The U.S. men’s national team will look to get back on track after its first loss in World Cup qualifying as it gets set to meet a Costa Rica side that is back from the dead in its bid to make it to Qatar 2022.
An American squad with seven new starters from its previous 2-0 win over Jamaica logged what was arguably the worst U.S. performance in the Gregg Berhalter era on Sunday, failing to register a single shot on target in a 1-0 loss to Panama. Berhalter’s decision to heavily rotate the squad was met with criticism, but he made it clear that it was a gamble for which the payoff comes on Wednesday.
“It obviously doesn’t look like the best choice, but I think we have to wait till Thursday,” Berhalter said after the Panama loss. “If we were going to play the same players [vs. Jamaica on Thursday] in this game [vs. Panama on Sunday], I’m not sure we would position ourselves in the best way to win again on Wednesday [vs. Costa Rica]. Again, the conditions that we’re dealing with [in Panama] with the travel and the weather made it complicated. And we had to make, I guess, somewhat of a risky decision.”
Winning your home games is critical in World Cup qualifying and Wednesday’s opponent showed why. Back in 2017, Costa Rica went into Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., and beat the USA 2-0 in a qualifier that ultimately cost the Americans a place in the 2018 World Cup. That match was also the Ticos’ last win against the USA; they’ve experienced a period of slow decline since the end of the 2018 World Cup, going a mediocre 8-8-11 in all matches and having to fire their coach in June.
It’s experienced hand Luis Fernando Suarez who was appointed to take over a Costa Rican team in desperate need of a generational changeover. But Suarez is still rolling out the old guard, and it was those veteran heroes who allowed the Ticos to secure a draw in Honduras last week and salvage a 2-1 come-from-behind win over El Salvador on Sunday. PSG goalkeeper Keylor Navas was the star, making a key save in both matches to preserve the results. Those four points have Costa Rica back in the qualifying mix.
It’s expected that Berhalter will field his first-choice U.S. team again, featuring emerging goal scorer Ricardo Pepi, who will have his work cut out for him to beat Navas. The 18-year-old is one of 13 U.S. players age 23 or younger, while Costa Rica has 12 players who are 30 or older. It makes for a fascinating battle of youth vs. guile with valuable points on the line.
How to watch USA vs. Costa Rica
- Date: Wednesday, Oct. 13
- Time: 7 p.m. ET
- TV Channels: ESPN2
- Spanish-language TV: UniMas, TUDN
- Streaming: fuboTV, ESPN+
The match, which will also be available to stream on ESPN+, will be held at the new Lower.com Field in Columbus. It’s the home of Major League Soccer’s Columbus Crew, which opened in July.
USA vs. Costa Rica: Lineups
The Americans will benefit from the return of goalkeeper Zack Steffen, midfielder Weston McKennie and left back Antonee Robinson after all three skipped the USMNT’s trip to Panama. But two of those players are carrying injuries into the game.
Berhalter sounded a cautious tone regarding the soreness in McKennie’s right quad (“he’s making progress”) and a “little issue” with Robinson’s knee. Both were involved in the final U.S. practice, but if either of them isn’t ready to go, Gianluca Busio (midfield) and George Bello (left back) could be called upon.
And since it wouldn’t be a U.S. lineup without a controversial selection: There are also rumblings that Zack Steffen will be taking over in goal again for Matt Turner.
Update: Hearing that we’ll see rotation at the USMNT goalkeeper position tonight. I’m expecting Zack Steffen to step in for Matt Turner on his return to Columbus.
Steffen’s been the No. 1 for most of Berhalter’s tenure, but the timing may raise some eyebrows nonetheless.
— Charles Boehm (@cboehm) October 13, 2021
USA projected starting lineup (4-3-3, left to right): 13-Zack Steffen-GK — 5-Antonee Robinson, 12-Miles Robinson, 3-Walker Zimmerman, 2-Sergino Dest — 8-Weston McKennie, 4-Tyler Adams, 6-Yunus Musah — 19-Matthew Hoppe, 16-Ricardo Pepi, 11-Brenden Aaronson
USA projected subs: 1-Matt Turner-GK, 22-Shaq Moore, 21-George Bello, 18-Mark McKenzie, 15-Chris Richards, 23-Kellyn Acosta, 17-Sebastian Lletget, 14-Gianluca Busio, 10-Cristian Roldan, 20-Tim Weah, 9-Gyasi Zardes, 7-Paul Arriola (Others: Sean Johnson, Luca de la Torre, DeAndre Yedlin)
Costa Rica had to replace Joel Campbell (sprained right ankle) and Jose Guillermo Ortiz (positive COVID-19 test) and opted for 39-year-old Alvaro Saborio and 27-year-old Christian Bolanos, veterans of countless USA vs. Costa Rica matchups.
There is speculation that Costa Rica could opt to go with 5-3-2 formation, which has proven successful for it in the past.
Costa Rica projected starting lineup (5-2-3, left to right): 1-Keylor Navas-GK — 22-Ronald Matarrita, 15-Francisco Calvo, 6-Oscar Duarte, 19-Kendall Waston, 2-Ricardo Blanco — 5-Celso Borges, 10-Bryan Ruiz, 17-Yeltsin Tejeda — 11-Randall Leal, 9-Jonathan Moya
Costa Rica projected subs: 23-Leonel Moreira-GK, 18-Aaron Cruz-GK, 20-Fernan Faerron, 4-Keysher Fuller, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 3-Juan Pablo Vargas, 13-Orlando Galo Calderon, 2-Youstin Salas, 14-Jimmy Marin, 7-Johan Venegas, 16-Kenneth Vargas, Christian Bolanos, Alvaro Saborio, Luis Diaz
USA vs. Costa Rica: Betting odds & prediction
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
Pick: USA -1.25 Asian Handicap (+100)
After a dismal performance on Sunday, it’s hard not to see the Americans coming out pedal to the metal against a Costa Rica team that is not the opposition it once was. The Americans will be fresher, they’ll have a passionate home crowd behind them and, with Ricardo Pepi on the field from the start, they’ll have the best chance to score multiple goals. The only thing that would stand in the way is a lights-out performance from Costa Rican ’keeper Keylor Navas.
The -1.25 Asian Handicap offers some insurance (half the bet is refunded) in case the Americans only win by a single goal.
In case you’re into historicals: The USA has a 6-2-1 record against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifiers played on U.S. soil and a 7-1-2 record against all regional qualifying opponents in Columbus.
Prediction: USA 2, Costa Rica 0
- Moneyline: USA -270 / Draw +350 / Costa Rica +650
- Spread: USA -1.5 (+125) / Costa Rica +1.5 (-170)
- O/U 2.5 total goals: Over +110 / Under -140
- Both Teams To Score: Yes +145 / No -195