United States 1, Costa Rica 0

Soft snow started falling, and then kept getting heavier as the

night progressed.

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

view.

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

almost unplayable.”

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

on.

”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

it.”

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

Mexico.

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

on.

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

said.

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

Colombia.

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.”