The United States overcame wintry conditions to outlast Costa Rica 1-0 in their World Cup qualifier in Colorado on Friday.
Wearing white uniforms to celebrate US Soccer’s centennial, the Stars and Stripes got off to an ideal start when Clint Dempsey was the man on the spot to tap in a deflected shot at the 16th minute.
The USA had entered the game as the only team remaining to not earn a point in matchday one but will now enter next Tuesday’s much-anticipated road match against Mexico on a high note.
Dempsey was named captain for this month’s two qualifiers after coach Jurgen Klinsmann decided to leave Carlos Bocanegra off the roster, and he was certainly a leader for the injury-depleted squad.
The Tottenham forward started alongside Jozy Altidore up front and the pair worked together to create the Americans’ only goal of the night.
Altidore’s shot from the top of the box deflected off Costa Rican defender Roy Miller and Dempsey was in the right place at the right time to push it past the goal line.
It was Dempsey’s 12th career goal in World Cup qualifying, tying him with Landon Donovan for the most qualifying goals in US history. Dempsey has seven goals in the 2014 World Cup qualifying cycle.
The USA came very close to adding one more before half-time as Dempsey received the ball in the box on two occasions. He appeared to be taken down by Roy Miller of the New York Red Bulls, but the referee decided not to blow the whistle.
With the weather getting worse throughout the match, the ref nearly made a decision to halt the game after stopping play in the 55th minute to speak with coaches and players. The lines on the field were barely visible despite the ground crew working to shovel the pitch throughout the match.
If the match had been called off, the teams would have played the remainder of the game within the next 48 hours. All statistics would have stood as the teams would have picked up at the minute it left off.
After the short break, Costa Rica nearly got the opportunity they had been searching for all night. The visitors appeared to have tied things up after Alvaro Saborío beat goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but the play was called offside.
Replays suggest that he may have been onside after all.
The USA backline held the shutout despite missing several starters. Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring) and Danny Williams (illness) were all out.
Guzan earned the start at goalkeeper in place of Howard and managed to keep a clean sheet while making four saves.
Costa Rica had hit the target four times on nine shots, while the Americans had one of their six shots on point.