It’s no secret the “snow game” riled the Costa Rican soccer community. From the fans to the federation, the resentment was tangible. And the Ticos ultimately relished their revenge, dropping the USA with a 3-1 World Cup qualifying result in San Jose last week.
But in coach Jorge Luis Pinto’s opinion, was the U.S. national team’s March triumph what ultimately fueled Costa Rica’s rematch victory?
“Were we still hurt? Yes and no,” Pinto told Goal in translated Spanish. “What happened in Denver was something more out of soccer. We faced the match doing what we had to do. We played well with the ball. We surprised them with a different attacking circuit, we went out to attack them. They were expecting a game full of long balls and we played them differently.”
Another key factor in that match was the late scratch of U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley with an ankle injury. A calming influence in the center of the park, Bradey offers cohesiveness to the American attack that Geoff Cameron and Jermaine Jones simply weren’t able to replicate in his absence.
“I love the way Michael Bradley plays the game,” Pinto said. “He is a player that fulfills a lot of my ideas for a central midfielder, is someone with a lot of physical strength and quality touch on the ball. We are developing that kind of player in Costa Rica."
As the Ticos qualified for the World Cup with the win over the USA on Friday and a draw at Jamaica on Tuesday, they were without a key player of their own: veteran defender Roy Miller, who is dealing with an Achilles injury.
Although the 28-year-old has been maligned for past blunders in MLS, Pinto has retained confidence in Miller while pointing out stark differences between the New York Red Bulls’ defensive philosophies and those of Costa Rica.
“I can't evaluate Roy just for what he does in New York,” Pinto said. “It’s not our fault that they don't have a real concept of a lineal defense. I don't think they work specific concepts for a real back line. … We work a full concept of defensive lines and Roy learned those concepts and used them well.”
After barely missing out on the 2010 World Cup, Costa Rica will play on the world’s biggest stage for the fourth time next summer in Brazil. Only once have the Ticos advanced past the group stage — in 1990, their first appearance.
Pinto, whose team is working on "speed and pass accuracy following the Dortmund style," already has his mind set on at least equaling that feat.
“We have to wait and see the groups and how that plays out,” Pinto said. “But I feel that we have the responsibility to pass the first round.”
Goal's John Rojas interviwed coach Pinto for this article. You can read a full article in Spanish, here.