By Michael Lewis
BALTIMORE -- The last time Costa Rica and Honduras tussled in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinal was a little more than two years ago.
But then who's counting?
Jorge Luis Pinto is, that's who.
For CONCACAF official notes about this game, click here.
The Costa Rica head coach remembers how the Ticos were eliminated from the competition by their Central American rivals, losing on penalty kicks, 4-2, after both teams played to a 1-1 draw in East Rutherford, N.J.
Pinto says he has the team ready for anything -- including another shootout.
"We've been preparing two years, 22 days to play this game against Honduras," he said. "So we want to be ready to fix all the details. If soccer takes us to the PKs, we'll be ready to [confront] the situation."
Luis Fernando Suarez said that he expected a close game, so every play matters.
"You have to see it as a final, where keeping the eye on details is vital," he told a press conference at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday. "We have asked the team to pay attention in all circumstances and all plays inside the field. All balls have to be ours. We're asking our players to put it all out.”
The last time these two Central American rivals battled, Costa Rica emerged with a 1-0 victory in a CONCACAF hexagonal in World Cup qualifying on June 7. Defender Roy Miller scored the lone goal of the match. In fact, the Ticos have won the last two encounters between the two teams, but Pinto downplayed that as an advantage.
"It's the past," he said. "Tomorrow we're going to go in and play with everything that we've got. I think the team has more offensive presence. I think we need attack. We need a goal and look for the game."
Due to thunderstorms rolling through the area, Honduras could not practice at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County on Friday. The Catrachos, though, had a session Saturday at the stadium to prepare.
To Suarez, it was not the end of the world or the Gold Cup, as he explained why.
"Obviously not training is not a good situation for us," he said. "Some time ago I would have rebelled against that and I would have regardless. But after two friends of mine lost their lives in the field due to a thunderstorm, now i think it's more important to take care of the life of someone than a training. So I am at ease even though we had the problem that we didn't train."
A place in the semifinals and regional bragging rights will, of course, be a stake. At the end of the day, the match promises to be as hard fought as any in this long-running series. And fans watching all over the globe will come to realize the significance of this revered rivalry.