USA drops 3 on Costa Rica in World Cup Qualifier

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: June 5, 2005

Eddie Pope

Eddie Pope (

MIAMI, FLA.—Usually when the US and Costa Rica get together in World Cup qualifying, it’s a tense competitive affair that ultimately turns on one or two plays.

Not on this occasion.

Getting two goals from Landon Donovan and a string of 2nd half saves from Kasey Keller, the USA posted a comprehensive 3-0 win over the Ticos of Costa Rica before 40,000 people in Salt Lake City to maintain 2nd place in the CONCACAF standings on the road to the 2006 World Cup.

The US welcomed back DaMarcus Beasley to the starting lineup for the first time since the match against Mexico in March. DMB was injured his knee in a match his club side PSV Eindhoven in Holland in April and this was his first match back. He played on the left side of a 3 man attacking line which also included Josh Wolff and Brian McBride in place of the injured Eddie Johnson. Eddie Pope, much to the chagrin of the self-appointed experts of Big Soccer, started in the middle of a 3 man defensive line. The idea behind the 3-4-3 line up was to put the US in an attacking mindset and avoid a slow start.

It worked early as the US pressured the Costa Ricans into give away after give away leading to the first goal. Steve Ralston received a pass from Kerry Zavagnin and raced up the right hand side. He cut back towards the middle and attmpted to center the ball for a streaking Beasley. The ball was defeflected by a Costa Rican defender but right into the path of Donovan who hammered it into the upper left hand corner (the upper 90 as its called) of the net giving the US had a early 1-0 lead.

The US then went to work trying to keep the Costa Rican offense at bay, compressing the midfield and forcing the visitors to try and play the ball over the top of the defense onto streaking attackers. The result were several offside calls, as the backline, led by Pope, continued to frustrate the Costa Rican offense.

The match as a whole was a definite response the legions of American fans on Big Soccer who seemed to want to see the end of the international career of Eddie Pope. To be fair, Pope did not have a strong match the week before against England in an exhibition. But when it came time to get it done in a match that actually matters, he was more than equal to the task. Pope has never quite gotten his due for his play at the international level and the knee jerk reaction by the Big Soccer experts was silly. Pope clearly has much to contribute to this National side.

While the US was frustrating the Ticos on defense, they tried to press for the 2nd goal on offense. They weren’t able to establish much rhythm, however, until the 27th minute when defender Carlos Bocanegra forced a relatively easy save out of GK Alvaro Messen. Beasley started drawing hard foul after hard foul as defenders continually tried to hammer him from behind, culminating in a yellow card on Gilberto Martinez for a stamp on the back on DMB’s leg in the 32nd minute. Just as he always does, the slight of build DMB got up and kept on playing without woofing or crying.

Steven Bryce tries to slow DMB by any means necessary (salt lake tribune)

Steven Bryce tries to slow DMB by any means necessary (salt lake tribune)

In fact he almost put the US ahead in the 30th minute as Zavagnin sprung him on the left with a pass. DMB forced a fine save out Messen as DMB tried to drill it low past him. Messen twice more saved Costa Rica, first stoning Josh Wolff who had stolen the ball from a defender raced 40 yards on goal and to shoot low to Messen’s right in the 36th minute, then Donovan in the 45th as DMB played his teammate in from the right.

The Costa Rican offense had been stymied and after the introduction of Steven Bryce the Ticos thought they had a goal in the 40th minute. Douglas Sequiera of MLS’ Chivas USA headed home a free kick but once again he was offsides.

The US had done enough to take the lead into the lockerroom at half time but they still needed to grab that 2nd goal.

However, it was Costa Rica who came back after the break with a renewed since of purpose and immediately lay siege to Kasey Keller’s goal. Jaffet Soto began the onslaught with a shot from the right side in the 47th minute that Keller stretched to deflect for a corner kick. This was followed with some point blank saves on Antonio Solis in the 49th minute & Soto again (this time on a header) in the 59th minute. The US had momentarily lost control of this match and was unable to take advantage of any of their counter attacks, DMB being unable to score after taking too much time get a shot off and allowing the defenders to recover.

So it was clearly against the run of play when the US struck again on 62 minutes. Steve Ralston received pass from a throw in and played onto to Wolff. Wolff’s cross was flicked onto goal by McBride who absoltely laid out for it, coming from left to right. Messen saved McBride’s effort but Donovan was there to tap home the rebound and give the US some breathing room. 2-0.

Costa Rica tried to mount a comeback by bringing on their alltime leading goal scorer, Paulo Wanchope but he was marked out of existence by Pope. The US continued to lockdown the Costa Rican attack and put the game away with a counterattack in the 88th minute. Donovan brought the ball down the left side and played it to substitute Clint Dempsey who forced a save out of Messen. The rebound fell to McBride who volleyed it past 3 people on the goal line, securing the 3 points for the US.

A very solid effort by the US and they will be full of confidence as they head to Panama City for the match Wedneday night against last place Panama, 2-0 losers to Trinidad and Tobago. The US trails Mexico by a point as the “Tri-Color” won another road match, 2-0 over Guatemala.