Jurgen Klinsmann calm ahead of U.S.-Costa Rica

Posted by Roger Bennett

There was a touch of the surreal about the U.S.' pregame news conference. If an English national team manager had been accused of losing his team to the extent Jurgen Klinsmann was (note: though in England the articles would typically have to be on the record), the news conference would have been open season for the media. Not so in the U.S., where the questioning is by and large far more genteel. Klinsmann rose to the occasion, maintaining a sense of calm and an occasional sense of humor. Referring to the controversy of reportedly losing the locker room, the German manager sounded positively upbeat. "It shows people care," he said. "That we lost one match in Honduras -- one game out of ten. You take that as a positive sign … though I would prefer if you have a problem you come and talk to me as opposed to giving an anonymous quote where we don't know if it is a player or an agent."

Arise, Sir Clint
Clint Dempsey addressed the media as captain for the first time. "The most important thing is the game," he said. "Three points. Getting confidence from a result and gaining a good run of form so other teams don't need to be relied on to do us favors. We want to keep our destiny in our own hands. We don't want to be the team that does not qualify."

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- Clint Dempsey, the U.S. captain
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- Players should worry about winning

On Costa Rica
Geoff Cameron discussed the threat he saw the Costa Ricans posing. "They are a confident team, flying high after getting a point on the road in Panama and coming back from a 2-0 deficit to do it," the Stoke City defender said. "They will probably think they can come in and get points. I don't think they will come in and defend because they are attacking in style. We will have to try and break them down and keep possession. The key for us is to be sharper, more physical, and win the second ball better than we did in Honduras."

Omar Gonzalez fleshed out the threat. "They are a technical team, they love to attack. But we are also prepared if they want to play us on the break." The LA Galaxy defender singled out a fellow MLS star, Real Salt Lake's Alvaro Saborio, as his main challenge. "Saborio is a big guy who can turn on you, run into the channels, hold the ball up and play others in, or be a threat on his own in the box, especially in the air," he explained.

A note of relief for those who remember that in the wake of the Honduras loss, Gonzalez admitted he and Cameron had only trained for five minutes together in practice: Both men admitted they already knew what positions they would play Friday night.

A Costa Rican perspective
To gain a sense of how the Costa Rican media are framing the clash, I spoke to Diego Brenes, a sports reporter from Teletica, who told me the game is being approached with mixed emotions.

"We have not won in America [in] forever, and because a late Jonathan Bornstein goal denied us a chance to go to the 2010 World Cup, the Costa Rican media is full of a lot of historical nostalgia which makes us wonder what we can achieve on Friday," he said. "We are not convinced by our team. It may seem like a strong attacking lineup but we don't create a lot of team chances or build possession. We are all about individual attackers working out how to get a shot on goal."

Costa Rica's most heated rivalries are with Mexico and Honduras, but Brenes said "Costa Ricans always want to beat America because they are a powerful country rather than a soccer power. This current team does not seem as solid as the ones of old."

With a damming conclusion, Brenes explained, "We see the United States as being at the same level as Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama right now. The days the United States were seen as the second most powerful team in CONCACAF are over."

Denver may be the winner
The 20,000 seats for the game sold out within an hour. Over 2,000 American Outlaws have traveled to Colorado, the largest number of all time. Snow is expected to fall during the game.

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