There will be a subtle difference in the weather in East Hartford today, much different than when Costa Rica last played the USA. 90 degrees and humid might be preferred over 30 degrees and a blizzard for Los Ticos, who lost 1-0 in a World Cup Qualifier at Dick's Sporting Goods Park outside of Denver in March.
That 1-0 loss, known now as the "Snow Clasico," which was initially protested by Costa Rica only to be denied by FIFA, has been the only loss for Costa Rica during The Hex, and revenge will be on their minds tonight in Connecticut.
The United States only need a draw to win Group C and avoid a quarterfinal matchup with Honduras, but head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is looking to make a statement, saying he'll be putting out his first team lineup.
"We are very well aware of Costa Rica and [they're] the first real benchmark for us," Klinsmann told reporters in his postgame press conference after the win over Cuba. "Everybody has respect for Belize and Cuba, but the benchmark for us starts with Costa Rica."
A first team lineup would likely see DaMarcus Beasley back in his usually left back spot after not playing vs. Cuba. Chris Wondolowski has earned his start against Costa Rica, with a torrid pace of 5 goals scored so far in the Gold Cup, Landon Donovan will likely feature with him up top. Kyle Beckerman will also likely continue his role in the defensive midfield, and this time I agree with Klinsmann. Beckerman's presence in front of the center backs will absorb some pressure from the dangerous Costa Rica attack.
Mix Diskerud has been solid in the center midfield as well as Joe Corona on the right flank. The left flank has been a slight problem, with Brek Shea's dismal performance against Cuba and Edgar Castillo's problems at left back vs. Cuba. Tony Beltran and Michael Parkhurst have been battling for the right back spot and Clarence Goodson could feature again in center defense, but would he replace Michael Fiscal Orozco or Oguchi Onyewu?
For Costa Rica, Michael Barrantes and Jairo Arrieta were the goal scorers against Cuba in their first Gold Cup match, but Costa Rica was largely stymied by a stout Belize defense, an own goal in the second half the difference in Costa Rica's second win.
The winner of Group C will play one of the two third place teams in the quarterfinals from Baltimore. The runner-up will play Honduras, Group B's winner, also in Baltimore. If Cuba or Belize win and make up their goal differential, they would play Panama in Atlanta.
A win or draw for the USA would likely set up a quarterfinal match vs. Martinique, avoiding a tough matchup to start the quarters. A semi final against Honduras or Costa Rica would be their next match, and a slight reprieve against a less experienced side, despite Martinique's solid tournament, could give the USA an advantage going into the semis.