COMMERCE CITY, Colorado (AP) — Clint Dempsey scored early in his first match as United States captain as the Americans beat Costa Rica 1-0 on Friday in a key qualifier for next year's World Cup played at times in heavy snow.
Plows and shovels were used to clear snow from the penalty areas, center circle and midfield stripe and a yellow-and-purple ball was used. There was even a brief stoppage in the 55th minute when it was unclear whether the match commissioner would let the contest continue.
The game resumed and as the snow increased, it made the field resemble a cake topped with piles of sugar, and players' hair turned white as snow stuck along their scalps.
During injury time, American defender Geoff Cameron even playfully pushed the back of a grounds crew member shoveling the field.
"It was difficult out here to see anything," Dempsey said. "We were able to come together when we needed to."
As the conditions deteriorated, the U.S. survived Michael Umana's apparent 70th-minute goal for Costa Rica goal that was ruled offside and came away with the win. Brad Guzan, in goal for the Tim Howard, slid in the snow after balls like a child in a park.
After wasting an early lead and losing their final-round opener last month at Honduras, the Americans were under pressure to come up with a win, especially with their next game Tuesday at regional power Mexico. Dempsey's 16th-minute goal lifted them from last place in the six-nation group to second, one point behind Honduras, which rallied from two goals down for a 2-2 draw at home against Mexico.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, criticized earlier in the week in a Sporting News story citing unidentified players and others close to the team, used his 24th lineup in 24 matches since replacing Bob Bradley after losing eight players to injuries and illness.
Dempsey, who didn't wear gloves in the first half, became captain when Carlos Bocanegra was dropped because of inaction with his club in Spain and Howard broke two bones in his back. Dempsey's only previous experience with the armband was three years ago, during the second half of a friendly against Colombia.
He scored after Jozy Altidore's 19-yard shot deflected off Roy Miller, the defender who has struggled this season with Major League Soccer's New York Red Bulls. The ball bounced toward Dempsey, whose right-footed shot from in front went in for his seventh goal in in qualifying for Brazil. Used to wet weather in England's Premier League, Dempsey got his 32nd goal in 92 appearances,
The U.S. appealed to referee Joel Aguilar of El Salvador for a penalty after Miller tripped Dempsey in the 42nd but was denied.