The group stage comes to an end tonight, although for the United States and Costa Rica, the round is already a success. Both teams won their first two matches of the tournament to clinch a spot in the knockout stages and leave tonight's clash without stakes. Mexico is already in the other half of the bracket and unless either team has any great motivation to avoid a quarterfinal match against Honduras, there isn't much practical difference between winning and losing.
But winning matters. In a friendly, a meaningless group stage match or the World Cup final, winning matters. The degree to which it matters may very (greatly, at that), but coming away with a win always has value. That is why Jurgen Klinsmann says he is going to play his best team against the Ticos -- he thinks the U.S. can send a message.
Ryan: Costa Rica is the most full-strength team at the tournament so on top of being a strong side, they are also better equipped than anyone else. The U.S. should still win, especially in Hartford where a American-heavy crowd is likely to greet them, but that assumes Klinsmann's backline can stand up to Alvaro Saborio and Co. This will tell us whether this U.S. team is coming together or just feasting on weak opposition. Put me in the coming together camp. 2-0 U.S.
Phillip: I fully expect to go three for three in the group stage and beat Costa Rica. While they're by far the toughest opponent that we'll have faced in the tournament so far, we're still the better team. We're not scoring a hundred goals against them, because the Ticos will put up a huge fight. Give me USA to win 3-1.