9513_isi_donovanlandon_usmntjt090413151 John Todd/isiphotos.com
Rising and falling

Hot or Not? The United States v. Costa Rica Edition

Landon Donovan is in top form for club and country, but Alvaro Saborio has been on a tear in Major League Soccer in recent weeks. Here's a look at a few players who could play key roles on Friday night.
BY Jon Arnold Posted
September 05, 2013
3:31 PM

Who's Hot?

Landon Donovan: The most feared player in CONCACAF is back. Michael Bradley might be the most important player, Clint Dempsey the one with the most European success, Jozy Altidore in the best international scoring form, but Donovan has been the face of the American boogeyman to the rest of the region for years. Now that he's back in the Hex, the press is firing up Donovan's hype machine again with the country's largest sports daily, Al Día, serving up this cover Tuesday.

His reputation aside, Donovan returns to the "A-team" playing well for both club and country, scoring in his previous two MLS matches. And you remember that Gold Cup, don't you? The rest of the region won't soon forget the tournament MVP-winning show he put on at his U.S. reunion tour. Don't expect any problems—except for the Ticos—if Jurgen Klinsmann slots him immediately into the starting XI.

Alvaro Saborio: It's stereotypical. The American writer picks the known quantity as the opposing player to watch. But Saborio's selection as a player in great form is because of just that—his form—not any sort of uninspired research. After a hat trick against the New York Red Bulls in a losing effort on July 27, Saborio scored in the next three matches he played. He was held scoreless by the LA Galaxy but got back on the board this weekend against the Portland Timbers. He almost had a second but was correctly whistled offside.

Not only does it give Sabo the best goals-per-90-minutes mark among MLS players who have played at least eight matches (Erick Torres has a better mark in 630 minutes), but it establishes him as the Tico attacker in the best form. By far. Unlike the March qualifier, when there were questions about how fit the Real Salt Lake man was, there's no doubt Saborio should be at his best Tuesday.

Who's Not?

Michael Parkhurst: At first Jurgen Klinsmann didn't want Parkhurst on this roster, calling in the right back only after Brad Evans had to pull out because of injury. The Gold Cup was the last significant action Parkhurst saw (he played 10 minutes against Bosnia and suited up for a club friendly just prior) and might be for some time if he doesn't get time in these qualifiers. A loan move away from Augsburg, where he's getting no playing time, to a 2.Bundesliga club fell through on deadline day and he nixed a move to Brondby because of the Danish club's financial problems, according to Jeff Carlisle of ESPN. All of that's irrelevant if Klinsmann thinks Parkhurst trains well enough to win the starting spot, but with varied training locations and tough weather in San Jose it might be tough for Parkhurst to find his legs.

Bryan Oviedo, Junior Diaz, and Giancarlo Gonzalez: Costa Rica's strength in the Hex has been its defense. Oviedo hasn't been as involved in qualification as he struggles to get matches both on the club level with Everton and in Jorge Luis Pinto's national team. Diaz came back into the picture recently and played well in both Hex matches and the Gold Cup. However, like Oviedo, he's yet to make an appearance with his European club. At least Oviedo has seen the bench, but Diaz is yet to make the Mainz team four weeks into the season.

Not only has Gonzalez been a revelation in previous Hex matches, he's also at a smaller club, but since August 11 he has found himself as a reserve for Valerenga, only playing 22 minutes in the previous four matches. How well the back line, which will probably include two of this struggling trio depending on how Pinto chooses to approach the match, holds up will be a focal point Friday.

Who do you expect to perform well Friday night? Who will be exploited? Share your predictions below, would you?

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