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"MARK THAT CALENDAR" [MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavision]

A stern reminder about an upcoming U.S. Soccer-related event, whether you plan to check it out live and in person, on the "telly" or that wacky world wide web.

While it would have been nice to pick up a rare win over Brazil in the semis and face Mexico at Azteca for the CONCACAF crown, there’s still enough drama surrounding the Third Place Match to make it a doozy of a game. That’s right, it’s Bruce Arena vs. Steve Sampson. Present vs. past. Hero vs. goat. The moment that soccer fans around the country – and many parts of the continent – have been waiting for has come early, considering the two teams might not have met in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying until the final round in 2005.

Sure, our rivalry with Costa Rica isn’t anywhere close to the level of USA-Mexico (colones/coin-throwing fans at Saprissa Stadium might disagree), but that all changed in the seconds it took the ’98 U.S. World Cup chief to put ink to paper. With the California native becoming the first American coach in recent history to be tapped to lead another country – not to mention one of our toughest CONCACAF foes – to the big event, the stakes immediately rose for the impending battles across the next three years.

With this being the first of those important matches, there’s no doubt that both team managers will be looking to get the psychological upper hand with a win. Of course, both coaches will tell the media that they could care less about it, but deep down there must be a touch of nerves heading into this match. Unfortunately, this initial meeting comes after each team has played four tough games across 12 days and is missing players to both cautions and injuries, which means that “Just Win, Baby!” (Rest in peace, Al Davis. Wait, is he dead?) will likely be the rallying cry of the day. For the red white & blue, there’s added pressure, considering that only once have we failed to finish in the top three in the region in six previous Gold Cups.

After easily winning Group C and breezing through their first three games by a combined score of 9-0 (2-0 wins over El Salvador and Martinique in group action and a 5-0 rout of Cuba in the quarters), the U.S. stepped it up against Brazil, but gave up a confidence-killing goal in the second-to-last minute and then conceded a penalty kick in overtime for the 2-1 result.

Costa Rica has taken a slightly different path, falling 1-0 to Canada in its opener before rebounding with a 3-0 shutout of Cuba to win a three-way tie on points in Group D (by virtue of a superior goal differential). But like the U.S., after dismantling their quarterfinal opponent (a 5-2 win over El Salvador), the Ticos couldn’t get through to the final, succumbing to the heat, smog, elevation, 100,000 fans and a rejuvenated Mexican attack in a 2-0 loss.

But no matter what the previous results, this game will be a battle to the end, and provide a perfect sneak preview of the intense intercontinental contests that lie ahead on the road to Germany 2006.

To watch the action live (don’t forget to look for any action on the sidelines), tune into Galavision at 8 p.m. ET or go online and follow the match via’s Match Tracker, presented by Philips Electronics. 


Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT forward Abby Wambach)
3) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavison)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)
6) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Gold Cup Trivia)

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