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Costa Rica vs. USA, 2018 World Cup Qualifying: Scouting the Ticos

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Bryan Ruiz will lead Costa Rica as it looks to extend its home winning streak against the U.S.

Soccer: 2016 Copa America Centenario-Colombia at Costa Rica Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Costa Rica looks to build on its recent good form as it takes on the United States Men’s National Team.

Los Ticos are 5-0 in their past five matches, including a 2-0 away win against Trinidad and Tobago on Friday. The Costa Ricans will be highly confident coming into this match as their all-time home record against the U.S. is 8-0-1.

These are two of the top teams in CONCACAF and the animosity between these two has increased greatly ever since the infamous “snow game.” The raucous Estadio Nacional should provide an incredible atmosphere for the hosts.

Costa Rica has a strong roster primarily featuring players based domestically, in Europe, and in MLS. Expect centerback Francisco Calvo to be unavailable due to an injury suffered against Trinidad.

Roster:

Goalkeepers (3): Keylor Navas (Real Madrid), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense) Esteban Alvarado (Trabzonspor)

Defenders (9): Johnny Acosta (Herediano), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps), Michael Umana (Alajuelense) Francisco Calvo (Saprissa), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic) Ronald Matarrita (New York City FC), Bryan Oviedo (Everton), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense) Pablo Salazar (Herediano).

Midfielders (8): Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruna), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne), David Guzman (Saprissa), Bryan Ruiz (Sporting Lisbon), Cristian Bolanos (Vancouver Whitecaps), Johan Venegas (Montreal Impact), Rodney Wallace (Recife)

Forwards (3): Joel Campbell (Sporting Lisbon), Ariel Rodríguez (Bangkok Glass), Marco Uren (Brondby)

Head coach Oscar Ramirez deployed a 5-4-1 in the recent match against Trinidad and Tobago. Ramirez may shift to a more offensive 4-5-1 or 4-4-2 considering Costa Rica’s excellent home form and the USMNT’s weak showing against Mexico.

Projected Lineup:

Captain Keylor Navas is probably the best goalkeeper in CONCACAF. The Real Madrid #1 is an excellent shot stopper and has been a major part of Los Tico’s recent success.

The backline will be similar to the one against Trinidad and Tobago. The centerback pairing should consist of Kendall Waston and Cristian Gamboa. Waston (6’5’’) is a physical presence and is unlikely to be beaten in the air. At times his physicality can be a disadvantage, as he is frequently carded. Cristian Gamboa is surprisingly quick and very aggressive.

NYCFC’s Ronald Mataritta provides an attacking threat at left-back and was heavily involved in the offense, scoring a goal, against T&T. Herediano defender Johnny Acosta is Costa Rica’s weakest defender. Despite Acosta’s international experience (49 caps), he isn’t nearly as good a one v. one defender as the other probable starters.

A five man midfield seems likely as it would help Costa Rica control the game and overrun a U.S. midfield that looked very vulnerable against Mexico. Yeltsin Tejeda did not start the previous match, but the defensive midfielder would bring grit to the central midfield. He is excellent at intercepting passes and has a high workrate.

Veteran Bryan Ruiz is Costa Rica’s most dangerous attacker. The winger with the lethal left foot creates the majority of Los Tico’s chances. His passing and set piece taking abilities are key to Costa Rica’s offense.

Christian Bolanos is another dangerous playmaker. Bolanos is great at opening up the defense with his passing and crossing. Celso Borges is good in the air and has incredible stamina.

Marcos Urena received the nod as the lone striker against T&T, but struggled mightily. He was replaced by the more dynamic Joel Campbell early in the second half. Campbell seems likely to start against the U.S. Urena is fast, but Campbell is even faster and in better form. Campbell takes powerful shots, but is an inconsistent finisher.

Costa Rica will likely dominate possession and control the game. Expect a very physical match with many cards. Los Ticos are heavily favored in this match and have a good chance to establish themselves as one of the top teams in the Hex.