ARLINGTON, Texas – Costa Rica has been hit hard by injuries at the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Ronald Matarrita was lost just before the tournament and then Joel Campbell, Christian Gamboa, Bryan Oviedo, Johan Venegas and Rodney Wallace departed during the group stage. Forward Ariel Rodriguez is undergoing medical tests.
Yet, here the Ticos are on the eve of a massively important semifinal against the United States at AT&T Stadium on Saturday night.
“These things happen in football,” Costa Rica head coach Oscar Ramirez said at pre-match press conference Friday. “You can’t identify one specific reason why we’ve been going through so many injury problems. We can’t attribute it to one thing.”
Despite the injury bug, Ramirez said he’s seen match-by-match improvement. Defensively, Costa Rica joins Mexico as the only teams to have conceded just one goal in four matches.
“Maybe there was a little bit of a letdown in the middle of the group phase, but then we’ve improved and stabilized and I think we’ve been able to finish matches well,” commented Ramirez. “That’s been important. That’s been a big plus.”
Costa Rica has never beaten the United States in Gold Cup play with six losses and one draw. And while the Central American power can draw some confidence from a 4-0 win over the Americans during World Cup Qualifying in November, Ramirez has seen a different team emerge under Bruce Arena.
“Bruce Arena has improved the environment, the way the team feels,” Ramirez remarked. “They look more relaxed in terms of what they’ve done on the field and they’ve been able to translate that in World Cup Qualifying and now they’re in the Gold Cup semifinals, so you can see the difference now.”
Arena guided the U.S. to a 2-0 win over Costa Rica in the 2002 Gold Cup final.