ANDY SCHREUR - Saturday, September 7, 2013
The United States Team arrived in Costa Rica amid airport heckling, being egged on the bus and denied balls while in training. But the most inhospitable portion of the trip began when the whistle blew.
Costa Rica 3 - United States 1
The United States National Team's real nightmare began about twenty minutes prior to kick off when midfield anchor Michael Bradley turned his ankle on the soggy field at Costa Rica's new Estadio Nacional and could not play.
Costa Rica struck immediately in the second minute through a near post header by Johnny Acosta. Neither Tim Howard nor DaMarcus Beasley, responsible for the near post, were able to keep the ball out of the net.
Amid raucous scenes at the Estadio Nacional, the Ticos dominated possession and chances in the first 30 minutes. In the 10th minute, Costa Rica would get their second goal. Everton's Bryan Oviedo sent a beautiful ball into the box from the left flank and Celso Borges slipped between the US defense and headed in his 13th career international goal.
The US looked lost without Bradley and were unable to keep meaningful possession for over a half hour. The US did slowly start to regain possession and several Tim Howard saves kept them in the match. Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas came up big on a near point-blank Fabian Johnson shot from his left to deny the US their best goal scoring opportunity to that point.
In the 43rd minute, Graham Zusi sent a ball over the top of the Tico defense where Landon Donovan outran everyone and was brought down by Navas, who received a yellow card and earned a penalty kick. Clint Dempsey stepped up to take the penalty in his 100th cap and struck a hard ball to the center of goal, which Navas got a glove to but found its way into the side netting for a 2-1 score heading into halftime.
The US came out of halftime looking like a different team, although Jurgen Klinnsmann made no substitutions. Dempsey nearly added his second goal when his ball from 25 yards struck the post to Navas' right and went behind for a goal kick. Zusi exited the match in the 58th minute for Eddie Johnson as Klinsmann sensed the offensive buildup and added an attacker.
The US attack and possession strengthened after the hour mark but could not find the equalizer. Dempsey again had a good opportunity in the 70th minute when Donovan sent a floating cross into the box but the US Captain headed it straight at Navas for an easy save. Jozy Altidore entered the match in the 71st minute for Fabian Johnson and moved up top with Johnson. Altidore had been a question after suffering a hamstring injury last week at Sunderland and started off the match on the bench.
Joel Campbell then struck for the Ticos after looking dangerous all night. Matt Besler was caught ball watching after Altidore's shot was deflected just outside the Ticos' box. Substitute Jose Cubero simply cleared the ball up field and Arsenal's Campbell was able to outrun Besler and poke the ball past a sprawling Howard. Campbell nearly added his second just moments later when his left footed shot barely missed the far post.
The United States' last scoring chance came when Cameron won a free kick on the right side of midfield but Navas came out and punched the ball clear amid a violent collision with Eddie Johnson. Aron Johansson entered the match in the 90th minute for Clint Dempsey and made his World Cup Qualifying debut.
Altidore picked up a yellow card in stoppage time by foolishly laying a shoulder into a Costa Rican defender as Navas was stalling for time and he will miss Tuesday's match along with Besler and Cameron also through yellow card accumulation. Bradley remains a question mark based on his ankle injury prior to Friday night's match as well.
In the end, Costa Rica started and finished the match strongly and came away with three points and a perfect home record so far in qualifying. The Ticos also lead CONCACAF with 14 points, the US is second with 13, Honduras is third with 10 and Mexico with a surprising 8 after a 2-1 loss at home against Honduras.
The United States' 12 match win streak is over and a shorthanded Jurgen Klinsmann will face a frustrated and desperate Mexican National Team on Tuesday night in Columbus, Ohio. The US moves to 0-8-1 all time in Costa Rica.