Five Things to Know About Costa Rica

Presented by Thorne

After opening a new era under head coach Gregg Berhalter with a comprehensive 3-0 win against Panama, the MNT ends its month-long January Camp when it takes on Costa Rica on Saturday, Feb. 2 at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. (3:30 p.m. ET; FOX, UniMas and UDN).

The Costa Ricans have been to the World Cup five times since 1990, and thanks to some intriguing matches have developed into a big rival of the MNT.

Here are five things you should know about Los Ticos:

Footballing History

Costa Rica’s recent ascendance to CONCACAF contender and international success followed many years as the best team in Central America. Los Ticos won seven of 10 CCCF competitions – a tournament contested by Central American and Caribbean countries prior to the formation of CONCACAF in 1961.

Costa Rica won the Gold Cup’s predecessor, the CONCACAF Championship, in 1963, 1969 and 1989. The last title earned Costa Rica a trip to its first World Cup in 1990, where it beat Scotland and Sweden in group play to reach the Round of 16 in Italy.

In 2002, Costa Rica started a stretch of four World Cup appearances in five cycles and even earned another win in the group stage, this time 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.

At last summer’s World Cup in Russia, Los Ticos dropped its first two matches to Serbia and Brazil before bowing out of the tournament with a 2-2 draw against Switzerland.

Here and Now

Costa Rica named Gustavo Matosas as its new head coach last October. The Argentine-born former Uruguay international had a 16-year playing career before transitioning into management, going on to work with clubs in Uruguay, Argentina and Mexico. His greatest success came when he guided Club América to the 2014-15 Concacaf Champions League.

While he took the job last year, Saturday’s match will mark his first on the sidelines after watching interim manager Ronald Gonzalez lead the team in its last four matches of 2018.

Like the USA, Costa Rica will use Saturday’s match to continue preparations for this summer’s Concacaf Gold Cup, the upcoming Concacaf Nations League and qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

History vs. U.S. MNT

First meeting on Aug. 19, 1975, the U.S. and Costa Rica have played 37 times, with the MNT trailing the all-time series by the slight mark of 15-16-6.

On home soil, the USA holds a strong 15-6-4 advantage, last defeating Los Ticos 2-0 in the 2017 Concacaf Gold Cup Semifinal in Arlington, Texas.

In some quirky Groundhog’s Day trivia, Saturday’s match marks the third time the USA will meet Costa Rica on February 2. Back in 1990, three-time World Cup veteran and National Soccer Hall of Fame member Eric Wynalda made his MNT debut in a 2-0 defeat to Costa Rica in Miami.

Twelve years later, current MNT assistant coach Josh Wolff scored the opening goal in a 2-0 victory against Costa Rica in the 2002 Concacaf Gold Cup Final played at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

The Roster

Head coach Gustavo Matosas named a 23-player squad for Saturday’s friendly against the United States. While a majority of players ply their trade domestically, six hail from Major League Soccer, providing many connections with those on the U.S. squad:

  • Defender Waylon Francis played under MNT head coach Gregg Berhalter and alongside Wil Trapp and Zack Steffen with Columbus before joining Cristian Roldan and Seattle Sounders FC last season.
  • Francisco Calvo lined up with Christian Ramirez with Minnesota United FC before the U.S. striker moved to LAFC midway through 2018.
  • David Guzmán and Marvin Loria are current teammates with MNT attacker Jeremy Ebobisse in Portland
  • Defender Joseph Mora plays with Paul Arriola and Russell Canouse at D.C. United
  • Midfielder Allan Cruz will line up for MLS expansion side FC Cincinnati in their inaugural 2019.

The full roster:

GOALKEEPERS (3): Esteban Alvarado (Alajuelense; 11/0), Kevin Chamorro (Carmelita; 0/0), Marco Madrigal (San Carlos; 1/0)

DEFENDERS (7): Pablo Arboine (Santos de Guápiles; 0/0), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United FC/USA; 43/4), Waylon Francis (Seattle Sounders FC/USA; 5/0), Keysher Fuller (Herediano; 0/0), Jaikel Medina (Saprissa; 0/0), Joseph Mora (D.C. United/USA; 2/0), Yostin Salinas (Saprissa; 2/0)

MIDFIELDERS (9): José Alfaro (Carmelita; 0/0), Ronaldo Araya (Cartaginés; 0/0), José Miguel Cubero (Alajuelense; 51/2), David Guzmán (Portland Timbers/USA; 52/0), Marvin Loría (Portland Timbers/USA; 0/0), Jimmy Marín (Herediano; 3/0), Néstor Monge (Cartaginés; 5/0), Barlon Sequeira (Alajuelense; 1/0)

FORWARDS (4): Jonathan McDonald (Alajuelense; 11/1), José Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano; 6/2), Jean Scott (Guadalupe; 0/0), Yendrick Ruiz (Herediano; 8/0)

The Country, Flag and Nickname

Located in Central America, Costa Rica is bordered by Panama to the south, Nicaragua to the north, the Caribbean Sea to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. With 4.8 million people, Costa Rica is the 11th most populous nation in North America.

The flag of Costa Rica was created in 1848 by Pacífica Fernández, wife of then president José María Castro Madriz. Inspired by the French Revolution, Fernández used the blue, white and red present in the French flag.

The blue color symbolizes the sky, opportunities, idealism and perseverance. The white reflects peace, wisdom and happiness. The red stands for the blood spilt by martyrs in defense of the country, as well as the warmth and generosity of the people.

The National Team nickname Los Ticos mirrors the colloquial term used when referring to someone from Costa Rica.