DENVER – A year and a half into his tenure as US national team coach, Jurgen Klinsmann and his charges face a watershed moment on Friday night as they host Costa Rica for a CONCACAF Hexagonal qualifier at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
Sitting in last place in the Hex standings with zero points after last month's 2-1 setback against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, the Yanks have the toughest trip in CONCACAF up next – Tuesday's visit to Estadio Azteca in hostile Mexico City – and are keenly aware that victories at home are crucial to their qualifying hopes. But injuries have swept through Klinsmann's usual cast of characters and he must engineer a winning team despite the absence of Landon Donovan, veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard and most of his Germany-based contingent.
Meanwhile, Costa Rica travel north on their second straight road match of this round with confidence gained from a two-goal comeback that earned them a road point in Panama on Feb. 6, but worries over the fitness of linchpin striker and Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio.
The gametime forecast in Commerce City predicts a 90 percent chance of snow showers, with as much as four inches of accumulation by the end of the night, adding yet another wrinkle to this intriguing affair.
Time: 10 pm ET
TV: ESPN (English), UniMas (Spanish)
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These two teams have tangled constantly over the years, and the hosts have generally dominated. The US holds a 5-1-2 all-time home qualifying record against the Ticos, while the Yanks have yet to taste victory in the Central American nation. Costa Rica hold an overall edge in qualifying meetings with a 8-5-3 mark.
In their last World Cup-related meeting, these perennial Hex participants wrapped up the 2010 cycle with an unforgettable 2-2 draw at RFK Stadium on Oct. 14, 2009, where Jonathan Bornstein's last-gasp equalizer denied Costa Rica an automatic berth in South Africa.