them to defy that assertion).

Best case scenario

In fact, the U.S. has a potential major ally in rivals Mexico. Should the Yanks win both their matches and El Tri do the same — Mexico plays Panama and Costa Rica — the table will look something like this come Tuesday. The Yanks would then want T&T to draw visiting Honduras (possible) and beat Panama in Panama (unlikely).

Mexico — 20 points
USMNT — 14 points
Costa Rica — 11 points
Panama — 7 points
T&T — 7 points
Honduras — 6 points

In this scenario, the spot in Russia is clinched and we’re watching Weston McKinnie and Christian Ramirez in October.

Worst case scenario

What does the unlikelihood of two USMNT losses do to their chances? Obviously, it’s not good, and Mexico could become the Yanks’ biggest enemy. In this scenario, Costa Rica wins both their USMNT and Mexico tests, while Mexico draws Panama. Los Canaleros, in turn, smash Trinidad and Tobago in Panama City on Tuesday, with T&T also losing to Honduras, and the table looks like this:

Costa Rica — 17 points
Mexico — 15 points
Panama — 11 points
Honduras — 11 points
USMNT — 8 points
T&T — 3 points

Again… that’s not happening but these are the facts. Even then, the Yanks would control their own fourth place/playoff destiny (at least) with a home match against Panama in October before closing out the Hex at likely last place T&T.

Full schedule

Friday
USMNT vs. Costa Rica — 6:55 p.m. ET
T&T vs. Honduras — 8 p.m. ET
Mexico vs. Panama — 9:30 p.m. ET

Tuesday
Honduras vs. USMNT — 5:36 p.m. ET
Costa Rica vs. Mexico — 10:05 p.m. ET
Panama vs. T&T — 10:05 p.m. ET