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Costa Rica coach at USA CUP has personal stake in CONCACAF Gold Cup happening now

07/15/2017, 7:00pm CDT
By Patrick Malin, Media Intern

Schwan’s USA CUP is not the only elite soccer tournament taking place this weekend. The CONCACAF Gold Cup pits the top North American, Central American, and Caribbean countries against each other for regional glory. One USA CUP coach has experienced the tournament first-hand, representing his country on one of soccer’s largest stages.

Austin Berry, now head coach of the U14 Lincoln School team, was selected to the Costa Rican national team in four Gold Cups, including Costa Rica’s lone trip to the Gold Cup final in 2002. Photo by Patrick Malin.

Austin Berry, head coach of the U14 Lincoln School boys’ team from Costa Rica, had a noteworthy professional playing career before transitioning into a managerial role. Berry spent the majority of his professional playing days with Liga Deportiva Alajuelense of Liga FPD, the top division of professional soccer in Costa Rica.

More importantly, Berry is a Costa Rican international with an impressive list of soccer international caps, including four trips to the Gold Cup. Berry played in 65 matches in the midfield for Costa Rica, scoring six goals and appearing in many iconic matches for his country. The San José native still views his experiences in the Gold Cup as among the highlights of his successful career on the pitch.

“It was a really good experience, a beautiful experience,” Berry said. “Being able to play against teams at that level, and being able to play against some of the players who are competing in a tournament at that level was amazing.”

When asked his most memorable time playing at a Gold Cup, Berry did not hesitate, recounting his role in Costa Rica’s most successful Gold Cup appearance to date.

“In 2002, we made it to the final of the Gold Cup and we played against the United States and it was the first time that we had ever made it to the final of a Gold Cup competition,” Berry said. “It’s too bad we didn’t win, but it was a really great experience making it that far and representing the country of Costa Rica.”

The victorious American squad was loaded with talent, including legendary striker, Landon Donavon, goalie Kasey Keller, and stonewall defender, Carlos Bocanegra. The 2002 Costa Rican team has been the lone Costa Rican team to reach the final of a Gold Cup, but this year, the fans have reason to be optimistic about a triumphant return to the title match.

Last night, Costa Rica secured its place in the Gold Cup quarterfinals with a 3-0 victory over French Guiana, giving the team seven points in three games to place first in Group A. Costa Rica will take on the runner up from Group B (USA, Panama, or Martinique) on Wednesday, July 19.

Austin Berry, now head coach of the U14 Lincoln School team, was selected to the Costa Rican national team in four Gold Cups, including Costa Rica’s lone trip to the Gold Cup final in 2002. Photo by Patrick Malin.

This year’s Costa Rican squad includes two players from Minnesota’s top professional team, Minnesota United FC. MNUFC captain Fransisco Calvo anchors a strong back four for Costa Rica at fullback, while Johan Venegas provides a talented option up front for the team. With perennial powerhouses Mexico and the USA looking mortal throughout the group stage, Costa Rica appears to be a strong contender to hoist the Gold Cup trophy as inter-continental champions.

“I’ve been following and listening on the radio. Last night we were listening to the game on the radio,” Berry said. “It is a great opportunity for a lot of the younger players who often times don’t get the opportunity to play in the World Cup qualifying matches. It’s a chance for them to show the coach what they can offer the team. It’s the opportunity for new generations to emerge and compete at such a high level.”

Although Berry is making his USA CUP debut this summer, his team has already proved itself as one of the top clubs to watch at the tournament. Berry’s Lincoln School squad has yet to allow a goal in the weekend tournament, handily defeating three consecutive opponents to earn a place in Sunday’s semi-final game.

“It’s been a great experience,” Berry said. “Starting with the kids, being able to see them compete in such a great tournament, and also as a coach, being able to coach a team in such a well-established tournament is really good.”

The Lincoln School, located in the Heredia province of Costa Rica, brought three boys’ teams to this year’s USA CUP and is an annual guest at the NSC facilities. Berry’s team will be a consistent fixture throughout the USA CUP, competing in both the weekend and weeklong tournament.

“I am hoping that the tournament next week goes really, really well for the Lincoln School,” Berry concluded.

Tag(s): July 15, 2017