It’s not every day that I admit I was wrong, but I’ll keep it 100. I was wrong about Marco Ureña.
This is my apology.
The 27-year-old striker with the hairline of a 48-year-old soccer dad scored a brace against the United States on Friday. Sitting center pitch on the second level of Red Bull Arena, I was there to witness his signature match. That’s what it took for me to appreciate what he can bring to La Sele.
When I first visited RBA to watch Costa Rica play this year — a 1-0 win over Honduras in the Gold Cup — I sat in the corner section of the stadium. In that first half, Ureña was attacking away from me, so it made it difficult to really appreciate his performance that night. That wasn’t the case on Friday.
I got to see it all this time.
Before I get all romantic, Ureña was a bit of a shit show the first 27 minutes. There were three or four opportunities where he was asked to hold the ball up, but was too inept to do so. It resulted in a loss of possession.
In the 29th minute, he was also unable to run onto a perfectly weighted through-ball played by Bryan Ruiz. I couldn’t help but let out a “fucking Ureña,” forcing the soccer dad sitting next to me to cover his son’s ears.
Ninety seconds later, he shut me up.
Fifty-some-odd minutes after that, he won me over.
Look, they weren’t the prettiest goals in the world. Being that it was Ureña, you couldn’t expect them to be. What they were, however, were the two most important goals of the qualifying campaign.
And important goals aren’t a foreign concept for Ureña.
Lest we forget the match-winner against Panama in the previous round of World Cup qualifying.
People actually thought Costa Rica wouldn’t survive that group. Jamaica and Panama were the favorites in some people’s ignorant eyes. Ten months later, La Sele are on the verge of qualifying for a second-consecutive World Cup.
Ureña was a big part of that.
Ultimately, this is where I was wrong: I’m not smarter than Machillo (not that I ever thought I was).
Nobody in CONCACAF is.
I lambasted Ureña because he’s unable to hold the ball up and link with his midfielders, when that’s not what he was being asked to do. It wasn’t Joel Campbell, nor Rodney Wallace out there last night. It was Ruiz and Christian Bolaños — two midfielders who will tuck in and look to distribute the ball into space for Ureña to run onto.
That’s literally what both of Ureña’s goals looked like, with Ruiz providing the first assist.
Machillo had a plan, and Ureña was the perfect striker to execute it.
As much as I was wrong, this doesn’t change much for me. I still rate David Ramirez and Ariel Rodriguez higher. Both are more efficient in the attack when Machillo deploys true wingers. Rodriguez is more of a proven goalscorer and Ramirez’s spatial awareness is superior, but what Ureña earned last night was everyone’s respect.
There’s not a Tico in the world who will look at the lineup graphic before kickoff, see Ureña’s name and throw their hands up in disgust.
Nostalgia will take over, and we’ll all think back to the moment he made history for Costa Rica.