Anticipation of Wednesday night´s World Cup soccer qualifier against the United States is mounting.
The U.S. team arrived on Monday and has spent the last two days sinking their cleats into the artificial turf at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in Tibás, north of San José, and mentally preparing from their hotel rooms at the Hotel Real Intercontinental in Escazú, west of the capital. Meanwhile, Costa Rica National Team La Sele has been running through tactical plays and preparing to launch a strong offense.
Though the United States is coming into the match with the upper hand – they´re currently ranked first in the qualifying tournament – they face a curse which has haunted them whenever they set foot on Costa Rican soil.
The U.S. has never won a game on the road against La Sele in the last 20 years.
“We know the game will be very difficult. That is clear,” said U.S. player Landon Donovan, who has played qualifying games in Costa Rica before and leads the team with 108 international appearances. “My first game here was very difficult and I learned much. Now, we are well prepared for what will come. We expect a good game.”
The artificial turf field and deafening stands will also be a hurdle for the U.S., which is unaccustomed to playing on fake grass.
Yet, Donovan is undeterred by the field and looking forward to the fanfare that typically accompanies big games in Latin American countries.
“For me, the crowds are fun,” he said, speaking to the press in the Spanish he picked up from childhood teammates in California. “For the younger players, it may be a little difficult. But for me, it´s better than having no one in the stands.”
He added, “When people talk about the challenges of tomorrow night´s match, we name the turf, the people, but it´s also the team. Costa Rica has a great team, one that plays very well.”
La Sele coach Rodrigo Kenton echoed the compliment, saying the United States “is a very organized team, which comes through in the team´s transition from defense to attack.
Costa Rica is currently ranked second in the World Cup qualifying group with six points. (The United States has seven, after three games.) Each team plays 10 games and the top three will proceed to the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.