By Michael Lewis
COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- The United States overcame the elements, Costa Rica and the possibility of postponing the game to register a 1-0 World Cup qualifying victory on Friday.
Clint Dempsey's first-half goal proved to be the difference as the Americans recorded their first win in the CONCACAF hexagonal during a spring snowstorm.
The U.S. (1-0-1, three points) moved into second place behind leader Honduras (1-1-0, four), which tied Mexico, 2-2, earlier in the day. The Costa Ricans (one point) suffered their first loss and fell to 0-1-1.
The Americans will play at Mexico in Mexico City on Tuesday, while Costa Rica hosts Jamaica the same day.
The snow was so bad that a yellow soccer ball was needed. As many as six inches of snow was supposed to fall on the Denver area by Saturday morning. The Dick's Sporting Goods field was shoveled and cleared several times during the match, as the grounds crew tried to make sure the game officials and players could see the sidelines, end lines, penalty areas and halfway line.
The snow never let up. In fact, it got worse as the game progressed and appeared to pose visibility programs on the pitch.
The game was stopped in the 55th minute, when the match commissioner reportedly conversed with referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador about the possibility of stopping play. After talking to players from both sides, Aguilar resumed the action once the lines were made clear again.
In the early going, there were hardly any serious chances for both teams as they tried to keep their footing and tried to test out the field.
Dempsey, given the captain's armband for the game, tried a shot from distance in the 16th minute that sailed wide left. Only seconds later, Dempsey was celebrating his 32nd international goal.
Forward Jozy Altidore, on the top left of the penalty area, found an unmarked Dempsey, who slotted the ball past goalkeeper Keilor Navas from close range. Dempsey's 12th World Cup qualifying goal tied Landon Donovan on the U.S.'s all-time list. The goal also meant that the U.S. has scored in 27 consecutive World Cup qualifying matches.
The Costa Ricans experienced some problems controlling the ball. Cristian Bolanos waited for a left-wing cross in the middle of the penalty area, but the ball kicked up at the last minute and goalkeeper Brad Guzan gathered it in.
The visitors finally got an attempt on goal in the 38th minute as Brian Oviedo fired a shot from the left side that Guzan had no problem catching.
The Ticos were fortunate not to have been called for a penalty kick in the 42nd minute. Navas came off his line and slipped in the snow. Dempsey was taken down by central defender Roy Miller in the area, but no foul was called.
Miller, however, was awarded his second yellow card of the hexagonal for fouling a U.S. player in the 49th minute, meaning he will miss the Jamaica encounter.
The Central Americans pushed for the equalizer early in the second half. Bryan Ruiz's free kick was deflected wide by the defense. Costa Rica had two consecutive corner kicks, the second one that Guzan allowed to sail through the box, but the visitors could not convert.
Second-half substitute Joel Campbell thought he had equalized on a header in the 70th minute, but his goal was called offside by an assistant referee.