Costa Rica looks to gain edge from Gold Cup opener

Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz (white jersey) has one goal in seven career CONCACAF Gold Cup games. (Photo: Mexsport)

CARSON, California – Captain Bryan Ruiz says Costa Rica’s opener against Jamaica perhaps will be the most crucial match of its CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign as the Central American champion seeks a winning start.

The influential forward believes that a victory on Wednesday at the StubHub Center will provide the momentum and confidence needed to buoy the Ticos in their remaining Group B matches against El Salvador (July 11 at BBVA Compass Stadium in Houston, Texas) and Canada (July 14 at BMO Field in Toronto, Canada).

“We feel confident," Ruiz told "We know it’s a tough group because it is. We saw Jamaica in Copa America and they did very good, so we know the first game especially is going to be very difficult.

“It is the most important game, it is the first game and we need to win that game to get confidence for the rest, too. So we're focusing on Jamaica and hopefully we can get a good result.”

Costa Rica enters the Gold Cup as the highest ranked side in the confederation -- 14th overall by FIFA -- and will start as one of the favorites despite falling to Honduras at the quarterfinal stage the two previous tournaments. In 2013, the Ticos were eliminated following a 1-0 defeat in Baltimore and made a dramatic exit on penalties, 4-2, in 2011 after the teams were tied 1-1 after extra time in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Ruiz, who netted successfully during that penalty shootout, said Costa Rica was not fazed by the disappointments of past Gold Cups and was focused on the current challenges.

“We will go step by step," he expressed. "We will have Jamaica and that’s our focus right now. We just want to play that first game, get those three points and then we focus on the rest.”

Costa Rica’s preparations for the Gold Cup have been intense, with friendly internationals on three different continents against Colombia (1-0 neutral loss), Spain (2-1 away loss) and Mexico (2-2 neutral draw) last month.

Despite falling short in each of those matches, Ruiz said that the experiences were valuable.

"We had three very good preparation games,” the 29-year-old finished. “We played against Spain, Colombia and Mexico, so they were really good games for us and we prepared really good.

“We practiced different kinds of ways to play and that’s very important in this tournament because you’re going to play against different teams and have different styles of games also, so we want to have that preparation.”