ARLINGTON, Texas – Bruce Arena wasn’t in charge the last time the United States faced Costa Rica, but he’s well aware of the final result.
A 4-0 road loss in San Jose last November closed the door on the Jurgen Klinsmann era and ushered in Arena’s second tenure as head coach.
“They beat the U.S. by four goals in November,” Arena said. “Hopefully we can remember that.”
The rematch comes Saturday night at AT&T Stadium in the CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals.
“Last time we met Costa Rica beat us decisively, so we know we need to be well-prepared and we need to play well,” Arena said.
Arena has been impressed with the Ticos’ ability to succeed in the Gold Cup despite suffering key injuries to players like Joel Campbell, Christian Gamboa, Bryan Oviedo and Johan Venegas.
“I think to their credit they have a set way they play regardless of the players who are not available,” Arena said. “The attack with this team is highlighted with [Bryan] Ruiz. Obviously, a very good player. [Marco] Ureña has done well as a striker. The backline is strong with [Giancarlo] Gonzalez and [Johnny] Acosta and [Kendall] Waston. They have experienced players in the midfield. Overall, they are a real good team.”
Costa Rica has been rock-solid defensively, conceding just once in four matches, while the United States has scored nine times.
“We’ve scored the most goals in this tournament, so we’re not that bad in the attack,” Arena said. “[We have to] move the ball well, find your advantages on the field and try to capitalize. No different than any game. Every game is different from one to the other. Therefore, you put a group of players on the field who have played a little bit together, can figure things out and they’ll find ways to create chances.”
Arena has rotated his roster during the Gold Cup with an eye toward the World Cup qualifiers that resume in September. One of those players to benefit from that philosophy has been FC Dallas midfielder Kellyn Acosta, who has appeared in all four games – two as a starter.
“It’s a huge game. We’re so close to the final,” said Acosta. “We’ve been with each other for a month now. We put a lot into this. We have a big opportunity tomorrow to reach that next step to go into the final. Bruce really wants, like ourselves, to hold some silverware at the end of this tournament.”
While some of the players are the same ones who were on the field eight months ago in the Estadio Nacional, Acosta noted the team, under Arena’s guidance, is not the same.
“We’ve definitely evolved form the last time we played them,” the 21-year-old finished. “We struggled on the road, but I think it’s a new team, a new group guys, a new feel. As our games are going on, I think we’re progressively getting better.”