Sunil Gulati affirmed that the referee made the right decision by continuing the World Cup qualifier in Commerce City, Colo. despite heavy snowfall.Shortly before the game, the snow started. It blew into Dick's Sporting Goods Park sideways, increasing in momentum, until it covered the field by kickoff.
The United States held on through several inches of precipitation to beat Costa Rica 1-0 in World Cup qualifying. Playing the match was the correct call, according to USSF president Sunil Gulati.
"It's been a perfect week in Denver until it started snowing two hours before kickoff," Gulati said. He called it "not like any other game we've witnessed or certainly the U.S. team has played in since I've been involved."
A tenuous offside call and a deflection off Roy Miller for Clint Dempsey to tap in the winner undid the Ticos. Costa Rica coach Jorge Luis Pinto called the decision to play the match in heavy snowfall "an embarrassment." Gulati disagreed.
"We got a win, no injuries and so I think I'd say the answer is yes," Gulati said when asked if the game should have gone ahead. "We had 19,000 people – a sellout. They were on their feet the whole game."
The U.S. Soccer president pointed out that postponing the game would have required the teams to play – from the minute it was suspended – within 48 hours. Both have World Cup qualifiers in three days – the United States against Mexico in Azteca and Costa Rica versus Jamaica.
"That, frankly, would not have been to the advantage of either of the two teams, since they both play on Tuesday," Gulati said. "Obviously you worry about the safety of players and being able to see the ball. The referee and the match commissioner made the decision that the game could continue and I think it was the right decision."
Referee Joel Aguilar (El Salvador) and match commissioner Victor Daniel (Grenada) did halt the game temporarily in the 55th minute. However, after conferring with both sides, they decided to see the match out. The grounds crew used the break -- like it did any stoppage in play -- to shovel the sidelines and 18-yard boxes.
"I'm not sure what happened when there was a stoppage. In the end it's down to the referee and FIFA's match commissioner," Gulati said. "I don't think there was any question before the match if the match would be played."
The Columbia economics professor maintained that U.S. Soccer did not select Colorado as the host for the match because of the possibility of snow. Instead, Gulati mentioned the fanbase and the similarities in altitude between Denver and Mexico City, where the Americans will play next.
"We didn't think we'd have a perfect week and then it'd start snowing two hours before the game. I'm not that smart," Gulati said. "If the thought is that we want to play Costa Rica in a situation where it could snow, then there are some places that maybe could have been better."
With three points from two games, the United States is second in Hexagonal qualifying. All matches not involving the Americans have ended in draws, giving three teams two points each, including Mexico.
With that in mind, Gulati brushed aside recent criticism of Jurgen Klinsmann, suggesting the German will continue through the 2014 World Cup.
"Jurgen has our full faith and confidence," Gulati said.
Mike Slane contributed additional reporting
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