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Costa Rican game looms as a challenge for Team USA at Rentschler

Members of the U.S. national team celebrate after scoring in Saturday's win over Cuba. The Americans host Costa Rica in the final Group C contest of the Gold Cup Tuesday in East Hartford. (Photo courtesy of CONCAF)

Members of the U.S. national team celebrate after scoring in Saturday’s win over Cuba. The Americans host Costa Rica in the final Group C contest of the Gold Cup Tuesday in East Hartford. (Photo courtesy of CONCACAF)

EAST HARTFORD, July 14, 2013 – The U.S. men’s national soccer team knows it has a berth in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament locked up after two victories over Belize and Cuba. 

The Americans also know its Group C finale against Costa Rica on Tuesday night at Rentschler Field will be much more difficult. The U.S. has been dominant with its two victories – 6-1 over Belize and 4-1 over Cuba. 

Costa Rica won’t be so easy to beat. The Americans played Costa Rica in March and the visitors are still buzzing about the United States’ 1-0 decision in a World Cup qualifying game played in a blizzard in Denver. “Costa Rica is the first real benchmark for us [in the Gold Cup],” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said after the game. 

The U.S. plays Costa Rica at 8 p.m. at Rentschler Field with Cuba facing Belize at 5:30 p.m. in the opening game of the doubleheader. It’s the final game in the three-game Group portion of the tournament. The Americans and Costa Rica have already qualified for the quarterfinals Sunday in Baltimore by each winning their first two contests in the Gold Cup. 

In March, the Americans prevailed on a March evening when up to three inches of snow fell in Denver. Clint Dempsey scored with 16 minutes gone in the game when forward Jozy Altidore fired a shot from just outside the penalty area. The ball deflected off a Costa Rican defender and right to Dempsey, who got a point-blank shot past goalie Keylor Navas. 

Costa Rica controlled the tempo in the second half but couldn’t convert that into a match-tying goal. A score from Alvaro Saborio with 20 minutes remaining was negated due to an offside call. American goalie Brad Guzan made three saves but received some excellent help from defenders Geoff Cameron, DaMarcus Beasley, Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson. 

Both teams have played well in their Gold Cup games. With their two wins, the Americans have tied a national team record with seven straight victories. Chris Wondolowski has scored five goals, including three in the win over Belize. The forward has scored in three consecutive games. 

The Americans scored four consecutive goals to beat Cuba on Saturday night, 4-1. The Cubans took a 1-0 lead but Landon Donovan, Joe Corona and Wondolowski (2 goals) scored for the U.S. 

Trailing 1-0, Donovan put the Americans on the board, converting on a penalty kick after Edgar Castillo was taken down moving toward the goal with about a minute left in the first half. It was Donovan’s 15th career goal in 30 Gold Cup games. 

The Americans moved ahead in the second half when Corona scored off a glancing head ball off a corner kick from Donovan. Wondolowski added his two goals off the bench off assists from Kyle Beckerman and Castillo. 

Costa Rica has also won seven straight games. They outlasted a stubborn Belize squad, 1-0 on Saturday night. Defender Junior Diaz headed a Belize shot over the crossbar in the last minutes of the contest to preserve the Ticos victory. The corner kick deflected off the hand of goalie Patrick Pemberton. 

Costa Rica beat Cuba, 3-0 in its tournament opener. 

NOTES: This is third appearance by Team USA at Rentschler Field. More than 25,000 fans turned out for a World Cup qualifying game against Trinidad & Tobago in August 2005 when the Yanks prevailed, 1-0 on a Brian McBride goal. In 2006, the Americans played their final World Cup tuneup contest in East Hartford and beat Latvia, 1-0 with McBride again scoring the goal. In 2010, the Americans fell to the Czech Republic, 4-2 before 36,218 fans in a contest that served as a final audition for spots on the World Cup roster in South Africa. 

Material from U.S. Soccer and CONCAF used to help compile this report.

GOALKEEPERS (3) : Bill Hamid (D.C. United), Sean Johnson (Chicago Fire), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS (8) : Corey Ashe (Houston Dynamo), DaMarcus Beasley (Puebla), Tony Beltran (Real Salt Lake), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Clarence Goodson (Brondby), Oguchi Onyewu (Malaga), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (FC Augsburg)
MIDFIELDERS (7) : Kyle Beckerman (Real Salt Lake), Alejandro Bedoya (Helsinborg), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Stuart Holden (Bolton), Jose Torres (Tigres); Brek Shea 
FORWARDS (5) : Will Bruin (Houston Dynamo), Landon Donovan (LA Galaxy), Herculez Gomez (Club Tijuana), Jack McInerney (Philadelphia Union), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes)

GROUP A: Mexico, Panama, Canada, Martinique
GROUP B: Honduras, El Salvador, Trinidad & Tobago, Haiti
GROUP C: USA, Costa Rica, Belize, Cuba

(local time followed by EDT time)

Sunday, July 7
At Pasadena, Calif.
Martinique 1, Canada 0
Panama 2, Mexico 1

Monday, July 8
At Harrison, N.J.
El Salvador 2, Trinidad and Tobago 2
Honduras 2, Haiti 0

Tuesday, July 9
At Portland, Ore.
Costa Rica 3, Cuba 0
U.S. 6, Belize 1

Thursday, July 11
At Seattle, Wash.
Panama 1, Martinique 0
Mexico 2, Canada 0

Friday, July 12
At Miami, Fla.
Haiti 2, Trinidad and Tobago 0
Honduras 1, El Salvador 0

Saturday, July 13
At Sandy, Utah
U.S. 4, Cuba 1
Costa Rica 1, Belize 0

Sunday, July 14
At  Denver, Colo.
Panama 0, Canada 0
Mexico 3, Martinique 1

Monday, July 15 – BBVA Compass Stadium (Houston, TX)
El Salvador vs. Haiti, 6 p.m. (7 p.m. EDT)

Honduras vs. Trinidad & Tobago, 8:30 p.m. (9:30 p.m. EDT)

Tuesday, July 16 – Rentschler Field (Hartford, CT) 
Cuba vs. Belize, 5:30 p.m. 
USA vs. Costa Rica, 8 p.m.

Saturday, July 20 – Georgia Dome (Atlanta, GA)
Mexico vs. Group B runner-up, TBD 
Panama vs. Group B/C third-place, TBD 
Matches scheduled for 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. EDT with order TBD

Sunday, July 21 – M&T Bank Stadium (Baltimore, MD)
Group B winner vs. Group C runner-up, TBD 
Group C winner vs. Group A/B third place, TBD 
Matches scheduled for 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. EDT with order TBD

Wednesday, July 24 – Cowboys Stadium (Arlington, TX)
Quarterfinal winners, TBD 
Quarterfinal winners, TBD 
Matches scheduled for 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. local (7 p.m. and 10 p.m. EDT) with order TBD

Sunday, July 28- Soldier Field (Chicago, IL)
Semifinal winners, 3 p.m. (4 p.m. EDT)

Gerry deSimas, Jr., is the editor and founder of The Collinsville Press. He is an award-winning writer and has been covering sports in Connecticut and New England for more than 40 years. He was inducted into the New England High School Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2018.

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