The United States men’s national team reached the Gold Cup quarterfinals for the 11th consecutive time with a second group-stage victory on Saturday.
The USMNT trailed Cuba 1-0 but came roaring back for a 4-1 victory, aided by another stunning performance from Chris Wondolowski. The 30-year-old striker has been tremendous in the group stage, netting two goals against Cuba to increase his total to five in two matches (breaking the U.S. Gold Cup record for goals in a tournament in the process).
With the win over Cuba (now winless in its last 12 Gold Cup matches), the United States sits atop Group C with six points and has won seven straight matches since its May 29 loss to Belgium. Costa Rica has also recorded six points on two group-stage wins, set to join the United States in the next round—though the two teams will square off to decide the winner of the group.
Costa Rica doesn’t boast the explosive attack of the U.S. (four goals in two matches), but it did hold both Cuba and Belize scoreless. If Costa Rica hopes to silence Wondolowski, Landon Donovan and Co., its defense will have to be at its best Tuesday evening.
Let’s take a look at the vitals for this Gold Cup showdown and break down what to watch for as the group stage comes to a close.
Where: Rentschler Field; East Hartford, Conn.
When: Tuesday, July 16, at 8 p.m. ET
Television/Streaming: Fox Soccer, Fox Soccer 2Go
Last Meeting: United States 1, Costa Rica 0 (March 22, 2013)
This match will be a far cry from the last meeting between the two.
On March 22, the two sides squared off in World Cup qualifying action in blizzard-like conditions, the result of which was a 1-0 United States victory.
Costa Rica protested that the field conditions weren't suitable to play on following the match, but its appeal was shot down.
Costa Rica will have a chance at redemption in its final group-stage match, but don’t expect either team to go all out. With a quarterfinals berth already locked up, both sides will be looking ahead to the next stage of the tournament.
Still, neither team is without something to prove. Costa Rica probably hasn’t forgotten that World Cup qualifying loss, and the United States still features several players fighting for a spot on the 2014 World Cup roster—among them Donovan and Wondolowski.
Donovan, fresh off a four-month hiatus from the USMNT, got back into the swing of things with a goal and two assists against Belize. With his performance on Saturday, the striker now has 15 career Gold Cup goals and 53 total scoring strikes with the USMNT.
Wondolowski and Donovan have been the catalysts to the U.S. tallying 10 goals in two matches, but it's yet to be determined how Jurgen Klinsmann will use them Tuesday.
Using its superior depth, look for the United States to continue its impressive tournament run with a narrow victory to win Group C.
Prediction: United States 2, Costa Rica 1