SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Clint Dempsey earned his 100th cap for the U.S. National Team and scored the team's lone goal in Friday's 3-1 defeat at Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying.
The U.S. came to San Jose’s Estadio Nacional with confidence, riding a 12-match winning streak and with the addition of Landon Donovan to the lineup.
However, injuries to Jozy Altidore and Brad Evans meant a pair of changes to the starting lineup for Head Coach Jurgen Klinsmann, although Altidore was available on the bench. Then, just minutes before kickoff Michael Bradley injured his left ankle, forcing Geoff Cameron into an unexpected start in the middle of midfield.
“Michael might be our most important player,” Donovan said after the match on an interview aired on BeIN Sport. “I think as the game went on, Jermaine and Geoff Cameron did a better job, but it was a tough one for us. We have to regroup and move on.”
Bradley will remain with the team in preparation for Tuesday’s match against Mexico and will get an MRI on his ankle on Saturday.
Costa Rica jumped on the U.S. early, forcing Tim Howard into a save in the opening minutes, then converting on the ensuing corner kick. Before the Americans had a chance to respond, Los Ticos made it 2-0 on another header in the ninth minute.
In the second minute, Johnny Acosta get his head to a corner kick from Joel Campbell to stun the U.S. and give Costa Rica the 1-0 lead. The in the 10th minute, Bryan Ruiz made a run up the left side and crossed it into the box where Celso Borges headed it back inside the near post for the 2-0 lead.
In the 41st minute, Graham Zusi chipped Fabian Johnson into the box from distance and Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas met him at the edge, but brought him down for a penalty.
Dempsey blasted the shot forcing Navas to dive to his right. Navas got to the ball, but it was taken with enough force to still get past Navas and into the net for the goal to half the Costa Rican lead before halftime.
Johnson came on for the U.S. in the 58th minute as Klinsmann sought an equalizer, with Altidore joining him on the field in the 71st minute.
However, Costa Rica struck again with a quick counter-attack in the 75th minute. Jose Cubero drove a clearance from his own box and Campbell ran onto it, holding off Matt Besler before putting his shot past Howard for the 3-1 lead.
The loss continued Los Ticos' dominance over the U.S. in Costa Rica, extending their home unbeaten streak to nine World Cup qualifying matches.
It was the second loss of the Hexagonal Round of qualifying for the U.S., who dropped to 4-2-1 and second behind Costa Rica (4-1-2) in the standings. The U.S. squad will look to bounce back when it hosts Mexico at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.
“Qualifying is all about ups and downs,” Donovan said. “It’s never going to be easy. We have to beat Mexico now on Tuesday.”
Mexico will be a motivated squad after losing 2-1 at home to Honduras, falling to 1-1-5 and fourth place in the Hexagonal Round. In addition to the questions surrounding the availability of Bradley, Klinsmann will also face more lineup issues, as Altidore, Besler and Cameron all will be suspended after receiving yellow cards against Costa Rica.
USA – Clint Dempsey (PK) 43.
Costa Rica – Johnny Acosta (Joel Campbell) 2; Celso Borges (Bryan Ruiz) 9; Joel Campbell (Jose Cubero) 75.
USA – Geoff Cameron (caution) 62; Matt Besler (caution) 78; Jozy Altidore (caution) 92+.
Costa Rica – Michael Umana (caution) 32; Christian Bolanos (caution) 36; Keylor Navas (caution) 41.
USA – Tim Howard, Michael Orozco, Omar Gonzalez, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Jermaine Jones, Graham Zusi (Eddie Johnson 58), Landon Donovan, Fabian Johnson (Jozy Altidore 71), Clint Dempsey (Aron Johansson 90).
Costa Rica – Keylor Navas, Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Umana, Bryan Oviedo, Cristian Gamboa, Celso Borges, Christian Bolanos (Randall Brenes 86), Yeltsin Tejeda (Jose Cubero 73), Bryan Ruiz (Alvaro Saborio 80), Joel Campbell.