• Clint Dempsey scores lone goal as USA go second in group
• Blizzard conditions nearly cancel game throughout evening
Well a tough week ends on a surreal high note, as the US become the only team in their group to get a win in this round, in wild conditions. Their relief looks palpable as they celebrate on the field, and it's understandable. Anything could have happened out there. As it was a 16th minute Dempsey goal sees the team's position in the Hexagonal suddenly look very healthy. Second place, a point behind Honduras. Roll on Mexico on Tuesday.
There'll be a lot of talk about the team coming together in adversity over the next day or so, and they did an admirable job in digging in, literally at times, as the snow fell. Other than character though, these weren't conditions that told us much about the team and the big one still awaits on Tuesday. But as it is the US can go into Mexico having done what they had to do at home and knowing that the hosts are under a little pressure themselves.
This wasn't pretty, but it's in the books now. Hope you'll join us on Tuesday. And thanks for all your tweets and emails tonight - sorry I couldn't use them all. Good night.
Final thoughts in a moment
Beasley, who's been very good in his first competitive international since 2009 does well to harry the Costa Ricans in possession, but then Johnson, I think, fouls to give Costa Rica one last free kick, which is sent long and...out.
And that will be that...
Guzan falls on the ball, relaxes, thinks about life, and eventually kicks the ball clear. Understandably he was in no rush.
Beckerman coming on for Gomez. With that hair in this weather he will weigh around 500LBs when he comes off the field.
Omar Gonzalez takes a blow to the head and picks up a free kick deep in his own half.
The US come forward and Johnson floats in a tempting little cross, that almost sees Gomez get in ahead of the keeper, who gathers it safely.
Cameron has his hand on the back of a groundsman shoveling snow, pushing him along the line.
The US kicking the ball forward towards the Costa Rican corners at every chance they get.
Costa Rica get another free kick wide left and they can curl one in. Barrantes again, but he seems to kick the snow as he takes the kick and scuffs the ball weakly to the edge of the box, where the US defense batter it...anywhere.
Now Demspey's down in the snow having been fouled by Gonzalez. He'll catch his death...
5 mins of stoppage time we're hearing...
...Barrantes is over the ball and he drives it low and hard, but Dempsey boots it clear.
Gonzalez (Costa Rica) gets forward to loop a header goalward that Guzan does well to get up and claim.
The ground staff are back on clearing the lines.
Now Cameron gives away a careless foul within Ruiz free kick range...
Gomez does well to hold up the ball and force a free kick from a frustrated Costa Rican defender. Altidore and Dempsey try to combine on the edge of the box, but possession is turned over.
The halfway line has now left the visible realm and exists somewhere on the same plane as metaphor.
Gomez does some more patient, playful possession work to wind down the clock. He looks like he's having fun.
Ground staff run on to clear the lines as there's a break for a throw. The halfway line is a single drunken shadow across the field right now. More of a suggestion.
Johnson goes on a barging run and tries to set up Altidore on the edge of the box. The latter is dispossessed but eats up a few vital seconds doing the unglamorous work with his back to goal.
Edu coming on for Jones. USA 1 Costa Rica 0 with less than ten minutes to go.
Illustrious editor etc etc pitches up to watch the mortals dance for his amusement:
The game is going to be finished apparently. Can the US hold on?
For a second Ruiz looks to have set a deft little move in motion that will give Saborio a shot oon the edge of the box, but he's shepherded away from goal as he looks for a shooting angle.
A ball over the top of the US defense holds up in the snow. But the ball is hoofed clear.
Now another deep cross is thrown into the box and Guzan leaps to claim it, but can only parry it down and pick up the second ball.
Costa Rica try to push forward and eventually a rather wild shot by Barrantes is dived on by Guzan, and he belts the ball forward.
Eddie Johnson coming on for Graham Zusi. He's been carrying a muscle injury. Not exactly an ideal return.
Under 20 minutes to go and the US relieved to have the ball deep in Costa Rican territory for a moment. Long ball. Hit and hope for both teams.
USA can not clear their lines as ball after ball is pumped back into the box. Finally Campbell steals in at the back post to head a ball across Guzan and in off the post, but he's correctly called back for offside as the US back line had stepped up. Still USA 1 Costa Rica 0. Just.
Ian Darke joins the orange ball bandwagon on the ESPN broadcast - he's pleading directly with the ball manufacturers.
Now an apparently innocuous clash between Ruiz and Jones in the corner ends in a free kick to Costa Rica as Ruiz goes down. replays show that Jones looked to have pushed a hand into the face of Ruiz, who was keen to emphasize the contact...
