By Dylan Butler
EAST HARTFORD, Connecticut – Jorge Luis Pinto was impressed with his team’s performance against the United States Tuesday night in the Group C finale of the CONCACAF Gold Cup at Rentschler Field.
The Colombian-born coach went down a checklist of positives he saw from the Ticos.
Play tactically? Check.
Play aggressively? Check.
Play hard? Check.
There was just one thing missing.
“Goal scoring, that was our problem tonight,” Pinto said. “Playing locally was one of the toughest things, but unfortunately we couldn’t get where we wanted, but we’re going to continue to progress.”
Costa Rica had already clinched a berth into the quarterfinals this Sunday in Baltimore, but failed to beat the United States again. It is winless in seven all-time Gold Cup games against the Americans, including six losses.
“We feel that we played very well,” Pinto said. “We’re going to continue to improve on what we’re doing. Tonight was not our night. I’m happy that collectively we improved our game and we have been able to do things better. I give it to the U.S., but we feel that we did our strongest performance today.”
Brek Shea’s 82nd minute winner, which came on a quick counter after Carlos Johnson’s header at the back post was denied by U.S. goalkeeper Sean Johnson, ended the Ticos’ remarkable stretch of 785 minutes without conceding a goal.
That streak started during a 1-0 loss to the U.S. in a World Cup qualifier this past March. Costa Rica reeled off seven consecutive games without a loss before again falling to the U.S. Tuesday night.
“I feel like the U.S. has always been a strong team, they have improved a lot,” Pinto said. “They also had a very good second half. We took the ball away from them, however, but they were able to score the goal, which determined the match.”
It’s possible Costa Rica and the United States will meet again in this tournament, but first up are quarterfinal matches at M&T Bank Stadium. The U.S. takes on El Salvador, while the Ticos square off against rival Honduras.
The winners meet in the semifinals in Arlington, Texas. Pinto believed that if his team follows a similar script against Honduras, Costa Rica can be among the last four standing following the weekend.
“I always love playing Honduras,” he said. “They’re always tough games. All we have to do is play with the mentality that we always have and hopefully it will put us through. One of the things I always say is that Honduras-Costa Rica is always a type of derby. We expect a great game.”