World Cup qualifier: USA vs. Costa Rica

It’s just the second of 10 final-round qualifiers, so why does it feel like a late, make-or-break match? The Americans lost their opener. They are at home needing points as Azteca looms. Seven players are hurt. Some aren’t happy with Juergen Klinsmann‘s methods. Toss it altogether and you’ve got an anxious vibe in the Mile High city.

My formal story addresses the U.S. issues and explores the implications of an unsuccessful World Cup campaign.

Venue: DSG Park in Commerce City. Sold out (approximately 20,000).

TV: ESPN, UniMas, WatchESPN (for smart phones, laptops, tablets), starting at 10 p.m. ET.

Kickoff: 10:11 p.m. ET.

Referee: Joel Aguilar (El Salvador).

Game-time weather: 34 degrees, 35 percent chance of snow, increasing to 80 percent by the final whistle.

USA yellow card watch (suspended with next caution): Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Maurice Edu and Graham Zusi. Nine Costa Rican players are on warning.

USA record in home qualifiers since a 2001 loss to Honduras in Washington: 20-0-2. (Draws were against Costa Rica and Jamaica, both coming after the Americans had secured passage out of the group.)

USA record in home qualifiers against Costa Rica since 1989: 5-0-2.

Other CONCACAF matches today:

Mexico at Honduras, 5 p.m. ET (Telemundo)

Panama at Jamaica, 9:30 (tape at midnight on both beIN Sport channels)

Road trip lyrics:

The rain kept drivin’ but the Caddy kept on burnin’ rubber
We kept on drivin’ till we ran into some fog cover
We couldn’t see a thing somehow we just kept on goin’
We kept on drivin’ all night long and then into the mornin’
‘Fore it finally lifted when we looked to see where we was at
We’re starin’ at a Colorado state policeman trooper cat
Get out of Denver he said go go
Get out of Denver better go
Get out of Denver better go go

Bob Seger (1976, from “Live Bullet”)

Lineups to come about an hour before kickoff…..

USA: Guzan; Cameron, Gonzalez, Goodson, Beasley; Jones, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey, Gomez; Altidore.

CR: Navas; Gamboa, Gonzalez, Miller, Umana, Oviedo; Bolanos, Ruiz, Barrantes, Rodriguez; Saborio.

Teams have 12 eligible players on the bench. The only U.S. scratch was Brad Davis.

Your pregame, in-game and postgame thoughts are welcome in the comments section.

Steven Goff is The Post’s soccer writer. His beats include D.C. United, MLS and the international game, as well as local college basketball.
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Steven Goff · March 22, 2013