Could have been a red. As it turned out wasn't even a yellow, but the US under pressure...
...yet again a promising US set piece breaks down with the referee calling for contact in the box. Third time that's happened.
Around 2000 American Outlaw fans arrived by coach today from the tailgate party in town. One of our regular Colorado fan previewers was involved in the logistics. He could be in for a late night...
USA have a free kick and they pump it forward towards Altidore. He can't hold it but then Dempsey baits Oviedo into fouling him on the right of the box and the US will have a free kick...
Costa Rica could easily have taken the abandoned game. It's to their credit they too wanted to continue. And indeed they're pressing more right now.
Snow gathering on the camera lenses on the feed here now.
Long ball over the top finds Saborio running away from goal on the right corner of the box, but he spins and gets a shot on target that Guzan does well to block and gather. Still just USA 1 Costa Rica 0, but either team could have scored since the resumption of play.
Jamaica 1-1 Panama is a final score by the way.
Campbell on for Bolanos for Costa Rica.
The ref (who has ultimate authority) and players make the decision to continue. But the snow is very, very thick. Can we get through the next half hour or so.
Zusi sends a cross into the box and Dempsey gets across his man to volley a shot past the post.
Loud boos ring round the stadium as the match commissioner comes down to the side of the field to suspend the game.
Klinsmann and the US players look furious. The referee walks to the sidelines and is in conference with them. The match commissioner has retreated to the locker rooms...
Saborio goes down on the edge of the box, right by the D and Costa Rica have a dangerous free kick on the edge of the box. May be a little close to get it up and down, but Ruiz hammers it off a US defender who heads it for a corner.
From the corner Saborio is free at the back post but his shot is blocked by Bradley near the line for another corner. Guzan misses the ball from that corner and gets lucky as it rolls for a goal kick. US rocking a little now.
Altidore is forced wide in the box, but cuts back and holds off his marker to force an angle for the shot. It skids just wide, but that was good work from the big man.
A little bit of pushing and shoving going on, and Roy Mille rpicks up a yellow card, which means he misses the next game at home against Jamaica. Oh, Roy Miller.
A visit from royalty, as my colleague David Lengel drops by:
It's USA 1 Costa Rica 0 by the way, if you've just joined us, or were mesmerised by the snowflakes and weren't paying attention.
Forecast says snow will be continuing for the next 12 hours.
What else? No subs so far.
Gonzalez has to hold off Saborio as Bolanos tries to scoop a ball over the top for him, but he eventually gets it clear.
We're off again. Field partly cleared but snow falling thick and fast.
The ESPN team are being snowed on by the field... Alexi Lalas and Kasey Keller are wearing big hats.
Guardian executive hovel...
They're whizzing around the playing surface clearing snow at a furious pace.
Well we'll be moving on from Denver for the remaining home games. THe list was released earlier this week.
June 11 against Panama at CenturyLink Field (Seattle, Wash.)
June 18 against Honduras at Rio Tinto Stadium (Sandy, Utah)
Sept. 10 against Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium (Columbus, Ohio)
Oct. 11 against Jamaica at Sporting Park (Kansas City, Kan.)
Interesting line up, no? The Seattle support get their chance to make a case for themselves as not just a domestic soccer hotbed — and a packed stadium there will be a noisy venue for sure. Interesting to see that US soccer have resisted any temptation to switch the Mexico game to Sporting Park, despite a lot of lobbying that they do so. Instead that one will be at the “traditional” venue of Crew Stadium, which should be a typically wild night, while interestingly, for those seeking trends in this kind of thing, Sporting Park does get the nod for the final home game of qualification, just as it did for the last round of qualification.
J.R. (36 mins) is back:
The sad thing is that all the wacko, biased U.S. supporters will try
to frame this game in some sort of heroic, legendary framework when in reality it's just idiotic.
Still rooting for cancellation. Barring that, come on Costa Rica!
And Rai Skrupskis is responding to everyone who wrote in in the first half, with a blizzard of perspectives (see what i did there?):
I don't know where you're watching from, but 400 miles south in Albuquerque it is impossible to see the ball on ESPN. It's yellow and blue. Where is the dayglo orange when you need it? Manipulating home conditions is fair enough. What do you want Bolivia to do? Lower their capital to sea level? Should Mexico not play in the Azteca?
That said, there's no way this match can finish.
And Twitter is flinging snowballs too:
It's not pretty, but the US have an important lead, as Dempsey seized the moment in a blizzard of a first half. Costa Rica began to get some territorial possession at the end of the half, and Oviedo was looking lively overlapping as a full back, while Saborio made a nuisance of himself.
