Entering the final group stage match of the Gold Cup, the United States and CONCACAF rivals Costa Rica were level on points. The Yanks had the better goal difference but the Ticos had not allowed a goal in some 406 minutes at the start of the day. The Americans were coming off seven straight wins, a match for their best ever record, and trying to set a new high.
For the second straight match, Jurgen Klinsmann handed Bolton Wanderers midfielder Stu Holden the start which, despite Stu's rough day out against Cuba, seemed like it would be a probable call. The changes for the Americans were once again plenty with DeMarcus Beasley reintroduced at left back and Sean Johnson handed his first appearance at goalkeeper. Klinsmann would also switch up Stu's central midfield partner, bringing Mix Diskerud in for Stu Holden to boost the attack.
The match started slow for the Americans once more as they could not do anything productive in terms of breaking through Costa Rica's back four. The US, with Landon Donovan and Jose Francisco Torres really pushing forward and with Stu Holden and Mix Diskerud supporting the attack and the two fullbacks, Beasley and Michael Parkhurst, bombing up the wings. With only a few half chances to note and neither goalkeeper really tested, the half ended scoreless.
Basically, this was the highlight of the first half:
via our good friends at Stars & Stripes FC
It didn't get much better for most of the second half for the Americans, that is until late on when a Jurgen Klinsmann substitution made all of the difference. Holden, still looking slightly off the pace (but getting back that sharpness more and more), did what Stu Holden does by playing solid passes in the midfield and not being afraid to go into a tackle. The Bolton midfielder took some hard hits from the Costa Ricans but got back up OK each time. He also dished out some tough tackles of his own, picking up a yellow card for a late sliding challenge in the process.
After a hard-fought second half with the Americans arguably on the front foot, manager Jurgen Klinsmann saw the need to make a change. On 77 minutes, the US boss made a double switch, bringing in Stoke City's Brek Shea and Xolos' Herculez Gomez for Chris Wondolowski and Jose Francisco Torres, respectively. It took just 5 minutes for the change to pay dividends.
In the 82nd minute, following a Sean Johnson save from Alvaro Saborio's close-range effort, the goalkeeper started the counterattack and the US men quickly pushed forward. Landon Donovan received the ball on the right wing and released an onrushing Brek Shea with his first touch. The play saw Shea take one touch into the box and fire (admittedly a bit too close) at the goalkeeper. A slight touch from Patrick Pemberton couldn't stop the winger's first international goal and the United States ended Costa Rica's shutout streak at 488 minutes.
The Americans would see out the final eight minutes and stoppage time to win their eighth straight match, an all-time high and apparently the current best among the current top 25 FIFA-ranked teams.
The Yanks finish top of Group C and will take on El Salvador on Sunday at 4PM EST in Baltimore at M&T Bank Field. Holden saw 90 minutes for the first time since his ill-fated return match against Aston Villa in the 2011/12 Carling Cup. It was his first 90 minutes in a USMNT shirt for the first time since a pre-World Cup friendly against the Czech Republic in May, 2010.