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USA vs. Costa Rica, 2020 friendly: What to watch for

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The first match of the decade...let’s get off to a good start.

Weston McKennie (8), Jonathan Osorio (21), Samuel Piette (6... Photo by Angel Marchini/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

It’s a new decade, and the United States Men’s National Team look to begin with a win tomorrow when they host Costa Rica in their annual January Camp match. The USMNT will only have 3 friendlies to work on things before CONCACAF Nations League playoffs in June and World Cup qualifying begins in September. They look to prepare by facing a difficult Costa Rica team that may be missing some key players due to this match operating outside of a FIFA international fixture window, but they can still provide a test to the USMNT. Will the USMNT begin 2020 on the right note?

Recent Form

USA

W (4-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

W (4-1) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

L (0-2) - Canada - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

W (7-0) - Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Group A

D (1-1) - Uruguay - Friendly

Costa Rica

D (1-1) - Haiti - CONCACAF Nations League Group D

W (2-1) - Curaçao - CONCACAF Nations League Group D

D (0-0) - Curaçao - CONCACAF Nations League Group D

D (1-1) - Haiti - CONCACAF Nations League Group D

L (1-2) - Uruguay - Friendly

What to watch for

Who will make their mark? This is a chance for several players to take advantage of the opportunity to represent their national team. Each year, there are a couple players that have impressed in their first cap during January Camp and become a regular part of the rotation that year. 12 of the 22 players on this roster are uncapped, so some of these guys are going to get a chance to play. Will they leave a lasting impression on the coaching staff and the fans?

Focus on maintaining possession. To make Gregg Berhalter’s system work, possession has to be a primary focus. The times that the USMNT were shaky last year was because they didn’t possess the ball well. Costa Rica will look to take the ball away or force the USMNT into precarious turnovers. Can the Yanks be sound with the ball and make passes into space to keep the Ticos on their toes?

Finishing in the attacking third. The finishing has not been great for the Yanks recently. Even in matches where they scored a bunch of goals, it took several opportunities for them to break through. We will see if the finishing has improved during this camp. To beat the better teams that they will face this year and in preparation for World Cup qualifying later this year, they will want to make sure they punch home the scoring chances they create.

Lineup Prediction

With several of the regular USMNT players not available, there are some interesting combinations that Gregg Berhalter can employ in his starting lineup. Here’s what he may go with in the end:

Predicted Lineup vs. Costa Rica

Sean Johnson is essentially the main backup goalkeeper to Zack Steffen, so he will likely get the start. However, don’t be surprised if Bill Hamid gets the 2nd half to show he belongs in every camp going forward to increase competition at the goalkeeper position. The back line will have Walker Zimmerman and Aaron Long in the middle, Reggie Cannon at right back, and Chase Gasper at left back. Gasper was a part of the MLS pre-camp that Berhalter held last fall before the final set of CONCACAF Nations League matches, and as a natural left back, he looks to be likely to start there.

In the middle, Jackson Yueill will be the center defense midfielder, while Sebastian Lletget and Christian Cappis get the call in the middle as well. Both will be expected to help drive the attack forward.

Up front, Gyasi Zardes is one of the established starters, so he will be in the middle. On the wings, Paul Arriola is also another established starter and will begin the match on the left. The surprise addition in the starting XI will be Ulysses Llanez, who will get the opportunity on the right wing. The 18-year-old could be a major factor in the near future, and this will be a chance to show he should be in the conversation as the team moves towards the summer.

Score Prediction

The first few minutes are going to be sluggish, as both teams attempt to set the tone. The USMNT’s possession will be better than expected, but their finishing will leave something to be desired. Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid combine for a clean sheet and Sebastian Lletget gets the lone goal in his home stadium as the USMNT win 1-0.