The United States will look to distance themselves from second-place Costa Rica on Friday night in an effort to inch one step closer to securing a berth at the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
The Americans picked up huge victories over Jamaica, Panama and Honduras in June to move atop the CONCACAF fourth-round table, but with four matches still to play, the Stars and Stripes must keep their collective eye on the prize.
The top three finishers in the group will qualify for next summer's World Cup in Brazil, while the fourth-place finisher will enter a playoff against New Zealand.
Here we'll get you set for Friday's pivotal 2014 World Cup qualifying showdown in San Jose.
When: Friday, September 6 at 10 p.m. ET (8 p.m. local time)
Where: Estadio Nacional de Costa Rica, San Jose
Watch: beIN Sport
Live Stream: beIN Sport Play
Top Storyline: Can the U.S. Earn a Result in Hostile Territory?
In anticipation of a hostile environment in San Jose on Friday, extra security has been brought in to help squash any fan incidents before, during or after the match, according to ESPNFC.com.
Consequently, earning a positive result will be that much more of a challenge for Jurgen Klinsmann's crew.
In addition to having the advantage of playing in front of their passionate supporters, the Central Americans are a talented bunch with a number of dangerous attacking players, including Bryan Ruiz and Celso Borges.
And as pointed out by Goal.com's Eric Gomez on Twitter, Los Ticos will be out to avenge their bitter loss to the U.S. last March in blizzard conditions outside of Denver—not to mention their recent Gold Cup defeat to the U.S. two months ago.
Clint Dempsey scored the lone goal in that memorable match in the Rocky Mountains to help the Americans pick up three critical points for qualification. The dynamic Dempsey will be a key player again, and he will be teamed up with USMNT legend Landon Donovan, according to MLS.com.
While Dempsey and Jozy Altidore have been huge for Team USA at times during qualification, Donovan put on a show at the CONCACAF Gold Cup in July, scoring goals and assisting several others en route to leading the Americans to their fifth regional championship.
It will be interesting to see if the trio of stars can power the U.S. behind enemy lines on Friday. While a win would be colossal, a one-point draw would no doubt put a smile on Klinsmann's face.
After a stinging opening loss to Honduras, the U.S. rebounded beautifully by beating Costa Rica, earning a hard-fought draw in Mexico, and winning three straight qualifying matches in the span of 11 days in June to elevate itself to the very top of the group table.
But Costa Rica has looked every bit as strong since that March matchup in Denver. The Central American squad has yet to lose a qualifying match since, beating Jamaica, Honduras and Panama while also earning an impressive draw in Mexico.
With little separating the two sides in the table and on the pitch, expect a draw on Friday night.
Both squads have been in top qualifying form over the past few months, and neither will want to concede ground to third-place Mexico.
Costa Rica 1, United States 1
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