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USA vs. Costa Rica, 2019 friendly: 5 Things to Know About Costa Rica

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Get to know a Costa Rican side missing many regulars.

Mexico v Costa Rica - International Friendly Photo by Azael Rodriguez/Getty Images

The United States Men’s National Team concludes its January camp with a friendly against fellow CONCACAF side Costa Rica, on February 2nd. Because this game takes place outside FIFA International dates, clubs are not required to release players.

As a result, Costa Rica is missing regulars such as Keylor Navas, Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell, and Giancarlo Gonzalez. Here are five things to know about Los Ticos.

1. Costa Rica Roster

Goalkeepers (3): Esteban Alvarado (Alajuelense/15 caps), Kevin Chamorro (Carmelita/0 caps), Marco Madrigal (San Carlos/1 cap)

Defenders (7): Keysher Fuller (Herediano/0 caps), Yostin Salinas (Saprissa/2 caps), Jaikel Medina (Saprissa/0 caps), Pablo Arboine (Santos/0 caps), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United/44 caps), Waylon Francis (Seattle Sounders/4 caps), Joseph Mora (D.C. United/2 caps)

Midfielders (9): Jose Miguel Cubero (Alajuelense/51 caps), Allan Cruz (FC Cincinnati/6 caps), Nestor Monge (Cartagines/5 caps), David Guzman (Portland Timbers/53 caps), Jose Alfaro (Carmelita/0 caps), Barlon Sequeira (Alajuelense/1 cap), Ronaldo Araya (Cartagines/0 caps), Marvin Loria (Portland Timbers/0 caps), Jimmy Marin (Herediano/3 caps)

Forwards (4): Jose Guillermo Ortiz (Herediano/6 caps), Jean Scott (Guadalupe/0 caps), Yendrick Ruiz (Herediano/7 caps), Jonathan McDonald (Alajuelense/10 caps)

This roster is composed entirely of players from Costa Rica’s Liga de Futbol de Primera División and MLS. It contains two members (David Guzman and Francisco Calvo) from the side that finished 0-2-1 at the 2018 World Cup. The team’s average age is approximately 25, but only four players have 15 or more caps.

2. Who Will Lead the Attack?

Costa Rica lacks attacking talent and could struggle to score. Expect either Jonathan McDonald or Jose Guillermo Ortiz to feature as the lone striker. I believe McDonald will get the nod, as he is more talented and in better form. McDonald scored 12 goals in 17 appearances, in the 2018 Primera Division Apertura.

He is a poacher with impressive pace, but is quite inconsistent. When he’s on the pitch, Costa Rica should look to exploit his speed by playing many through balls.

3. Calvo Will Guide the Defense

Francisco Calvo is the most experienced and talented defender on this roster. While Calvo plays for a Minnesota United team that has been terrible defensively, he is quite solid. The left-footed center back is a superb tackler and good in the air.

However, he frequently commits fouls and is a poor dribbler, even for a defender. In order for Costa Rica to win this match, Calvo will have to be excellent.

4. Can Costa Rica Overcome it’s Defensive Woes?

While this roster is lacking a reliable striker, of greater concern is Costa Rica’s recent defensive struggles. The team has conceded 10 goals in its past 4 games (against Mexico, Colombia, Chile, and Peru) and has not recorded a shutout since a June friendly against Northern Ireland.

While Costa Rica has faced tough opposition (England, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, etc.) this year, it’s defense must improve drastically. I believe bad luck has played a significant part in these disappointing showings and even though this roster lacks many first-choice players, it seems unlikely that the defense will continue to be so poor.

5. What to Expect Tactically?

Head coach Gustavo Matosas is relatively new, as he took over in October 2018. During his brief tenure, Los Ticos have a 2-2 record. This is Matosas’s first job coaching a national team and he has spent the majority of his career in charge of South American club sides. During his brief tenure, Matosas has utilized a 5-3-2 and 4-5-1. Based on the personnel available to him, I’m predicting that he will deploy a 4-5-1.

While the U.S. should be slight favorites, expect a close match. Costa Rica has the talent to create chances, but it remains to be seen if their forwards are good enough to trouble the U.S. defense. I’m predicting a 2-1 U.S. victory.