US Men's Soccer Beats Costa Rica, Despite Snow Conditions
Apologies up front, used up all my gold snow puns during course of the match's two-plus hours on Twitter. Sorry to freeze you out in blog form. You'll live.
Where to start? Where to end? What to even talk about?
There's the entire snow element, which overshadows the fact the U.S. got three-needed points to put its 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign on course. Chances are when people talk about "that game in the snow against Costa Rica" years from now the locker room discontent swirling around Jurgen Klinsmann will be but a distant memory.
All we're collectively going to remember was (trying) to watch an important soccer game in near-white out conditions. (Dammit, it wasn't easy!) White shirts and a yellow ball made it hard. Watching sports on television isn't supposed to be about work, is it? Half the time it was near impossible to tell what was happening.
Trying to gain any other assessments from the match is a fool's errand.
There is minimal tactical analysis to be gleaned from a game played in a driving snowstorm, limied visibility and a couple inches of the white stuff over the turf at Dick's Sporting Good Park in Colorado. Realistically all you can say about the American performance are buzzwords that modern, new-age sports people are loath to use since they are reminiscent of the old breed of lazy sportswriter, as in "heart," "hustle," "grit," "determination," etc. Hollow words that don't exactly mean anything compared to your usual passes completed chart or heat map.
That "heart" and "determination" is exactly what it took for the U.S. to get a result tonight, however, so take your false nines and stick 'em in a sack, mister!
Realistically the performance by the U.S. netted three points, no more, no less.
Thank the soccer gods Jozy Altidore's powerful shot in the 16th minute was deflected off a Costa Rican defender (Roy Miller, natch) and right into the path of a unmarked Clint Dempsey in front of an open net.
As fun as that game was to watch in the snow -- how great would it have been to be in the building for it? -- it takes on a different tenor if it's still 0-0 in the 70-minute forward. Then all the cries about how much "fun" it was, turn into an outcry of why the hell the game was allowed to go in the first place? (Same goes if one of those pin-balling attempts off a free kick by Costa Rica late in the game bounces off a leg and past Brad Guzan.)
The snow was a blessing for Klinsmann since it overshadowed everything else. There were no worries about lineup selection, formations, who wore the captain's armband, etc. All that anyone is going to talk about is the snow. It couldn't have come at a better time for the German coach, right? Hell, as Taylor Twellman and Alexi Lalas tried to purport on ESPN, this win will build (buzzword alert) "character" for the U.S. going forward.
If anything it was nice, for once, to see America flex it's muscle in the "how hard it is to win on the road in CONCACAF" equation. Full credit to Costa Rica and its players for wanting to complete the match -- and creating a bunch of chances in the second half including a disallowed goal -- but you can't spin an equation where the Ticos wanted to play the U.S. at altitude in a snowstorm.
As it stands, the U.S. thanks to the win has one more point in the Hex standings than Mexico, which drew Honduras earlier in the day in 100-degree heat.
What the lasting images of frozen snow collecting in Jermaine Jones' afro mean when the U.S. hits the Azteca on Tuesday are up for debate, for now, the U.S. survived and earned itself a nice tall cup of hot cocoa.