EAST HARTFORD, July 16 – For nearly 80 minutes, the Costa Rica men’s soccer team frustrated the United States in the final Group C contest of the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.
With an alignment focused on defense and an effort that clogged up the midfield, Costa Rica held the Americans scoreless. But with one play, the U.S. changed its fortune. “Sometimes in a game, you have to find a moment to make a special play,” American forward Landon Donovan said.
Costa Rica was on the attack and off a corner kick, Costa Rica’s Alvaro Saborio rifled a head ball toward the corner of the net that U.S. goalie Sean Johnson deflected back out onto the field. It went to teammate Joe Corona, who lofted a long pass upfield to Donovan, who was streaking down the sideline. He passed it into the middle of the field to Brek Shea, who raced down the loose ball and with one touch beat goalie Patrick Pemberton for the only goal of the game with eight minutes left in regulation.
The goal lifted the U.S. to a 1-0 decision over Costa Rica before 25,432 fans on a muggy night at Rentschler Field. The win allows the U.S. to win Group C with a 3-0 record. They’ll play in the Gold Cup quarterfinals Sunday in Baltimore against El Salvador, who finished third in Group B.
It was also gave the U.S. national team a record eighth straight win.
“Sean made a great save and Joe played it up to Brandon,” said Shea, who scored his first international goal. “I saw space and had plenty of time (to receive the ball). He played it perfectly. It was amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better pass.”
With a spot in the quarterfinals already secure, Johnson started in net for the first time in the tournament in place of goalie Nick Rimando and made two saves to earn the shutout.
And the American defense played a solid game in front of him as Costa Rica seldom gave the U.S. a chance to breathe.
“It was a tremendous game,” Johnson said. “The defense did an awesome job of limiting opportunities. I have to thank the guys in front.” Michael Orozco, Clarence Goodson, Damarcus Beasley and Michael Parkhurst solidified the backfield for the Americans.
Before the game, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann stressed the importance of the game with Costa Rica being one of the top teams in the CONCACAF region. “We’ll get a real picture, a real benchmark of where we are,” he said prior to the game. “We need to be focused and on our toes.”
The U.S. outscored Cuba and Belize by a margin of 10-2. There was no abundance of goals against the Ticos, who were quick to the ball for most of the contest.
Klinsmann was smiling afterward. “The team pushed and grinded,” he said.
He knew it would be a challenge with Costa Rica using five defenders. “It was a grind. You have to win one-on-one situations and hope there is an opening and break through. You have to be patient and make some diagonal passes.”
The U.S. has never lost to Costa Rica (2-1) in six Gold Cup contests.
“They deserved that goal. It was a beautiful combination. You can see there is a chemistry developing that is fun to watch,” Klinsmann said.
U.S. 1, Costa Rica 0
At East Hartford
U.S. 0 1 – 1
Costa Rica 0 0 – 0
Goals: USA – Brek Shea (Landon Donovan) , 82 minutes
Shots: 7-5, USA; Shots on goal: 4-2 USA; Saves: 3-2, Costa Rica; Corner kicks: 6-4 Costa Rica; Fouls: 11-8 USA; Offsides: USA 5-3
Kickoff: 8:06 p.m. ET; Attendance: 25,432; Weather: Sunny, 90 degrees
USA: 12-Sean Johnson; 15-Michael Parkhurst, 21-Clarence Goodson, 4-Michael Orozco Fiscal, 7-DaMarcus Beasley (capt.); 11-Stuart Holden, 8-Mix Diskerud; 20-Alejandro Bedoya (6-Joe Corona, 80), 10-Landon Donovan, 16-Jose Torres (23-Brek Shea, 77); 19-Chris Wondolowski (9-Herculez Gomez, 77)
Substitutions Not Used: 1-Nick Rimando, 2-Edgar Castillo, 3-Corey Ashe, 5-Oguchi Onyewu, 13-Tony Beltran, 14-Kyle Beckerman, 17-Will Bruin, 18-Jack McInerney, 22-Bill Hamid; Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
Costa Rica: 18-Patrick Pemberton (capt.); 16-Carlos Johnson, 3-Giancarlo González, 4-Michael Umaña, 15-Junior Diaz;8-Kenny Cunningham, 17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 5-Celso Borges, 19-Roy Miller (14-Christopher Meneses, 68); 20-Rodney Wallace (10-Osvaldo Rodriguez, 71), 22-Jairo Arrieta (9-Alvaro Saborio, 77)
Subs not used: 1-Leonel Moreira, 2-Kendall Watson, 6-Juan Madrigal, 7-Mauricio Castillo, 11-Michael Barrantes, 12-Yendrick Ruiz,13-Ariel Rodriguez, 21-Esteban Granados, 23-Luis Torres; Head Coach: Jorge Luis Pinto