January 16, 2010
By Charles Cuttone
LIKE A HUGE WIN
Repost: U.S. emotional over a meaningless draw
This story originally was posted on Oct. 14, 2010 and was the winner of the NSCAA writing award in the deadline/game story category.
|“It felt like a huge win,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
WASHINGTON, D.C.---Call it heart, call it dedication, call it honoring a fallen teammate. Whatever it was, the United States had it Wednesday night in their amazing come-from-behind 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw with Costa Rica.
After going down 2-0 in the the first half, the United States pulled back a goal late in the game, and then tied the score in stoppage time, despite being a man down after an injury to Oguchi Onyewu.
It was an emotional end to an emotional week for the U.S. team, which qualified for the World Cup with a come from behind win over Honduras on Saturday, and who for the last two days have been dealing with the results of an auto accident that left teammate Charlie Davies severely injured in a one car crash that also left a young woman dead.
“I think we did a good job to use the Charlie situation to motivate us,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “We’re happy he is alive. That in and of itself gave us a lift. You kind of think Charlie would give anything at this moment to pull on a jersey and have our back so you almost kind of feel lucky and privileged so that was motivation for us.”
The United States needed all the motivation it could muster after falling behind on a pair of quick goals by Bryan Ruiz in the first half.
Ruiz got a ball from Michael Barrantes and beat Onyewu in the left side of the penalty area in the 21st minute. The Costa Rican forward cut in and beat Howard with a shot to the far side. The play started with a long ball from the back on a quick counterattack after one of the USA’s many failed chances.
Three minutes later, a pass from Walter Centeno found Ruiz on the right side. He fired a shot to the center of the net from the top of the penalty area to make it 2-0.
The United States had the better of the chances, but in the first half, and in the latter part of the game, but still found itself down by two goals in front of a very vocal home crowd.
“Soccer is like that sometimes,” said Landon Donovan, who set up the first goal. “It’s hard to think you wouldn’t score with that many chances on a night like tonight.”
Still, it took the U.S. 17 shots to get their two goals, while Costa Rica took only six. The difference, at least for most of the game, was that the U.S. shots were not on target. Costa Rica had five shots on goal, as did the Americans.
“There’s no excuses,” said Donovan “But sometimes technically we weren’t good enough. Sometimes maybe a bad bounce, sometimes maybe the field being a little wet changed a few things. I think we needed to do a better job just hitting the target. If we would have hit the target a few more times, we would have scored.”
The constant pressure by the U.S. finally paid off when a shot from about eight yards by Donovan was stopped by Keilor Navas, but the Ticos’ goalkeeper could not hold onto the ball, and Michael Bradley poked it into the net in the 72nd minute.
When Onyewu went out with an injury in the 83rd minute after the U.S. had used its three substitutions, the Americans’ hopes seemed slim, but the Costa Ricans sat back on their lead, and eventually a corner kick by Robbie Rogers was headed in by Bornstein to tie the game and set RFK stadium rattling.
“It felt like a huge win,” said Howard “Which it wasn’t. It was a come from behind draw. “
Donovan says the ability to come back under trying circumstances is a key trait of the team, which has now qualified for the World Cup a sixth straight time.
“Tonight kind of embodied what we are about,” he said. “You can’t always control how the game starts, how the game goes. We try to have a good way about putting teams under pressure early. We haven’t always converted our chances and we’ve been made to pay a few times. Nobody can fault our reaction and it says a lot about us, not only as a soccer team, but as people.”
Forward Jozy Altidore, who pestered the Costa Rican defense all game, and who was riding an emotional roller coaster because of his close friendship with Davies, echoed Donovan’s comments.
“I think this showed the character of the guys,” said Altidore.