United States 1, Costa Rica 0
Soft snow started falling, and then kept getting heavier as the
From the start of Friday’s World Cup qualifier, the lines on the
field were covered. As the game wore on, even the Americans in
their white home uniforms became hard to see.
And then in the 55th minute, with the U.S. leading Costa Rica
1-0 on Clint Dempsey’s early goal, the referee and match
commissioner stopped it.
Would it continue? For a moment, it was as unclear as the
But then, after some heated discussions, play went on.
On a snowy night more suitable to slaloms than soccer, Dempsey’s
16th-minute score in his first start as the American captain held
up, giving the U.S. a 1-0 victory in a key qualifier for next
year’s World Cup.
”It was difficult out here to see anything,” Dempsey said.
”The second half, the snow coming up past your ankles, it was
Several U.S. players wore short sleeves. A bare-chested Dempsey
applauded fans after the final whistle.
Costa Rica’s team seemed to have a harder time dealing with the
winter wonderland. The Ticos have 24 hours to file a written
protest with FIFA.
”You couldn’t see the lines. You couldn’t see the ball. You
couldn’t play,” Costa Rica midfielder Michael Barrantes said.
Plows and shovels were used to clear the penalty areas, center
circle and midfield stripe as snow got heavier, and a
yellow-and-purple ball was used. Ten minutes into the second half,
Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto wanted referee Joel Aguilar of El
Salvador and match commissioner Victor Daniel of Grenada to suspend
the game, but U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a case for playing
”That’s why went onto the field with my bad Spanish, to
interfere with the referee, `We’re not stopping that game. It’s
only the lines,”’ Klinsmann said. ”They cleaned up the lines and
they kept playing. The referees were clear, they said it was all
about the lines. It’s for both teams very difficult to play all the
way through. I would have done anything possible to not stop
The match will be remembered in American soccer for the elements
as much as the 1967 Ice Bowl is in the NFL. As the snow increased,
it made the field resemble a cake topped with piles of sugar, and
players’ hair turned white as snow stuck along their scalps. During
injury time, American defender Geoff Cameron even playfully pushed
the back of a grounds crew member shoveling the field.
As the conditions deteriorated, the U.S. survived Michael
Umana’s apparent 70th-minute goal for Costa Rica that was
disallowed for offside and came away with a red-very-white-and-blue
victory. Brad Guzan, in goal because Tim Howard was injured, slid
in the snow after balls like a kid in a park.
”You don’t want to stop it. You want to keep that advantage and
finish it off,” Klinsmann said.
Pinto was angry during and after the game.
”I asked them to stop. They should suspend the ref,” he said.
”It was an embarrassment. It was an insult to Costa Rica and
people coming in here.”
After wasting an early lead and losing their final-round opener
last month at Honduras, the Americans were under pressure to come
up with a win, especially with their next game Tuesday at regional
power Mexico. Dempsey’s goal lifted them from last place in the
six-nation group to second, one point behind Honduras, which
rallied from two goals down for a 2-2 tie at home against
The U.S. extended its home unbeaten streak in qualifying to 23
games over a dozen years (21-0-2).
The gametime temperature of 30 degrees was 54 below the start
temperature for the 2-1 loss at Honduras last month, when the
Americans withered in the heat and humidity as the match went
When DaMarcus Beasley slid on his back following a collision, he
formed a bit of a snow angel.
”It almost looked like he grew up in the snow,” Klinsmann said
about the Indiana native.
Criticized earlier in the week over tactics and management in a
Sporting News story citing unidentified players and others close to
the team, Klinsmann used his 24th lineup in 24 matches since
replacing Bob Bradley. With eight players out because of injuries
and illness, the 30-year-old Beasley was at left back for the first
time since 2009, when he made his previous international
competitive start. Cameron was shifted to right back and Omar
Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson started in central defense in front
of Guzan, who made his first start since November 2010. Landon
Donovan remains absent on sabbatical.
”We were able to come together when we needed to,” Dempsey
Dempsey, a tough Texan who didn’t wear gloves in the first half,
became captain when Carlos Bocanegra was dropped because of
inaction with his club in Spain and Howard broke two bones in his
back. Dempsey’s only previous experience with the armband was three
years ago, during the second half of an exhibition against
He scored after Jozy Altidore’s 19-yard shot deflected off Roy
Miller, the defender who has struggled this season with Major
League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls. The ball bounced toward
Dempsey, whose right-footed shot from in front went in for his
seventh goal in qualifying for Brazil and his 12th career score in
qualifying. Used to wet weather in England’s Premier League,
Dempsey got his 32nd goal in 92 appearances.
The U.S. appealed to Aguilar for a penalty kick after Miller
tripped Dempsey in the 42nd but was denied.
Turns out one goal was enough.
”It was a lucky deflection,” Dempsey said. ”If I would have
missed it, I would have cried all night.”