But Altidore was equally menacing up front for the US, and had the referee, who was five feet away, awarded that penalty just before half time, the margin could have been wider. As it is it's a tight game and the weather might make all the first half activity moot, if it keeps snowing like this. This game could yet be abandoned.
Half time thoughts in a moment.
The US will be glad to get to half time, as Costa Rica are just beginning to play higher up the field as the half comes to an end.
The whistle goes and the ground staff sprint onto the field. Can they save the day?
Gamboa down injured - Gomez not particularly impressed and telling him to get up.
Costa Rica corner flies straight to Guzan and he grabs it easily. During that corner Saborio tangled with Gonzalez. By "tangled" I mean "clattered after the whistle". No official saw it.
Counterpoint to J.R. (36 mins) from Jim Ritchey:
Farce? More of a farce than playing at 7200 feet in thick brown air? How about mid afternoon in the tropics on artificial turf?
Gonzalez has to dive in and block a shot from Ruiz as a smart backheel from Saborio almost sets him up.
Big obvious penalty shot as Dempsey is tripped in the box after the keeper has flapped at a ball and missed completely, and Miller (who else?) has tripped the US captain.
Ref doesn't blow for it though.
Half time approaching and Costa Rica beginning to push at Cameron in that right back slot. Still USA 1 Costa Rica 0 but we're beginning to see more of Guzan right now, as Costa Rica press. He's been solid though.
Oviedo gets forward on the overlap down the left and forces Guzan to make his first save with a shot from the corner of the box. It wasn't that hard, but it was on target, and in these conditions.
And now Goodson has to head a Bolanos cross clear with Saborio looking for the header. Goodson's done well containing him so far, but Costa Rica getting a little momentum now.
"Farce", thunders J.R. in Illinois...
"In the name of trying to gain extra home field advantage this game is
farcical. It's one thing to play American football in this weather but
this is just stupid. It's a complete ham and jam. I hope the game gets
Mike Ewing (32 mins) may have found the title for this game - "The ham and jam"
The US penalty area lines have been cleared, but now the halfway line is invisible. A moveable feast for the ground staff.
Gomez is wrestled to the ground by a Costa Rican defender (who stops just short of shoving snow down the back of his jersey). The free kick near the corner of the box is curled in, but the referee spots some shoving in the box and penalizes the US.
Twitter shakes off the snow to stir again:
Possibly "The snowball's chance in hell" if this week's direr comments are to be believed.
Half an hour gone. US pressing forward again and Zusi sends in another cross. It missed everyone, but as far as Zusi can see he may actually have scored in the top corner, so let's not ruin the surprise for him.
Game status needle hovering on border of treacherous/farcical right now. Still USA 1 Costa Rica 0
Costa Rica attacking now and the US get the benefit of the ball sticking slightly in the snow. The US penalty area is barley visible right now.
Zusi turns brilliantly, but his final ball is poor.
An email from Ben Heidinger:
For those who would like MLS to switch to a winter season in order to synch up with Europe, I think this light spring dusting shows why that might not be such a good idea.
Jones still being treated over by the sidelines.
"SHOVEL! SHOVEL!" chant the fans as the break continues.
On the resumption a Costa Rica ball that looks to have gone way out of play is crossed back and Guzan has to make an insurance save, though the goal kick is eventually awarded.
The blizzard is getting worse and it's definitely affecting the players traction on the field. Having got the lead the US will be very reluctant to see this game suspended.
Jones is down being treated after coming off worse in a 50-50. He's back up briefly, but now he's down on the field again. Immediately the shovels are back out to keep the lines clear.
Jamaica leading Panama 1-0 by the way.
Altidore tries to hold up the ball on the edge of the box. He's been everywhere so far this evening and was involved in the build up to the goal.
Danger now, as a sloppy ball by Cameron gifts the turnover to Costa Rica and they race clear. The cross eventually lands at the feet of Bolanos as his marker slips, but he's surprised to receive the ball and loses control before he can shoot. A warning for the US though, who lead 1-0
Corner is too long for everyone in the box and Costa Rica can push out a little.
Beasley, who's back on the field, earns a foul after he's shoved off the ball. He's been in the thick of it early.
Andrew from Miami, is concerned:
"Is this legal.. ball is not even orange."
Dempsey clearly got bored of the tiptoeing approach and took direct action. Immediately he'd scored the goal, the grounds staff were on the field clearing the lines of snow again.
Dempsey drew level with Landon Donovan on WCQ goals by the way.
Now the US have a corner over on the far side.
