Five Things to Know: #USAvCRC
In the USA's second match of this summer’s Copa America Centenario, CONCACAF rivals – the U.S. Men’s National Team and Costa Rica – meet at Soldier Field in Chicago, on Tuesday, June 7, at 7 p.m. CT (FS1, UniMAS, UDN). Before the action gets underway, here are five things to know about the Ticos.
USA-Costa Rica History
The United States takes a 13-14-6 all-time record into the next chapter of one of CONCACAF’s most competitive rivalries. Home field has typically been the deciding factor, with the Americans posting a 13-6-5 mark as hosts.
While the Ticos took the last friendly in New Jersey this past October, the U.S. hasn’t lost to Costa Rica at home in an official competition since 1989 – a span of 15 matches. That includes a pair of 1-0 shutouts in 2013, starting with Clint Dempsey’s game-winner in the Snow Clasico in Denver during World Cup Qualifying in March, followed by a Brek Shea strike that kept the U.S. on the path to the 2013 Gold Cup title.
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 CONCACAF 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. The 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 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.
Premier League Pipeline
Legendary forward Paulo Wanchope put Costa Rica on the map in England with a spectacular goal in his debut at Old Trafford against Manchester United in 2007. Wanchope’s five seasons in the Premier League paved the way for the next talented generation of Costa Rican players.
Four players on the Copa America roster have played in the league widely regarded as the world’s best, compared to just two others in Costa Rica’s history. Three remain under contract, although midfielder Bryan Ruiz joined PSV Eindhoven in The Netherlands last season after scoring 12 goals in three and a half seasons for Fulham.
West Brom’s Cristian Gamboa and Everton’s Bryan Oviedo have both made several appearances as defenders spanning multiple seasons. Joel Campbell will likely be the most recognizable name to Premier League fans after he scored four goals and delivered five assists in his second season with Arsenal.
Ticos in MLS
MLS has long been a destination of choice for Costa Rican internationals. Currently there are seven Ticos in the league, including 2015 MLS Cup winner Rodney Wallace. D.C. United striker Alvaro Saborio has been a consistent goalscorer, having helped Real Salt Lake to both the CONCACAF Champions League and the MLS Cup. Here in Chicago, former defender Gonzalo Segares roamed the flanks for the Fire.