DETOUR: It was business as usual when the U.S. Men’s National Team left their Miami hotel at 2:45 p.m. ET. That all changed when one of the staff members was briefly left behind and the journey quickly became anything but normal. The charter flight took off for San Jose with an expected arrival time of approximately 5 p.m. MT, and the group settled into their normal flight routine of DVD's, sleep and Texas Hold 'Em.
About an hour out of San Jose, ground control informed the pilots that bad weather in San Jose made landing impossible at the moment. Deciding to head to Panama City to refuel and wait out the storm, the charter touched down about 6:30 local time. And then the wait began. Every weather update contained the same ominous news; meantime, the flight crew fired up a second round of meals while U.S. Soccer officials and hotel staff on the ground were furiously arranging alternate plans. After three hours, the decision was made to stay in Panama City for the night, save for one problem. A huge chicken and egg convention - we're not making this up - had booked nearly every room in the city. Ever resourceful, and with the help of the Intercontinental in Panama City, the team found accommodation in the jungle resort town of Gamboa about an hour from the airport.
After customs officials finally cleared the group, the team departed (without bags) on a winding bus ride through the city, eventually settling in for the night in a magnificent resort at approximately 11 p.m. local time. With 7:30 a.m. wake up calls, the team headed back to the airport for the 45-minute flight to San Jose. Many thanks to Tom King and Pam Perkins of U.S. Soccer, and Heidi from the Intercontinental for their last-minute scramble to find the boys a place to get a good night's sleep.
SCOUTING COSTA RICA: U.S. assistant coach Curt Onalfo is once again on hand to provide insight into the USA's qualifying opponents, in this case a Costa Rica side that will be looking to secure the third and final automatic CONCACAF berth to the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Leading the charge for the Ticos will be Paulo Wanchope and midfield engines Ronald Gomez and Walter Centeno. The U.S. will also have to try and stay composed amidst a frenzied crowd that will do what they can to will their countrymen to a victory and a spot in Germany next summer. Tune in to Onalfo’s scouting report, available exclusively on ussoccer.com.
THE POST-2002 WORLD CUP ERA HITS THE BIG 5-0: When they take the field Saturday night, the U.S. will be playing in its 50th game since the historic quarterfinal run in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. During that span, the United States has used 72 players while amassing a record of 31-7-11 (with 28 shutouts). Outscoring their opponents 88-27, they have only lost three games at home in three years, falling to Argentina, Brazil and England. Of the seven defeats since Korea/Japan, all seven opponents were ranked seventh or better by FIFA at the time of the match.
GLENN DAVIS GETS THE CALL: Fans of soccer in the U.S. will hear a familiar voice on the ESPN2 broadcast Saturday night at 10 p.m. ET, as HDNet play-by-play man Glenn Davis fills in for JP Dellacamera. Davis will sit alongside Marcelo Balboa, the two reprising their partnership seen each week calling the action on HDNet. Davis writes a weekly soccer column for the Houston Chronicle and hosts a weekly soccer show on the ESPN radio affiliate in that area.
MLS CONNECTIONS: Sixteen of 18 players on the U.S. roster are current or former members of MLS sides, while Costa Rica lists two players currently plying their trade in the top U.S. domestic league. Chris Albright and Michael Umana are the only teammates facing each other Saturday, normally lining up on the same side with the Los Angeles Galaxy.
SNAPSHOT – COSTA RICA: The Costa Ricans enter Saturday’s match in third place in the final hexagonal, needing a win to clinch a spot in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Brazilian-born head coach Alexandre Guimaraes continues his second stint with the team, having guided the Ticos to the 2002 FIFA World Cup after finishing in first place in CONCACAF qualifying. Costa Rica are led by dangerous frontman Paulo Wanchope, who has notched an astounding 42 goals in 65 international appearances, while the midfield engines of Ronald Gomez and Walter Centeno are dangerous in both their distribution and as set up men. Eight players on the roster hail from Deportivo Saprissa, winners of the CONCACAF Champions Cup. Team captain Luis Marin is the all-time capwinner for Costa Rica with 114 international appearances.
