USA vs. Costa Rica
Date and Time: Friday, September 1, 6:55 p.m. ET
Location: Red Bull Arena, Harrison, NJ
Opening Soccer Odds: USA -140
USA vs. Costa Rica TV Coverage: ESPN
Costa Rica knows that three points in this match is going to ultimately be good enough to qualify for the World Cup. Los Ticos are sitting on 11 points at this point, and a win on the road in New Jersey will give it 14, a number that isn't going to be run down by either the USA, Panama, Honduras or Trinidad & Tobago.
The United States can't quite say the same, but you'd like to think that a win will finish the job. With Panama very likely losing at Estadio Azteca against Mexico in a match later in the night, a win should put the Stars and Stripes at least three points clear of the intercontinental playoff, and with just three matches left and a clearly superior goal differential to all of the teams below them, there shouldn't be much doubt left.
Still, there is sweating to be done by both of these teams based off of some of their suspect results.
In the case of Costa Rica, the team really didn't look great in the Gold Cup, particularly in a 2-0 loss to the United States in the semifinals of this tournament. In the case of the United States, it drew against Panama in the opening match of the Gold Cup and still has that drab 4-0 loss to Costa Rica from back in November to be worried about as well.
The Last Meeting
Normally we would talk about that 2-0 win in the Gold Cup, but the fact of the matter is that the CRC was playing a de facto junior team against a USA squad mixed a lot of its youth with some of its top talent.
That said, the match back in Costa Rica is certainly worth looking at. The Americans were dead from the opening kickoff, as they were dominated in every facet of the game en route to a 4-0 loss.
The Yanks had no answers for the physicality that Costa Rica demanded, and though it took 44 minutes to finally allow the first goal, the floodgates opened up in the second half when Los Ticos tallied three times in a span of just 10 minutes. There was no composure out of the United States whatsoever, and that's what effectively put qualifying for the World Cup on the fast track to danger right out of the chute.
USA vs. Costa Rica Free Picks
Of course, Jurgen Klinsmann was the manager of the United States since that point, not Bruce Arena. That was effectively the last straw for Klinsmann, and the results for Arena since that point have been fantastic at 9-5-0.
The side Arena has called up for this match is one that cannot be understated as dominant. Christian Pulisic is really stepping into that attacking midfielder role well with his seven goals in 16 matches, and the fact that he was given much of the summer off by Arena instead of bringing him to the Gold Cup tells you what he thinks of the importance of this stretch to make sure the Yanks get into the World Cup.
Pulisic has grown up a ton since then, and we don't think Costa Rica is going to have an answer for him. Toss in Clint Dempsey's sudden surge as a super sub and Jozy Altidore's newly reborn physicality in the box as a power striker, and the Americans are totally different now under Arena than they were at the end of the Klinsmann era.
This match means too much for the United States emotionally to fail. Wager at your favorite sportsbook accordingly.
USA vs. Costa Rica Soccer Pick: USA -140 at BookMaker.eu
USA vs. Costa Rica Score Prediction: USA 3, Costa Rica 1