The U.S. Men’s National Team is set to play away to Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifying at 9 p.m. ET on Tuesday night, live on beIN SPORTS and NBC Universo. Here’s what you need to know ahead of this difficult Hex matchup:
USA-Costa Rica History
The United States takes a 14-14-6 all-time record into the next chapter of one of CONCACAF’s most competitive rivalries. Home field has been a decisive factor in the World Cup Qualifying series between the two sides, with the USA coming to Costa Rica in search of its first win, having gone 0-8-1 in nine previous World Cup Qualifying matches in the Central American nation. The one draw came in the MNT’s first visit, a 1-1 result on May 26, 1985.
The story is similar on U.S. soil, where the MNT holds a 13-6-5 advantage and 5-1-2 edge in World Cup Qualifying. The lone USA home Qualifying loss to Costa Rica also came in 1985. Just five days after earning that 1-1 draw, the U.S. fell 1-0 to Los Ticos in Torrance, Calif., ending their hopes of qualifying for the 1986 FIFA World Cup.
Most recently the two sides faced off during the Group Stage of the 2016 Copa America Centenario, where the USA used goals from Clint Dempsey, Jermaine Jones, Bobby Wood and Graham Zusi to earn a 4-0 victory against Los Ticos on June 7 in Chicago. The win was the largest margin of victory by either side in the 34-game series.
No goal against Costa Rica resonated more than Jonathan Bornstein’s 95th minute header in the last game of Final Round Qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. It propelled the U.S. to a first-place finish in that edition of the Hex and made Bornstein a national hero in Honduras by giving them the third automatic bid to South Africa while sending Costa Rica to a playoff, which it would lose to Uruguay.
Costa Rica Soccer History
Costa Rica’s recent ascendance to North American and even international success followed many years as the best team in Central America. Los Ticos won seven of 10 competitions between Central America and the Carribean countries prior to the formation of CONCACAF in 1961.
Even with the U.S. and Mexico in the mix, Costa Rica won the Gold Cup’s predecessor, the CONCACAF Cup, in 1963, 1969 and 1989. The last title earned Costa Rica a trip to its first World Cup in Italy, where it beat Scotland and Sweden in group play to reach the Round of 16 in 1990.
In 2002, Costa Rica started a stretch of three World Cup appearances in four chances and even earned another win against China. But they wouldn’t return to the knockout phase until 2014 in Brazil, where they won a group featuring Uruguay, Italy and England before falling to The Netherlands via penalty kicks in the quarterfinals.
The southern Central America nation is home to an unmatched level of biodiversity for its size, from rainforests to dry tropical forest to savannas. It served as an “Intermediate Region” between Mesoamerican and Andean cultures before Christopher Columbus arrived in 1502, after which it became a Spanish colony for 300 years.
Costa Rica declared its independence in 1821 and drafted a new constitution following a civil war in 1948. Since then, the country’s citizens have taken pride in its pacifism without a military and a high level of education and health relative to the rest of Central America.
Strong Club Resumes
Legendary forward Paulo Wanchope put Costa Rica on the map in England with a spectacular goal in his debut for Derby County away to Manchester United in 1997. Wanchope’s five seasons in the Premier League paved the way for the next talented generation of Costa Rican players in Europe.
Captain Keylor Navas is the starting goalkeeper for Spanish giants Real Madrid, while midfielder Celso Borges also plays in La Liga for Deportivo La Coruna. Attackers Bryan Ruiz and Joel Campbell have reunited in Portugal where the pair have been playing UEFA Champions League football for Sporting Lisbon. In defense, Bryan Oviedo wears Everton blue in England, while Cristian Gamboa lines up for perennial Scottish power Celtic.
Ticos in MLS
MLS has long been a destination of choice for Costa Rican internationals and the roster that faces the USA on Tuesday will once again serve up familiar faces for MNT players that feature in the domestic league. Left back Ronald Matarrita helped New York City FC to its first M.L.S. Cup Playoff appearance in his first season, while midfielder Johann Venegas just helped Montreal Impact to the Eastern Conference Final.
Two members of the squad feature for Vancouver Whitecaps FC. Kendall Waston was named to the M.L.S. Best XI in 2015 and earned 2016 All-Star honors for the Canadian club, while Christian Bolaños put up five goals and eight assists during his inaugural campaign with Vancouver in 2016.