Only three days after defeating one confederation power, Mexico, to capture the inaugural Concacaf Nations League title, the U.S. Men’s National Team will meet another, Costa Rica, on Wednesday night.
The USMNT will host the Ticos in an international friendly at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah on Wednesday at 7 p.m. ET (ESPN2, UniMás and TUDN). Kickoff is set for 5:05 p.m. ET.
Here are Five Things to Know about the Ticos, presented by BioSteel:
Despite having a population of a little more than five million people, the Costa Ricans have packed quite a punch in Concacaf since 1990, qualifying for the World Cup on five occasions. They began to establish itself as a confederation powerhouse at Italia ‘90, becoming the first Concacaf team to reach the Round of 16 at World Cup hosted in Europe.
Costa Rica also competed at the 2002, 2006, 2014 and 2018 FIFA World Cups. The Central Americans finished eighth out of 32 teams in Brazil in 2014, losing to the Netherlands in the quarterfinals in a penalty kick shootout after playing to a scoreless draw.
Despite their success at the World Cup, the Ticos have never won a Concacaf Gold Cup. Their best finish was as runners-up to the USA in 2002. They have, however been crowned Copa Centroamericana champions a record eight times.
COSTA RICA MANAGER
Rónald González, a former Costa Rican international defender (65 appearances over 10 years), was named to the position in 2019. As a member of the first Ticos’ team to reach the World Cup in 1990, González became the youngest player to score at Italia ’90 at the age of 19. That goal was against Czechoslovakia, the first of five at the international level.
At the club level, González played for Saprissa over three tenures, and Herediano in his native country, and for Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia), Sturm Graz and Vorwärts Steyr (both Austria) and Comunicaciones (Guatemala).
After retiring in 2006, he guided the Costa Rican Under-20 national side for three years until 2011 and was caretaker coach of the senior team from 2010-11. After directing Guatemalan giants Comunicaciones in 2012, González took over the Saprissa coaching reins, winning the 2013-14 league championship. He also guided Uruguay de Coronado in 2017-18 before getting the call from the national team in 2019.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Costa Rica has been limited to eight matches since March 2020, recording a 0-4-4 mark, scoring four goals and conceding eight. The Central Americans are 0-1-3 this year. During the recent CNL Final Four, they dropped both matches in shootouts (the results are draws in the official records). The Ticos were eliminated by Mexico in the semifinals after playing to a scoreless draw and lost to Honduras in the third-place match after finishing in a 2-2 deadlock. Both shootout results ended in 5-4 penalty-kick wins by the opposition.
Joel Campbell scored off a Bryan Oviedo cross in the eighth minute before the Hondurans bounced back to grab a 2-1 lead. Francisco Calvo headed in a Johan Venegas free kick in the 85th minute to knot the game at 2-2.
USMNT HISTORY VS. COSTA RICA
The USA holds a 17-16-6 edge since the two teams first met in Mexico City on Aug. 19, 1975, a 3-1 Costa Rica win. The teams have dominated each other on their home soil. The Americans’ most memorable away result was a 1-1 draw in Alajuela in a FIFA World Cup qualifying match on May 25, 1985. Six days later on May 31, the Costa Ricans eliminated the USMNT contention for the 1986 World Cup, handing the hosts a 1-0 defeat in Torrance, Calif.
Since then, the two sides have fought several memorable battles. In the SnowClasico, the USMNT beat Costa Rica 1-0 during a snowstorm in Commerce City, Colo. on March 23, 2013. Clint Dempsey scored in the 16th minute in his first start as captain.
In the 2002 Gold Cup Final, the USA bested the Central American side 2-0 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. with Josh Wolff and Jeff Agoos tallying the goals for the winners.
The last time these two rivals clashed was Feb. 1, 2020, when Ulysses Llanez converted a penalty kick to lift the USA to a 1-0 friendly win in Carson, Calif.
Costa Rica and the USA will meet twice during the final round of Concacaf qualifying for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The USMNT will host the Central Americans in October before the Ticos return the favor on the final Match Day of the competition in March 2022.
COSTA RICA ROSTER
In a marked contrast to the USMNT, Costa Rica brought a veteran-laden roster to the CNL and Wednesday’s friendly. Eight players are at least 30-years-old. The USA’s oldest player and only one over 30 is defender Tim Ream (33 years, 246 days).
The Ticos most experienced players are midfielders Bryan Ruiz (35 years, 294 days) and Celso Borges (33 years, 12 days), who have played in 129 and 133 international matches, respectively. Ruiz has tallied 26 goals, Borges 23. Both players are closing in on the Ticos’ all-time cap leader, retired midfielder Walter Centeno, who represented his country 137 times. Forward Joel Campbell, who performs for Leon (Mexico) is two games shy of reaching 100 appearances. He has scored 19 times.
Six Costa Rican players compete in Major League Soccer – defenders Francisco Calvo (Chicago Fire), Giancarlo Gonzalez (LA Galaxy) and Joseph Mora (D.C. United), midfielders Randall Leal (Nashville SC) and Allan Cruz (FC Cincinnati) and forward Ariel Lassiter (Houston Dynamo).
Five players hail from Alajuelense in Costa Rica – goalkeeper Leonel Moreira, midfielders Bernald Alfaro, Gerson Torres and Ruiz, and forward Johan Venegas.
GOALKEEPERS (3): Esteban Alvarado (Limon FC; 19/0), Aaron Cruz (Saprissa; 0/0), Leonel Moreira (Alajuelense; 17/0)
DEFENDERS (8): Francisco Calvo (Chicago Fire/USA; 55/7), Oscar Duarte (Levante/ESP; 57/2), Keysher Fuller (Herediano; 12/1), Yael Lopez (Herediano; 0/0), Bryan Oviedo (FC Copenhagen/DEN; 59/2), Aaron Salazar (Herediano; 0/0), Kendall Waston (Saprissa; 45/7), Ronald Matarrita (FC Cincinnati/USA; 37/3)
MIDFIELDERS (8): Bernald Alfaro (Alajuelense; 3/0), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruña/ESP; 133/23), Allan Cruz (FC Cincinnati/USA; 21/2), Luis Diaz (Columbus Crew/USA; 4/0), Randall Leal (Nashville SC/USA; 19/0), Bryan Ruiz (Alajuelense; 129/26), Yeltsin Tejeda (Herediano; 58/0), Gerson Torres (Herediano; 3/0)
FORWARDS (4): Felicio Brown (Wisla Krakow/POL; 1/0), Joel Campbell (Club Leon; 98/19), Alonso Martinez (Alajuelense; 2/0), Johan Venegas (Alajuelense; 62/11)