1 February 2002 (www.TEAMtalk.com
The United States will take on Costa Rica for the third time in nine months in the Gold Cup final on Saturday afternoon and hope to take home their second tournament title.
The two teams are no strangers after two top of the table clashes in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying with the home team winning both encounters. The last time they played in September, Costa Rica dominated the game en route to sealing their World Cup berth.
On Saturday (3pm, Univision), the U.S. have a chance for their first title since 1991 while Costa Rica have never won the Gold Cup. This is already the Ticos' best finish in the tournament.
Costa Rica will field the exact same line-up they used on September 5, minus Rolando Fonseca who left the tournament earlier with an injury.
The U.S. however will only three players in the starting line-up on Saturday who played in that game. Jeff Agoos, Chris Armas, and Cobi Jones were in that game while Landon Donovan and Kasey Keller were on the bench.
Costa Rica seemingly stumbled out of the gate at the beginning of the Gold Cup before finding their form and eventually securing a spot in the final.
After blanking tiny Martinique 2-0 in their opening match, Costa Rica were held to a surprising 1-1 draw against T&T. In their quarter-final, Costa Rica needed a golden goal to get past Haiti 2-1. The Ticos, however, bounced back to crush South Korea 3-1 in the semi-final and look to keep their momentum going on Saturday.
“There were some difficult times at the beginning of the tournament but we have had the strength to improve and get ahead,” said Costa Rica head coach Alexandre Guimaraes. “We hope to play better Saturday to win the title, something that Costa Rica has been looking for for a long time and which will be very difficult to attain.”
The difference is Bruce Arena has used the tournament to blood young players and re-habilitate players who have been injured while Costa Rica has used the tournament to build cohesiveness in their squad.
“We have taken this tournament very seriously, which is why we brought over our first team,” Guimaraes said.
One of those injured players for the U.S. was Brian McBride who has been in stellar form, leading Gold Cup scorers with four goals in as many matches.
On the defensive end, Kasey Keller has spearheaded a backline that has produced three consecutive shutouts. Keller turned in an inspired performance in the penalty kick shootout against Canada in the semifinal, making two key saves.
Midfielder Eddie Lewis and defender Carlos Bocanegra both suffered injuries in Wednesday's night semifinal and are continuing to recover but should play.
"We look forward to the match tomorrow against Costa Rica. The team is in pretty good shape physically however we do have some concerns playing three games in six days. Given that fact, we still think our team will be well-prepared and eager to play," said U.S. Head Coach Bruce Arena.
Guimaraes has the luxury of carrying a full-strength side to the competition, and will send out the same 11 who took out Korea in the semi-final 3-1.
"Costa Rica has an outstanding team with balance in every position, but most notably, our concern is going to be with their forward line with Wanchope, Gomez, and with (Hernan) Medford joining them at times," said Arena.
While Manchester City Paulo Wanchope might be the player for the U.S. to keep an eye on, it has been Ronald Gomez who has been carrying the team with some key goals throughout the tournament. Either way, this is the best striking combination the U.S. have faced in the tournament, but Kasey Keller has led the defense to giving up just one goal so far in the tournament.
"I've had a few good tournaments in the Gold Cup. This is my third time. The first time I finished third, the second time I finished second, now I think it's time for first." said U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller.
Probable starting line-ups:
USA: Kasey Keller, Carlos Bocanegra, Jeff Agoos, Frankie Hejduk, Pablo Mastroeni, Eddie Lewis, Cobi Jones, Chris Armas, Landon Donovan, Josh Wolff, Brian McBride
Costa Rica: Erick Lonnis, Carlos Castro, Luis Marin, Reynaldo Parks, Gilberto Martinez, Mauricio Solis, Wilmer Lopez, Walter Centeno, Hernan Medford, Ronald Gomez, Paulo Wanchope
May the WINNER deserve the Honor !!!!!!!!!!!