In a raging blizzard, the United States nudged in an early goal, then held off Costa Rica for a much-needed victory. The winner and goal-scorer will be the last thing anyone remembers about Friday night's snowy encounter in Denver, but the 1-0 win that the U.S. picked up is a massive boost heading to Mexico on Tuesday.
The conditions certainly played a part in the United States' first and only goal, though Costa Rica might have had similar bad luck in perfect conditions. Clint Dempsey, who was named captain for this match with the permanent captain, Carlos Bocanegra, missing out on the squad. Jozy Altidore's shot, which deflected off Roy Miller, set up the chance. After hitting the Costa Rican defender, the ball dribbled toward the back post, where Dempsey had made an anticipatory run, and he finished comfortably.
It appeared that Dempsey had drawn a penalty just before the halftime whistle, but nothing was given. Miller was the culprit for Costa Rica again, diving in on Dempsey and making contact, but the referee didn't see a foul.
Somewhat surprisingly, the second half started on time. The referee probably could have given the grounds crew a bit more time to clear the pitch, but decided that was unnecessary. He reconsidered that decision 10 minutes later, calling a stop to the match. It appeared that he was considering abandoning the match, but decided to let the teams play on after hearing pleas from both sets of players to continue the match.
While Costa Rica struggled to get the ball into the United States half during the first 45 minutes, they were the more active of the two sides following the temporary stoppage. They created a couple of extremely nervy moments for Brad Guzan and even put the ball in the net on one occasion, but had their 70th minute goal disallowed for offside.
In the dying minutes, the United States got extremely sloppy, giving away a number of fouls around their own penalty area. It seemed as if set pieces would present the best opportunities for the Ticos to score in the snowy conditions, but the weather seemed to prevent them from creating any danger. On a few occasions, Costa Rica failed to get their set pieces off the ground.
They never truly looked like scoring in the second half, but the USMNT did enough to prevent Costa Rica from getting a goal and held on for a victory The match looked nothing like soccer and wasn't indicative of either team's quality, but it will count the same in the World Cup qualification standings as all of the others.
In the history of U.S. Soccer, this game will live on forever, but in the context of World Cup qualification, its biggest significance is three points gained for the United States.