From the minute the U.S. team landed in Costa Rica, their hosts tried to make life as difficult as possible for them. It was a desire for payback that has festered in the months since Costa Rica lost 1-0 in an unexpected Colorado snow storm the last time the two sides met in a World Cup qualifier. When the U.S. got off the plane on Tuesday night, they were greeted with chants of "USA no fair play" and their bus was promptly egged. A cow with an airhorn interrupted U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann's interviews on the training ground and when the match finally began, the Costa Rica team picked up where the fans and random mascots left off.
The match started about as poorly as it possibly could with the essential Michael Bradley having to be pulled from what should have been the strongest starting XI of the Klinsmann era after injuring himself during pre-match warm-ups. Once the game began, Los Ticos scored twice in the first nine minutes, stunning a United States team that has grown confident by winning the Gold Cup and a team record 12 straight matches.
As ugly of a start as it proved to be, it wasn't the end just yet. In their previous match, the U.S. came back from a terrible first half in a friendly against Bosnia-Herzegovina to overturn a 2-0 deficit and win 4-3 for their first comeback win ever on European soil. Clint Dempsey provided a further reason to believe when he marked his 100th national team cap by converting a penalty — albeit with a poor shot and great deflection off the keeper — shortly before halftime to make it 2-1.
Any attempts to build on that in the second half failed, though. Costa Rica's Joe Campbell added the exclamation point to their win by sprinting past U.S. defender Matt Besler and making it 3-1, which would be the final score.
So the U.S. team record win streak comes to an end at 12 matches and that's actually OK. They're now second in the group, one point behind Costa Rica, and a win in their next match can clinch a World Cup appearance if circumstances conspire the right way. They had never won in Costa Rica, so it was never going to be easy, and the closer they got to Spain's world record of 15 consecutive wins, the more the United States ran the risk of growing overconfident a year out from the World Cup (which is about 135 form cycles). The streak had to end sometime and it could be turned into a positive if it forces the team to sharpen their efforts ahead of Tuesday's far more important match against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio on Tuesday.
Bradley's rolled ankle, plus the suspensions for yellow card accumulation for Matt Besler, Geoff Cameron and Jozy Altidore are a concern, but will provide a good test of the improved depth that has won praise for this team.
Speaking of Mexico, they lost 2-1 to Honduras — just their second home loss in a World Cup qualifier ever. They still have not won at home in this round of the qualifying process and now sit fourth in the CONCACAF table, which puts them in line for the inter-confederation playoff against New Zealand. Losing after 12 straight wins is one thing, but it can always be worse.
- Sports & Recreation
- Costa Rica
- Jurgen Klinsmann