Bruce Arena (pictured) has led the USA to two FIFA World Cup appearances and three CONCACAF Gold Cup titles. (Photo: AFP Services)
HARRISON, New Jersey – United States coach Bruce Arena left no doubt as to the importance of Friday’s World Cup qualifier against visiting Costa Rica (3W-2D-1L, 11 points) at Red Bull Arena.
Arena said the game was “critical if we have any hopes of qualifying in this World Cup."
After opening the CONCACAF Hexagonal with losses to Mexico (1-2, home) and Costa Rica (0-4, away), the Americans (2-2-2, 8) have climbed into third place, going unbeaten in four consecutive games since Arena replaced Jurgen Klinsmann last November.
"Losing the opening game to Mexico, that put the team behind the eight ball," remarked Arena. "Every game's been do or die for us. I'm not sure there has been a whole lot of comfort. Every game we have played in the competition has been a must game."
In the sides’ last meeting, the U.S. earned a 2-0 win over the Ticos in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals last month, with Jozy Altidore (72’) and Clint Dempsey (82’) finding the back of the net.
"We gained ground since then, but there's still four games left and they're very important," Arena commented on his team’s standing in relation to its last two results against Costa Rica.
Although Costa Rica (1985) is one of three teams to win at the U.S. in a qualifier over the last 32 years (Honduras, 2001 and Mexico, 2016 are the others), the possibility of losing never enters Arena’s mind.
"We don't worry about that," the 65-year-old concluded. "We know we have to win. We know all hell breaks loose when we lose a game."