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06 September 2017, 01:54 | Kristopher Drake
Bryan Ruiz will be Costa Rica’s key player
As suggested on this week's Golazo PodcastCosta Rica vs Mexico could be the Futbolgrad Network game of the week, as Mexico's national team travel to Costa Rica to defend first place in the CONCACAF World Cup qualification group and to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russian Federation. Eventually, with enough persistence, the USA found its breakthrough via Wood and escaped San Pedro Sula with the draw. A point means the Americans keep their advantage over Honduras in the standings, and they know that two wins from their final two games will see them qualify for the World Cup. Considering the US was able to beat Honduras 6-0 at home back in March, it feels like the team is moving backwards right when it should be starting to peak. The U.S. was stunned Friday by a home loss against Costa Rica.
The U.S. has one win in 38 World Cup qualifiers when trailing at the half (1-32-6). It was facing consecutive losses in World Cup qualifying for the second time in this hexagonal round, this time on the road against a not-great Honduras team.
While he hasn't appeared here for the senior team, midfielder Christian Pulisic did play at Estadio Olimpico during the 2015 CONCACAF U-17 Championship. The U.S. fans inside the ground and watching around the country were ecstatic.
As ugly as the first half was for the USA, the second half provided some signs of promise. Just three minutes in the Yanks looked more coordinated than they had against Costa Rica. On the road, the Mexico national team played three matches, tied 0: 0 with Panama and defeated United States of America 2: 1 and Trinidad and Tobago 1: 0. And in the 27th minute, Romell Quioto collected a through ball by unpressured playmaker Alexander Lopez in a narrow channel between Gonzalez and Zusi. He was on the field here four years ago when the United States - playing under a midafternoon sun in a slightly more forgiving February - lost to Honduras, 2-1, in the opener of the final round of qualifying. This proved to be tactically sound as Vela provided Hernandez and Nestor Araujo with the game's two assists. "It's more in our hands now", said forward Jordan Morris.
The Hondurasmatch featured an active start for the USMNT.
A late Bobby Wood pulled the US out of crisis mode. Making amends for his earlier gaffe, Gonzalez kept the game alive around the 80th minute with a sliding tackle on Lozano that likely would have produced a free chance on goal. Honduras cleared it away, but the sequence provided a glimmer of hope for an anemic US offense.
Navas made the save but the ball deflected off the unlucky Gamboa and into the back of the net despite the Real Madrid goalkeeper's desperation.
Chances generally proved few and far between down the stretch, but Arena's decision to bring Wood on and move to a formation featuring three at the back paid dividends. Not only did the U.S. lose, but they dropped three points at home (to make it six points dropped at home so far in the Hex). Whatever the result, both teams will nearly certainly play in the World Cup next summer.
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