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September 6, 2013
Ugly loss for US at Estadio Nacional

By Michael Lewis Editor

Clint Dempsey's penalty kick was small consolation for the US against Costa Rica on Friday.
Clint Dempsey's penalty kick was small consolation for the US against Costa Rica on Friday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Estadio Saprissa. Estadio Nacional.

It doesn't matter where Costa Rica plays the United States in their country. The Ticos always have their foe’s number.

That number is usually three, as in the number of points the Costa Ricans accrue when they host the Americans in a World Cup qualifier.

The result certainly was no different on Friday night. Costa Rica sprinted out to an early two-goal advantage in front of a loud, enthusiastic and boisterous crowd and recorded a 3-1 victory over the United States before a capacity crowd of 35,000 at Estadio Nacional.

Johnny Acosta and Celso Borges scored first-half goals, and Joel Campbell sealed it with an insurance tally for the Ticos (4-2-1, 13points), who moved past the Americans (4-2-1, 13) and into the Hexagonal lead.

Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick late in the first half for the Americans, who had their 12-game winning streak snapped.

The loss might have ramifications for the USA against Mexico on Tuesday as the Americans lost three players for that match because they had accrued their second yellow card of the hexagonal -- Jozy Altidore, Geoff Cameron and Matt Besler.

Even before the first ball was kicked, the USA suffered a major loss when central midfielder Michael Bradley suffered a sprained left ankle in pre-game warmups that left him on the sidelines in crutches with a big ice bag over his ailing appendage. Geoff Cameron replaced the standout midfielder in the Starting XI, and Bradley's absence certainly hurt the U.S.'s composure and defensive structure in the early going.

In fact, the game got off to a rousing start for the hosts, who struck with the game only 119 seconds old.

About 30 seconds prior, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard swatted away Bryan Ruiz's shot for a corner kick. On the ensuing set piece, Campbell sent an inswinging service into the area that Acosta headed past Howard into the left corner for a 1-0 lead. Acosta beat his man, Dempsey, as the ball deflected off of left back DaMarcus Beasley.

Dempsey attempted the Americans' first shot in the ninth minute, a 19-yard bicycle kick that was easily saved by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Some 30 seconds later, Costa Rica wound up celebrating its second goal off a counterattack as Cristian Bolanos fed Borges, who headed the ball home for a 2-0 advantage.

There was little doubt as to which team controlled much of the the first half. The Costa Ricans constantly won first and second balls while the Americans had trouble clearing their half of the field and get a decent attack going. The Ticos outshot the visitors 10-4 in the opening 45 minutes.

The U.S. tried to halve the lead in the 29th minute, but Navas slammed away Fabian Johnson's 14-yard blast.

Six minutes later, Howard denied Campbell after the talented young striker got behind the U.S. defense to fire a point-blank shot.

Navas, however, wasn't perfect. In the 41st minute, he took down Johnson in the penalty area as the American was chasing down Graham Zusi’s long free kick into the area, and referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez (Mexico) pointed to the penalty spot.

Dempsey, who was playing in his 100th international, took the penalty and fired a shot into the middle of the goal that Navas got a hand on, but could not save, as the U.S. sliced the lead to 2-1 in the 43rd minute.

It was Dempsey's eighth qualifying goal during this cycle, and 13th overall.

Dempsey came close to connecting for a second goal in the 56th minute, ripping a shot off the left post.

As it turned out, the U.S. suffered three more losses in the second half. In the 62nd minute, Cameron was assessed a yellow card for fouling a Costa Rican player. It was his second of the hexagonal, which means he will miss Tuesday’s qualifier against Mexico in Columbus. Matt Besler also was slapped with his second yellow card of the round late in the match, forcing him out of Tuesday’s encounter. As the clock wound down, 71st-minute substitute Jozy Altidore also saw yellow, leaving him suspended as well against Mexico.

Altidore, who replaced Johnson, was one of a pair of offensive substitutions made by U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann. In the 58th minute, he brought on speedster Eddie Johnson for Zusi.

The equalizer never came as the Ticos tallied an insurance goal in the 75th minute. Second-half sub Jose Miguel Cubero sent Campbell a through ball and the striker was off to the races, running past a pair of U.S. defenders before depositing the ball in the back of the net for a 3-1 advantage.

The US will host Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday, while Costa Rica travel to Honduras for Game Day seven of the hexagonal.

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