U.S. gets back on track with win over Costa Rica

Posted by Roger Bennett

DENVER, Colorado -- Time to take your hand off the panic button, America.

After a week in which we wondered who would win this game, collective spirit or Anonymous Source, the former won the day, albeit amidst farcical scenes. The U.S. beat a feisty Costa Rican side 1-0 in a blizzard that occasionally made the game appear like the Winter Olympics come early. Now the Americans head to Mexico with their first points of The Hex.

Here’s four immediate responses to the evening's ice follies:

1. Football is a funny game
After the accusations contained in the Sporting News investigative report, the USMNT have trained all week under a hail of doomsday predictions. They came to Dick's Sporting Goods Park to prove their worth, only to face conditions for which they could never have planned. The snow prevented football of any style from being played. Ultimately, the conditions might have been a blessing, as it took some of the pressure off the U.S. team. There were no more concerns about unnamed sources, which players were not here, or the captaincy debate. This was all about 11 men and a yellow ball. And the man of the match was the groundsman with the shovel who kept the game playable.

2. Proud to be an American ...
The United States spine impressed. Clint Dempsey, with Michael Bradley behind him, prowled the center of the field like a pair of snow leopards. Yet it was the oft-maligned Jermaine Jones who really caught the eye. The man who had been accused of being a symbol of the team’s division thrived in the snow. He will have experienced many colder nights in Germany. Bar one ill-advised palm to Brian Ruiz’s cheek, he led by example. With his curls grayed with snowflakes, he looked like a middle-aged mother-in-law, a midfielder gleefully sliding around with abandon.

3. What do we learn from tonight?
Hard to tell. Once the Americans wised up and stopped trying to play delicate build-it-up from the back football, this became a test of stamina and nerves. While the Costa Rican bench spent the first half trying to persuade the fourth official to have the game postponed, the U.S. dug deep. In the second half, the Ticos threatened repeatedly and though the backline occasionally wobbled, they did not break. This was not pretty -- a slew of unintelligent fouls in the last 10 minutes could have been punished -- but after the limp performance in Honduras, the team proved once more they have a collective confidence and the guts to get the job done.

4. Denver did America proud
A crowd of 19,374 cheered the team on from start to finish, conjuring a wall of sound. Particular credit to the American Outlaws who proved they cheer their team on, rain, shine … or blizzard.

5. This is going to be the best Hex of all time
Mexico drew with Honduras in 107 degree sun. Costa Rica then struggled in a blizzard. The Hex moves on to the breathless altitude of the Azteca. It is hard to tell if every team is good, or merely fallible. But the top 3 will be the ones with the most heart, guts, chemistry … and points.

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