Dempsey looks up from distance and lets fly. It goes just over the bar then a minute later he's on the end of a rebound to touch home the simplest of finishes.
Miller in very much to follow Dempsey and block him whenever he tries to get something going.
No clear chances as yet, but the US are the team trying to build something. It really does look like difficult conditions out there.
Skates may help...
Snow coming down more thickly right now.
It's really hard to pick out the ball, players etc. I think the US are playing a decent shape in midfield though. Or they may be building a snowman.
A groggy Beasley being treated on the sidelines.
Costa Rica packing the midfield and trying to close down Dempsey quickly at every opportunity.
Still USA 0 Costa Rica 0
Costa Rica try a couple of lobs over the top of the US defense but Goodson is able to get in and make the challenge.
Beasley down after a nasty clash of heads with Omar Gonzalez. He's being treated now, but what will Klinsmann do if he has to come out? Edu was tried out there in practice midweek...
Costa Rica get forward for the first time and have a throw deep in US territory. But the US hustle the ball back and eventually Guzan kicks clear, under pressure again from Saborio.
Dempsey pivots and feeds Altidore smartly, but he can't control it trying to go round the outside down the left.
Preaching to the choir here...
...Gomez takes it again and lofts one to the back post, but it's just too long for the gathered US big men to get a head to it.
US get a throw deep and try to move the ball around the Costa Rica box. They pick up a free kick central and quite far out. Gomez tries to take a quick one, but it's hauled back. Now then...
The US are cunningly playing in their 100th anniversary white kit, so Costa Rica won't see them coming. They kick off and promptly disappear. Close up on Bradley who's clearly enjoying having no hair out there. US passing it back cautiously and Saborio chasing each pass down as the home team try to gauge how this field is going to play.
It'll be memorable, one way or another. This is quite the snow globe.
Impressive display of scarves from the American Outlaws in the stands, though in one or two cases pragmatism trumps spectacle as said scarves are kept wrapped firmly round necks.
We'll be off in a minute or two...
USA: Guzan; Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Jones, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey (c), Gomez; Altidore
Costa Rica: Navas; Miller, Gonzalez, Gamboa, Umana; Oviedo, Bolanos, Barrantes, Rodriguez; Saborio, Ruiz
So Goodson slots in in the heart of defense, and the versatile Beasley is pulled back to full back. Jones and Bradley will hold and alternate moving forward in a 4-2-3-1, with Altidore up front.
Saborio is fit and starts for the Ticos.
Teams out now and anthems being played, as snow falls on the players and shivering mascots.
The USA haven’t lost a home World Cup qualifier since 1st Sep 2001 — a 3-2 defeat to Honduras.
The field is covered in snow and the snow is still falling. I expect Hans Backe to appear any moment and demand the game be pulled [all but MLS readership look around slightly confused as to what the former Manchester City assistant has to do with game in Denver].
The lines will be being cleared constantly all night by the looks of it, but as it stands we're going to be playing in a few minutes.
By the way, Mexico have had some problems of their own today - they dropped a 2-0 lead over Honduras to end up tying the game. Honduras top the group on 4 points now.
No matter where you stand on the Straus article and the fallout, it clearly touched a nerve in the country’s soccer fans. Some saw it as confirmation of what they’d long suspected about a Klinsmann reign that appeared long on charm and short on specifics, while others made Straus the focus for penning an article that could cause disruption in a crucial week. Personally I thought the Gomez take (cited in an mlssoccer.com story) was about the most sanguine on it:
I love it – I love it. It's about time. It's about damn time you guys (US media) took some interest and you guys started asking some tough questions. I think that shows us growing as a footballing nation, I really do. I think if Brian doesn't write that story and he kind of looks the other way – even if he has a hunch, I'm not saying he's right in doing it, but it's his job, so he's got to do it. He's going to burn some bridges along the way, but this country needs that exposure. This country needs football to matter. And I think that's great.
There's a picture in this link
Naturally this prompts the questions that matter from Twitter...
Judging by Das Fro's avatar's hair we're on the same page about what we'd like to see...
I'm hearing it's going to be yellow.
Costa Rica come into this game on a point, after a 2-2 result against Panama in their opening game on the road — a result they salvaged after going 2-0 down early on in the game. In fact the result means that the Ticos maintained a decent mini streak - unbeaten in nine games.
