COMMENTARY | Did you enjoy that one, US Soccer fans?
Friday night's snow-covered World Cup qualifier involving the United States and Costa Rica provided, if nothing else, plenty of intriguing images that lured some sports fans away from the NCAA tournament for at least a few minutes. Most importantly for the US Men's National Team, they exited Dick's Sporting Goods Park with all of the points, and Tuesday's showdown with Mexico at Estadio Azteca is no longer a must-win event for the Americans.
As any knowledgeable fan probably could have guessed even before the final whistle sounded, the visitors were unhappy at the conclusion of the match. MLSSoccer.com reported on Saturday morning that Costa Rica may even consider protesting that the match was allowed to happen. US supporters reacting via the comments section of the MLS website piece and also on websites such as Facebook and Twitter were quick to jump to the obvious "sour grapes" conclusion.
I, however, can't help but wonder if Costa Rica have a valid argument.
The MLS website story quoted Costa Rica head coach Jorge Luis Pinto as having stated the following on the matter: "When you can't see the lines on the field, the game should automatically be stopped." Technically, he is right. One MLS official I was in contact with on Friday told me that, had the match been a league contest rather than a World Cup qualifier, it probably wouldn't have ever been allowed to start in the first place. It was clear at match kickoff that there was no way those shoveling to clear the lines were going to be able to keep up, as the forecast called for several inches of snow to fall during the game alone.
It was right around the 25-minute mark when the lines on the pitch went from hard to see to invisible. One American was allowed to take a throw-in with a foot clearly in-play, presumably because the referee's assistant couldn't see the line. You could even assume that referee Joel Aguilar missed what was a clear penalty, Roy Miller clipping Clint Dempsey inside the box, because he couldn't adequately view the incident through the snow.
What's curious about the reactions of some within the Costa Rica camp after the fact is that all indications are that they could have had the match halted ten minutes after the halftime break, when Aguilar blew his whistle and stopped play so that the lines on the field could be cleared. A discussion including Aguilar and representatives from both teams ensued, and, after a two minute delay, the game resumed. If Costa Rica truly wanted play stopped for a longer amount of time at that point of the contest, they did an extremely poor job of making their case to Aguilar and to the match commissioner.
There's also the fact that the United States routinely have to play on less-than-stellar surfaces throughout World Cup qualifying. Arenas in countries such as Antigua & Barbuda and Jamaica are known for having bumpy pitches, fields that make turf (almost) seem like a desirable replacement. If the US can't protest those contests, shouldn't Costa Rica have to shut up and accept the loss?
Besides, there's no reason to believe postponing the match would have done either side any good. The snow wasn't stopping anytime soon, meaning that the earliest play could have resumed would have been Saturday. Both teams have another World Cup qualifier to deal with on Tuesday; Costa Rica at home against Jamaica, and the US at Mexico. Finishing the contest on Friday night was the best thing for both countries.
In the end, I don't expect much to come from the aftermath of the game other than some incredible pictures that shouldn't be missed. Football is a winter sport, after all. Games are played in the snow every European season. The time for Costa Rica to protest was Friday evening before 10:00 pm ET.
Next time, fellas, get in touch with Jim Cantore before kickoff.
Zac has been covering US Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, Major League Soccer, New York Red Bulls, and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.
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