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U.S. MEN'S NATIONAL TEAM

September 7, 2013
THEY STILL HAVE USA'S NUMBER
Early goals boost Costa Rica to 3-1 win over USA

By Michael Lewis
BigAppleSoccer.com Editor

US center back Omar Gonzalez tries to get a shot through the Costa Rica defense during Friday's 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss at Estadio Nacional.
US center back Omar Gonzalez tries to get a shot through the Costa Rica defense during Friday's 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss at Estadio Nacional.
photo by Tony Quinn
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 foes 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.

The Americans dropped to 0-8-1 here.

Johnny Acosta and Celso Borges scored first-half goals and Joel Campbell sealed it with an insurance tally for the Ticos (4-1-2, 14 points), who moved past the Americans (4-2-1, 13) and into the lead.

"We have been playing unbelievable the last four or five months," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We've dug out some results we shouldn't have. Tonight it maybe was a bridge too far and a half.”

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

"We have been playing unbelievable the last four or five months," goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We've dug out some results we shouldn't have. Tonight it maybe was a bridge too far and a half.”

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.

"It's never easy. It's always unpredictable and there's ups and downs," Donovan said. "And so we've been on a lot of ups and this is down. We're going to see how we recover. We’re going to see how we're made of. We're playing Mexico in a must win game for them and we've got to see how we respond."

Even before the first ball was kicked, the USA suffered a major loss during pre-game warm-ups when central midfielder Michael Bradley suffered a sprained left ankle that left him on the sidelines in crutches with a big ice bag over his ailing ankle. 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.

"It's not an excuse, but it hurts and this team has been, in a large part, been built around Michael," Donovan said. "You lose a leader, you lose a good player. You lose a lot of stability. But that doesn't account on how we started and how we played and we still had to do a better job."

Then Cameron (62nd minute), Besler (78th minute) and Altidore (three minutes into second-half stoppage time) were awarded yellow cards, which made life more difficult for the U.S.


Asked if he was disappointed with the late yellows, Donovan said that he ”didn;t see the Matt Besler one. so i can't comment on that. Sometimes you hope that the referee understands that the game is likely over at that time and you keep your card in your pocket and there’s no need to do that. It’s disappointing. But that stuff happens as you know. CONCACAF is like that. You've got to get on with it.

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

About 30 seconds prior, Howard swatted away Bryan Ruiz's shot for a corner kick. On the ensuing kick, an in-swinger from Joel Campbell was sent 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.

In the ninth minute, 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 in the ninth minute.

"We got hit so quickly," Howard said. "It was a bit of chaos out there."

Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas took down Johnson in the penalty area after Johnson fed his teammate with a quick, long free kick and referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez (Mexico) pointed to the penalty spot.

Dempsey, who was playing in his 100th international, took the penalty and he 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.

"We were a little bummed that halftime came because we were playing well as we got back into the game," Donovan said. "In the second half, we started very well. Clint's good chance hit the post. We had a chance to get back in the game and then we fall asleep a little. That’s’ the way qualifying is. You've got to make your chances and if you don't you’re going to get punished."

Dempsey came close on connecting for a second goal in the 56th minute as he ripped a shot off the left post.

The USA will host Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday while Costa Rica will travel to Jamaica for Game Day Seven of the hexagonal.
   
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