After a three week long January Camp, the United States men’s national team ended on a high note, defeating Costa Rica 1-0 in Carson, CA in front of a crowd of 9,172 fans.
The beginning of the month was off to a shaky start for the team, needing to call a last minute audible to change from holding the start of camp in Qatar to Bradenton, FL due to political tensions. The US spent two weeks in Florida, before switching their locale to California for their only friendly match of the unofficial window.
New York Red Bulls defender Aaron Long, called to his 17th appearance, captained the team for the third time since debuting for the USMNT 15 months ago.
The beginning of the match saw the US with heavy possession, but Costa Rica had the best chance of the first half. In the 23rd minute, Costa Rica had a free kick from about 40 yards out. The US experienced a lapse in communication as Long and Sebastian Lletget couldn’t figure out who to cover. Their man headed the ball three yards in front of Bill Hamid. However, the ensuing header, hit way too hard for being so close, slammed off the crossbar, keeping the game scoreless. Eleven minutes later, Long’s header glanced wide from a US corner kick.
The breakthrough for the US came in the 48th minute. Paul Arriola received the ball in the 18-yard box and used some fancy footwork to play Reggie Cannon in on goal. Cannon drew a foul, earning a penalty kick for the USMNT. Eighteen year old Ulysses Llanez stepped up to the spot and sent the keeper the wrong way to put the US up 1-0, where they wouldn’t look back.
Long played his part well and substituted off in the 63rd minute for Mark McKenzie. The US would hold the same lead through the end, to keep Long’s record as captain perfect at 3-0-0.
The US’ next friendly matches will take place in Europe, traveling to the Netherlands and Wales in March before the US finalize Concacaf Nations League in June with Honduras, then hopefully the final three days later. Long and his US teammates will now return to their clubs for the beginning of the MLS season. The Red Bulls finish their preseason with the Sun Cup in Arizona before hosting FC Cincinnati at Red Bull Arena on March 1st.
Photo by Bill Twomey Photography