Costa Rica, Paraguay play to scoreless, physical draw

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

by DAVE MARTINEZ

The winner of Saturday’s Costa Rica, Paraguay match may have been the United States.

Both teams fought to a physical 0-0 draw at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, sharing a piece of the spoils. However, Costa Rican defender Kendall Waston was sent off in extra time for a foul from behind on Paraguay’s Nelson Valdez, putting Los Ticos at a key disadvantage for their coming encounter against the host U.S. Men’s National Team.

The match was marred by physicality, with a total of five yellow cards and Waston’s red.

Paraguay took a surprising offensive footing to start the match, pinning back Costa Rica in the opening stanza and creating several scoring chances along the way. A dangerous cross in the seventh minute forced Celso Borges to clear the ball for a corner kick, coming dangerously close to his own net. Seven minutes later, another dangerous Paraguayan cross, this time from Jorge Benitez, forced yet another dangerous clearance in the Costa Rica area. The ensuing Paolo da Silva corner just missed the bar for what would have been a memorable Olimpico.

Costa Rica gained composure as the second half dragged on, with their best chance of the night coming at the head of captain Bryan Ruiz.

The second half continued with the same chippy play that defined the first. This time, NYCFC fullback Ronald Matarrita laid into Derlis Gonzalez, earning a yellow card in the 49th minute. That was the third booking of the match following a first minute yellow on teammate Yeltsin Tejeda Valverde and Paraguay’s Jorge Benitez in the 13th minute.

Both Costa Rica and Paraguay created chances, but the Ticos nearly converted off a Cristian Bolanos shot that was pushed aside by Justo Villar in the 88th minute.

Kendall Waston, meanwhile, took out his frustrations on Nelson Valdez in extra time, leaving Costa Rica shorthanded and disappointed on the evening.

After one round, Colombia leads the group with three points, followed by Costa Rica and Paraguay with one. The United States picks up the rear with zero.

Paraguay moves on to face Colombia in their next group match while Costa Rica face familiar foe, the U.S. Men’s National Team.