A pregame injury during warmups to Michael Bradley started the United States off on the wrong foot in Costa Rica Friday night.
The night would not get much better for the Americans.
Johnny Acosta Zamora fired the Ticos in front just three minutes into the game off a header and Celso Borges minutes later as Costa defeated the USA 3-1 in San Jose's Estadio Nacional.
After forcing a save from Tim Howard, the ensuing corner kick found Zamora on the near post, who struck a world class header into the top corner despite the post being marked. An unmarked Celso Borges then nodded home a cross from Christian Bolanos across the face of goal to double the lead in the ninth minute as the Ticos attack ran rampant through the US backline.
Jurgen Klinsmann had opted to start Michael Orozco Fiscal at right back in place of the injured Brad Evans, despite the availability of utility man Geoff Cameron and Gold Cup right back Michael Parkhurst. Even with Cameron pressed into a start due to the pregame injury to Bradley, the move proved disastrous for the US defense, as Costa Rica continually found space down the US flanks, torching Orozco and left back DaMarcus Beasley routinely in the opening stages.
While the US would settle down and start to maintain possession, they still lacked any sort of attacking threat until Fabian Johnson forced a tremendous reaction save from Ticos keeper Keylor Navas. In the late stages of the first half, Navas would be whistled for a penalty, colliding with Fabian Johnson after a well taken and placed free kick from Graham Zusi. Clint Dempsey stepped up and fired a hard shot down the middle that Navas, diving to his right, could only deflect into the side netting.
With that lifeline, the US pressed for an equalizer in the second half, but it would never come. Omar Gonzalez flashed a shot wide following a corner in the 51st and Dempsey found the post in the 56th, highlighting the USA's best chances to tie the game, despite the additions of Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson off the bench.
In the 75th minute, Costa Rica would put the game away on a brilliant counter attack. After blocking an Altidore shot, Jose Cubero crossed into space, and Joel Campbell beat Matt Belser in a foot race, firing home the clincher through Tim Howard's legs as he rushed out to cut down the angle.
The win places Costa Rica on top of CONCACAF's Hexagonal after seven matches with 14 points. The United States remained on 13 points, with a 4-1-2 record. The shocker of the round was Honduras' win at Estadio Azteca in Mexico, with New England Revolution striker Jerry Bengston netting the equalizer and Carlo Costly with the winner just minutes apart. Honduras jumped to third place on 10 points and Mexico in the playoff spot in fourth with 8 points. Panama and Jamaica played to a scoreless draw, Panama in fifth with 7 points and Jamaica in last with only 3 points.
The United States has very few positives to take away from this game. The injury to Bradley creates a huge void to fill in the midfield. Yellow cards to Cameron, Belser and Altidore mean they will all miss the next match against Mexico on Tuesday. Jurgen Klinsmann will have a lot of roster decisions to make and it will be likely that both John Anthony Brooks and Aron Johannsson could both get their first USMNT qualifying starts against Mexico in Columbus.
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