Costa Rica handed the United States men’s national team a major blow to its World Cup hopes, coming out of Red Bull Arena with a 2-0 victory. The Americans will look to recover on Tuesday in Honduras.
September 01, 2017
HARRISON, New Jersey—Well that certainly didn’t go as planned.
Costa Rica got a goal in each half from Marco Urena, and Bruce Arena suffered his first defeat since taking over as coach of the American squad. While the U.S.’s World Cup dreams are far from shattered, the Yanks need a win in Honduras on Tuesday.
The match started out OK. Two helicopters flew over the stadium before kickoff. The crowd was suprisingly excited by this development.
In the 10th minute, the U.S. had a free kick from 40 yards away. Graham Zusi, starting at right back, lofted a curling ball into the box that was cleared with relative ease. A few seconds later, referee John Pitti handed his foam spray bottle to the fourth official. Then he missed an obvious corner kick, ruling it was a goal kick for Costa Rica. Things weren’t going all that well for the home side.
Moments later, Christian Pulisic picked up the ball in his own half, torched Bryan Ruiz—who had a case as CONCACAF’s best player not that long ago—with a couple shoulder feints, then drew a foul from David Guzman, who saw a yellow card for his effort.
There was booing every time Tim Howard touched the ball, although it was unclear whether the noise emanated from American fans angry that the U.S. was passing the ball back to the netminder, Costan Rican supporters trying to jeer him, or a mix who were hoping more helicopters would arrive.
Bryan Oviedo, who was becoming a problem on the left wing, got open in the 23rd minute but ripped a difficult half volley well over the net.
Jozy Altiore had a penalty appeal in the 24th. Pulisic crossed a ball in on the ground and the American forward looked to get tripped by Kendall Watson. Foamless Pitti did not agree. And his decision is the one that mattered.
The visitors would go up 1-0 in the 30th minute. Marco Urena scored, dribbling past Ream and then beating Howard to the far post.
Pulisic had two half-chances soon after the goal as the Americans tried to increase the pressure. A defender blocked the first; Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas corralled the second.
In the 42nd minute, Arena pointed to Clint Dempsey and said, “You gotta be ready.” Dempsey stood up to do just that.
And then, halftime.
The second half started better. Within seconds, Zusi drew a foul just outside the 18-yard box off the opening kickoff. Geoff Cameron flicked on the ensuing free kick but it was deflected out for a corner. Ream reached Zusi’s outswinger but only managed to head it down, into the ground, and over the bar.
The Americans weren’t playing bad soccer. They looked like they had ideas in possession. But the time to play pretty soccer and lose was dwindling.
Around the one-hour mark, the Ticos’ formation started to show signs of losing its shape. There were gaps. The question was whether the red, white, and blue could exploit the holes.
In the 63rd, Arena was ready to make a change. An assitatn coach pointed to Dempsey and sold out Red Bull Arena went nuts as the Seattle Sounders forward took off his warmup gear and put on the number 8 jersey. Dempsey came on for left back Jorge Villafana to defeaning roars. He sprinted to the front line. He would not be playing left back.
After Pulisic earned a free kick, Dempsey stood over the ball in the 67th minute. Chants of U-S-A filled the venue. He slammed his effort off the wall and it went to Michael Bradley, who passed to Pulisic. His left-footed shot took a deflection, then bounced up. It looked destined for the back of the net until Navas, going the wrong way, stuck his hand up and palmed the ball away. It was really quite a remarkable save.
The Americans had more possession over the next 10 minutes but failed to create any chances. Altidore saw yellow. He will miss Tuesday’s match in Honduras. The Toronto FC foward nearly made amends moments later, holding off two defenders to get a weak shot off that Navas saved.
And then, disaster for the Stars and Stripes. A Cameron turnover saw Urena in alone. He beat Howard to the goalkeeper’s right.
In the 83th minute, Arena brought Jordan Morris into the action in an attempt to salvage something. Zusi spinted off the field. He could have kept going to San Pedro Sula where the U.S. will be desperate for all three points.