Following two easy wins, the U.S. boss is expecting a much tougher test when his squad faces Costa Rica in Hartford on Tuesday night.The U.S. national team is off to a strong start in the Gold Cup, but then again, it would be shocking if that wasn't the case.
Following comfortable wins over Belize and Cuba to begin Group C play, the Yanks face Costa Rica in the final match of the group on Tuesday night. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann know that in essence, the tournament begins Tuesday.
"Players understand they need to step it up and that the whole tournament really starts for us with Costa Rica,” the coach said in a Q&A on U.S. Soccer's official website.
“Costa Rica is one of the top teams in the CONCACAF region and we'll get a real picture, a real benchmark of where we are at," he added. "We need to be focused and on our toes because we badly want to win this group and go to the quarterfinals as the No. 1 seed."
Like the U.S., Costa Rica has also won its first two group games and qualified for the quarterfinals. With a superior goal differential, the U.S. only needs a draw against the Ticos in Hartford to win the group and receive a more favorable quarterfinal matchup.
The match features two teams in red-hot form. The USA is on a seven-match winning streak, tying its longest ever. Costa Rica, meanwhile, is unbeaten in seven games, and hasn't conceded a goal in over 700 minutes.
"It’s one of the great battles of CONCACAF," Klinsmann said. "They’ve developed a very strong team over the last few years. Beating them is very difficult and we know that. For us, it’s a really good benchmark because we want to show them who is number one in CONCACAF after this tournament."
The game may carry some extra meaning for the Ticos, who will have their first chance at revenge following the infamous blizzard game in Denver back in March. Costa Rica will host the U.S. in September in the corresponding Hexagonal fixture.
"This is a team that we’re going to fight for World Cup qualifying points in September, and we want to send them a signal," Klinsmann said.
Following two games rotating his squad around, Klinsmann intends to face Costa Rica with his top-choice group.
"We are purely focused on this game," the German coach said. "We don’t want to interrupt the rhythm that we have going now. There is enough time between this game and the quarterfinal to get everybody back and regenerated to perfect fitness.
"We kind of saved a couple legs in the game against Cuba with some changes that we made there. We won’t save anybody for the game against Costa Rica.”