- The U.S. team arrived in San Jose on Friday morning with an 18-man squad, with no major injuries reported. The team will hold its sole training session in Costa Rica Friday afternoon at Estadio Ricardo Saprissa
- Three U.S. players are carrying cards into Saturday’s match: Carlos Bocanegra, Bobby Convey and Eddie Lewis. Their next caution will result in an automatic one-match suspension in qualifying. Meantime, Costa Rica has a host of players on the hot seat: Walter Centeno, Leonardo Gonzalez, Carlos Hernandez, Gilberto Martinez, Roy Miller, Jose Porras and Alonso Solis, which in part explains the overloaded 25-man roster
- The U.S. has a lifetime record of 11-9-4 against Costa Rica, but has never won on the road and holds an 0-5-1 record in qualifying in Costa Rica. In their last 10 meetings, the U.S. has a 6-2-2 advantage against the Ticos, with all six wins coming in the U.S. and both losses coming in San Jose, Costa Rica
- Eddie Pope is the group’s leading capwinner in World Cup qualifying, as the 10-year U.S. veteran has collected 30 appearances, good for third place on the all-time list behind Kasey Keller (32) and Claudio Reyna (31)
- The U.S. will play a World Cup qualifier on an artificial surface for the first time since Oct. 6, 1984, a 4-0 U.S. win vs. Netherland Antilles. FIFA approved the use of the synthetic surface at Estadio Saprissa for international matches on July 5, 2004
- Costa Rica is hoping to repeat history Saturday by qualifying for the World Cup with a victory against the United States. The Ticos pulled off a similiar feat in the last qualifying campaign, defeating the U.S. 2-0 on Sept. 1, 2001 to become the first team from CONCACAF to qualify for Korea/Japan
- At the other end of the spectrum, five players on the 18-man roster are in search of their first World Cup qualifying appearance: Wade Barrett, Danny Califf, Ricardo Clark, Kevin Hartman and Kyle Martino. (Of that group, only Clark has yet to earn a cap for the full team)
- Seven players got their first-ever start in a World Cup qualifying match Sept. 7 against Guatemala. Four starters made their first-ever qualifying appearances in Jimmy Conrad, Jeff Cunningham, Marcus Hahnemann and Chad Marshall. In addition to those four, Clint Dempsey, Santino Quaranta and Taylor Twellman all made their first appearances as starters in World Cup qualifying play
- DaMarcus Beasley is the leading capwinner in 2006 qualifying on the roster, having started 12 matches and scoring four goals. He continues to add to his career-best scoring tally in a single year with the full team, recording four goals and four assists
- Pope is the only player on the roster to have appeared in the USA’s last qualifier in Costa Rica, a 2-0 loss on Sept. 5, 2001, in San Jose
- Four players on the roster USA’s last qualifying match against Costa Rica, a 3-0 U.S. win on June 4 in Salt Lake City, Utah: Beasley, Bocanegra, Convey and Pope
- The teams’ last time out was a scoreless affair in the final match of Group B action in the 2005 Gold Cup. The result secured the USA’s top finish in the group, improving their overall record in Gold Cup group play to 18-0-1. DaMarcus Beasley is the only member of the current squad to appear in that match, entering as a substitute in the 58th minute
- Bobby Convey netted his first international goal against Costa Rica, his curling, left-footed strike just inside the near post in the 67th minute proving the game-winner in the third place match of the 2003 Gold Cup on July 26, 2003, in Miami. The 3-2 comeback win represents the only time in Bruce Arena’s tenure that the team has won a match after trailing at halftime (1-13-4 overall)
- Tim Howard will make his first appearance for the United States in the final round hexagonal, as well as his first in 2005. The 2003 EPL Goalkeeper of the Year has one qualifying cap to his credit, earning his fifth career shutout for the MNT in the 2-0 win against El Salvador on Sept. 4, 2004, in Foxboro, Mass.
On the field for the USA
September 7, 2005 – Estadio Mateo Flores, Guatemala City, Guatemala – FIFA World Cup qualifier, MatchDay 8
Att: 27,000 (est.)
USA: 1-Marcus Hahnemann, 6-Chris Albright, 22-Chad Marshall, 12-Jimmy Conrad, 3-Greg Vanney; 23-Santino Quaranta (10-Landon Donovan, 64), 25-Pablo Mastroeni (capt.), 8-Clint Dempsey (19-Steve Ralston, 89), 15-Bobby Convey; 13-Taylor Twellman, 11-Jeff Cunningham (9-Eddie Johnson, 57).
GUA: 1-Miguel Klee, 26-Angel Sanabria, 3-Pablo Melgar, 14-Elmer Ponciano, 18-Selven Ponciano; 16-Julio Giron, 8-Gonzalo Romero, 11-Guillermo Ramirez (24-Maynor Davila, 46), 7-Fredy Thompson (12-Carlos Figueroa, 71); 15-Juan Carlos Plata (capt.) (10-Edwin Villatoro, 78), 23-Mario Acevedo.
On the field for Costa Rica
September 7, 2005 – Estadio Ricardo Saprissa, San Jose, Costa Rica – FIFA World Cup qualifier, MatchDay 8
Costa Rica 2 Alvaro Saborio 15', Walter Centeno 50'
CRC: 18-Jose Porras, 2-Jervis Drummond, 3-Luis Marin, 5-Gilberto Martinez, 8-Mauricio Solis, 9-Paulo Wanchope, 10-Walter Centeno, 11-Ronald Gomez, 16-Roy Miller (4-Michael Umana, 71), 17-Alonso Solis (7-Christian Bolanos, 56), 19-Alvaro Saborio (20-Douglas Sequeira, 63)
TRI: 21-Kelvin Jack; 4-Marvin Andrews, 6-Dennis Lawrence, 7-Christover Birchall, 9-Aurtis Whitley (20-Jason Scotland, 59), 10-Russel Latapy, 11-Carlos Edwards, 13-Ian Cox, 14-Stern John, 16-Silvio Spann (8-Scott Sealy, 70), 19-Dwight Yorke
Vs. Costa Rica
July 12, 2005 – Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Mass.– 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup
Costa Rica 0
USA: 18-Kasey Keller (Capt.); 6-Steve Cherundolo, 22-Tony Sanneh, 12-Jimmy Conrad, 2-Frankie Hejduk; 14-Chris Armas, 15-Ben Olsen, 5-John O’Brien (7-DaMarcus Beasley, 58), 19-Steve Ralston; 13-Pat Noonan (10-Landon Donovan, 66), 8-Clint Dempsey (16-Josh Wolff, 78).
CRC: 18-Jose Porras, 15-Harold Wallace, 13-Victor Cordero, 4-Michael Umana, 3-Roy Miller; 17-Steven Bryce, 6-Daniel Fonseca, 8-Jose Luis Lopez (20-Douglas Sequiera, 67), 10-Jafet Soto (9-Bryan Ruiz, 76); 21-Randall Brenes (11-Cristian Bolanos, 62), 7-Oscar Rojas.