June 3, 2009
By Michael Lewis
U.S. routed by Costa Rica, 3-1
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- The U.S. National Team entered the Monster's Cave Wednesday night optimistic and confident that it could finally get a tie or even a win in that unforgiving stadium.
|Adding insult to injury, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley collected his second yellow card during Wednesday’s loss to Costa Rica, and will be ineligible to play against Honduras on Saturday.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Instead, the Americans quickly crashed back to reality, leaving with yet another nightmare result at their personal house of horrors, Saprissa Stadium.
Buoyed by a goal scored only 82 seconds into the match and another in the 13th minute, Costa Rica rolled to a relatively easy 3-1 World Cup qualifying victory.
It was the worst qualifying result for the Americans since their 3-0 defeat to Costa Rica here on Oct. 8, 2005. At least the visitors had an excuse in that game, leaving several key players at home because they already had clinched a berth for Germany 2006. Nothing has been decided for South Africa 2010 and the U.S. hardly looked like legitimate CONCACAF contenders.
The loss dropped the U.S. (2-1-1, seven points) into second place in the CONCACAF hexagonal behind the Ticos (3-1-1, 10). The Americans will face a must-win situation against Honduras in Chicago on Saturday.
Saprissa has been a horrendous place for the U.S., which has never won here (0-6-0).
The Americans were on the verge of getting shut out for the third consecutive time here, but Landon Donovan's penalty kick two minutes into stoppage time, after defender Oguchi Onyewu was fouled in the penalty area, ended a 295-minute scoreless streak dating back to Earnie Stewart's goal in a 2-1 loss on July 23, 2000.
It was way too little and way too late for the U.S.
It was one of those nights in which the Americans could do very little right as the Ticos struck first on a beautiful goal less than two minutes after kickoff.
Alvaro Saborio fired a left-footed shot from the top right of the penalty area into the upper right corner of the net. There was no way that goalkeeper Tim Howard could have gotten to the ball it was placed so deftly.
Costa Rica's second goal came off a give-and-go between Angel Esteban Sirias and Bryan Ruiz on the left side. The ball came to Celso Borges, who connected from the middle of the box in the 13th minute for a 2-0 lead.
After the U.S. finally placed a shot on goal in the 16th minute, the Ticos went on the attack again and almost made it 3-0 two minutes later. Howard knocked Saborio's point-blank header on the left side out of bounds for a corner kick.
The Americans were forced to press the rest of the match, leaving gaping holes in the back for Costa Rican counterattacks as central defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyweu cleaned up in front of the net.
Even though the U.S. tried to get on the board, they rushed their passes and never truly made many dangerous threats.
Bradley made one substitution at halftime, replacing Jose Torres at midfield with Sacha Kljestan.
The U.S. suffered a major blow for Saturday's game when midfielder Michael Bradley was awarded a yellow card. It was his second yellow of the qualifying competition, and left him ineligible to play against Honduras.
In a further attempt to inject some life into the attack, midfielder Pablo Mastroeni was pulled for Freddy Adu in the 63rd minute.
It didn't help. The Ticos found the back of the net again in the 70th minute. This time Pablo Herrera found himself with plenty of room as no one picked him up in the area and he fired a 10-yard shot past Howard for a commanding 3-0 advantage.
Notebook: Forward Brian Ching (Houston Dynamo) did not dress due to hamstring issues. . . . The U.S. left directly for Chicago on a charter immediately after the match.