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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Blizzard win: USA defeats Costa Rica

Photo credit: The Guardian

Whiteout. That's how Costa Rica felt after the match. The US had just defeated them in the second game of the Hexagonal for the 2014 World Cup qualification. Mostly, they could accuse the weather. For USA fans, on the other hand, the snow acted like an eraser, a break, a reset button for a team in need of direction. Klinsmann's men seized the moment and gave the country a much-deserved win.

For those of us familiar with the Denver area, we know that March, spring specifically, is when the biggest snow storms occur. But aside from Ian Darke's comments about the irregularity of the weather is the fact that this match should well have been abandoned. No one could see through the snow and the US players, clad in white jerseys, melted into the background of water crystals. But hey, it's backyard soccer, as Taylor Twellman said, and the game needed to be played. Would the result have been different without snow?

The players had their night too. Let's give them credit, especially to Jermaine Jones and DaMarcus Beasley. Jones brought his Schalke Champions League form and smuggled the ball around the Costa Rican midfield. Beasley played outside of position in the always-difficult left back and tore up the Ticos' play on that side of the pitch.

In fact, the back line held up just fine. Gonzalez and Goodson provided all the areal cover needed to ward off the lies of Alvaro Saborio, and Cameron brought his experience as a right back in the Premier League to close up play for the opponents and enable the attack when warranted. Brad Guzan was as stable as Tim Howard and showed why he's no distant second as a netminder for Aston Villa.

For now, at least, the Bradley-Jones midfield worked well. The interchanging, box-to-box, one in one out play was there and when Jones went forward, Bradley receded and vice versa. Just like we had been told by Klinsmann.

Up front Clint Dempsey stole the show again with another clutch goal, adding up to 12 in World Cup qualifying for the US and tying Donovan in the same classification. Herculez Gomez played the wing in offense and defense and worked well. Altidore, as the lone forward, held up play and set up the goal. He also had his chances but conditions made it difficult to finish them off.

Up next is Mexico at the mighty Azteca. This is perhaps one of the most talented Mexican teams in history and also one hungry for a win after being held scoreless at home by Jamaica last month and allowing Honduras to rally back to tie them 2-2 after going up on the scoreboard 2-0 thanks to Chicharito. Expect the team, the players and the stadium to be looking for a multi-goal game, to test the back line often and in a myriad of schemes. The 12th man counts. In Denver, the US had a 13th man in the snow. Now the tides will reverse and escaping Mexico with a respectable loss would be fine for most fans. But yes, last year they won there in a friendly and back in 1997 it was a 0-0 tie. Bring it.

Payer ratings:

Subs: Edu (6.5), E. Johnson (6), Beckermann (N/A)

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