Gold Cup group play winds down as U.S. takes on Costa Rica

By Jacob Onak

The United States seem to be in the driving seat in this summer’s Gold Cup.

In their first two games the Yanks have scored a total of 10 goals and have given up just two. They are atop Group C and now will take on Costa Rica, another team which has won its first two games.

This game will be the most competitive game in the group as both the United States and Costa Rica are both more experienced than Cuba and Belize, the other two sides in Group C.

With both teams in the quarterfinals (the top two teams in each group move ahead), the two will fight for the first place spot in the group, which can ultimately help them when the quarterfinal matchups are announced. The top team in the group moves on to play the second top team in another group, which, depending on the team, can create a mismatch (on paper, at least).

Now with the first two games in the bag I expect U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann to pick out the best 11 in his squad, not just a side that will be out there so the top guys can rest for the quarterfinals.

In goal, it will continue to be Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando to start. Rimando was named the No. 1 goalkeeper for this tournament; barring an injury, don’t expect a change.

In defense, Klinsmann has used two combinations of the back four in the last two games, but I believe Michael Parkhurst, Oguchi Onyewu, Clarence Goodson and DaMarcus Beasley will be the ones in front of Rimando. Out of those four,

Onyewu was the only one to play the last game. Parkhurst will come in for Tony Beltran while Goodson will come in for Michael Orozco Fiscal. The center-back experience of Onyewu and Goodson will be needed against a stronger Costa Rica side.

At left back, Beasley, captain for the Gold Cup, will take Edgar Castillo’s spot. I don’t expect Castillo to move to the bench, however. I believe Klinsmann will move Castillo up into the attack more after he showed some good qualities in the second half of the Cuba game on Saturday. If Klinsmann does not go with Castillo it will be José Torres for sure.

To round out the midfield will be Stuart Holden, Kyle Beckerman and Joe Corona. All three started the last game and I expect them to be back in the lineup against Costa Rica. Beckerman will be responsible for the defensive duties in the center of the midfield, and the game should open up a little bit more for Holden. Cuba parked the bus defensively, but I expect Costa Rica not to give the United States the same amount of respect, so there should be more room to attack and create chances.

I expect Landon Donovan to be back up top for the States after having a strong first two games, but it will be who he is partnering with that will make things interesting. It will be up to Klinsmann to either choose the hardworking Herculez Gomez or the goal-scoring Chris Wondolowski.

I’d give the nod to Wondo. I think his positioning and goal-scoring knack has played himself into the starting 11 over Gomez, who hasn’t found the back of the net despite his defensive responsibility. I’m not the coach, so we will see what Klinsmann goes for.

This game tonight will be one of the better ones in Group C as I’d expect Costa Rica to have a chip on its shoulder after its World Cup Qualifying loss on March 22. If the United States can hold onto the ball and be responsibly defensively then the Yanks should have the upper hand in this game.