They also boast the presence of Alvaro Saborio in their line up. Saborio has a team-leading seven goals in overall World Cup qualifying so far, and despite giving his side an injury scare of their own earlier this week, has declared himself “110% fit” for tonight. And if the US were hopeful that the cold weather and wind in Denver might intimidate Costa Rica (the forecast is 21 degrees with possible showers), they might be mindful of the fact that this part of the world is home territory for Saborio, who is the all-time leading goalscorer for Real Salt Lake.
Certainly the US can ill-afford any of the type of communication mistakes that allowed in Boniek Garcia and Bengtson to seal the defeat in Honduras, or Saborio is capable of punishing them. And that’s before you get to the mercurial threat of Clint Dempsey’s former Fulham team mate Bryan Ruiz. Both Saborio and Ruiz got on the score sheet against Panama.
Costa Rica also boast the presence of a true wild card in New York Red Bull Roy Miller, who may do anything tonight. If other players are known for doing the simple things well, Miller does baffling things repeatedly. It’s not say he’ll play badly, it’s just that he’s a law unto himself and that when it does go wrong for him, it tends to go spectacularly wrong.
Ask Ryan Pine if he's nervous about tonight. Go on, ask him.
Twitter. Since 2006.
Keep them coming...
So let’s just forget the noise of this week for a minute and take a look at where the US actually stand right now, moments before kick off. Well, let’s start with the defense — USA, meet your defense...
The U.S. have six defenders on the roster, who have 12 caps between them when it comes to World Cup qualifiers: among them are a trio of MLS players (Morrow, Beltran, Besler) who would stand to make their World Cup qualifying debuts were they to see the field tonight. As it is, we may see a repeat of the Cameron/Gonzalez centre back pairing that drew such criticism for their errors in the lead up to the Honduras winner last time out, in what was their first time playing together. More likely though Cameron will be pushed out right, where he plays with Stoke.
In goal, the absence of Tim Howard gives Brad Guzan a chance, and whatever the configuration put in front of him, it’s going to be an unfamiliar back four.
It’ll be an unfamiliar midfield too — let’s face it, it’ll be an unfamiliar team. Basically, look at these absences from the regular squad:
Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) Danny Williams (illness)...oh and Landon Donovan (walkabout).
If ever there were a game for Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey to step up and take control of it, this is it. Bradley has been making all the right determined noises this week, while Deuce (captain in the absence of Bocanegra) is always a threat, even if he is just coming back from injury. Or perhaps it’s time for Jozy Altidore to bring his impressive Dutch domestic form to the team. And of course the idea must be that some of the fringe players thrust into the spotlight now, seize their chance and force their way into Klinsmann’s longer term plans. Of course that was the idea for the dull Canada game that preceded the Honduras game. Were that game still being played right now, we’d still be waiting for a goal...
Klinsmann needs something from his team tonight.
So this is going well.
One game into the USA’s World Cup qualifying campaign and the sky has apparently fallen in. As if a defeat in Honduras wasn’t a bad enough way to start the Hexagon campaign, the story emerging out of the build up to tonight’s game against Costa Rica in Denver, and next week’s return to the Azteca, is that Jurgen Klinsmann’s methods seem to be, if not losing the team, at least confusing the hell out of them.
If you want the full charge sheet I suggest you go and read the full eye-watering text of the Brian Straus piece that initially ran in Sporting News this week, the fallout of which then ran roughshod all over Twitter for the remainder of the week. I’ll wait here (possibly till the 83rd minute of the game — it’s a long one...).
The story spawned a life of its own and even player responses, from the stern (Michael Bradley) to laughing it off (Herculez Gomez, who called the furore “cute” compared to what he puts up with playing club soccer in Mexico). Other editorials appeared, axes were ground, a beleaguered Straus briefly found himself being the story (mainly for his use of anonymous sources and the timing of the article), Klinsmann was forced to beam a fixed smile of indifference, and generally senses of proportion were abandoned the length of the country. Sounds like an international week, then.
That said, this is an important game, as the first of the USA’s home games, and one they really need a win from, knowing that Mexico on the road is up next. A loss tonight in Denver and another one in a hostile Azteca next week would leave the USA on 0 points after three games and suddenly underdogs to qualify. And with injuries piling up for Klinsmann, this is possibly the worst possible moment for a “state of the reign” conversation to be taking place.
More on the specific line up problems facing Klinsmann in a minute (basically an article in itself). For now, have a look at what this apparent bundle of neuroses, cliques, Germanic affirmations, and dense clusters of defensive midfielders did in their last game:
Then get your Twitter thumbs opining to @KidWeil, or for the really proficient ones who chose to improve their skills in the European big leagues, try adding an experimental forefinger to peck at a full size keyboard to email@example.com. I’ll be back shortly to give you the team news and more build up.