The US men’s national team have qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup following a 2-0 loss to Costa Rica in the final match of Concacaf qualifying Wednesday evening at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The Ticos, meanwhile, will head to Qatar to face Oceania's New Zealand in an inter-continental playoff in June for a berth in the World Cup. Knowing that path was a strong likelihood for Costa Rica, nine players (including several regular starters in danger of a suspension for yellow card accumulation) were rested.
A 5-1 thrashing of Panama Sunday in Orlando put the USMNT in pole position to exorcise the demons from Couva in 2017, needing any result but a defeat by six goals or more in San Jose to book their Qatar ticket.
After a promising start to the second half for the United States, which saw Keylor Navas make a diving stop to deny a Miles Robinson header, Costa Rica broke the scoreless stalemate in the 51st minute.
Juan Pablo Vargas latched onto a Brandon Aguilera corner kick and powered his header past Zack Steffen from just outside the six-yard box.
The Ticos doubled their lead eight minutes later with Anthony Contreras tapping in at the back post after Jewison Bennette's recycled ball off a set piece that Steffen struggled with. Those quick succession goals, perhaps, made some a bit more nervous than when the match started. But the final whistle brought about the desired outcome: a return to the World Cup after missing Russia 2018.
- 51’ – CRC – Juan Pablo Vargas
- 59’ – CRC – Anthony Contreras
- THE BIG PICTURE: Outside of a colossal collapse, the USMNT’s qualification for the World Cup was largely academic. But the squad talked about closing it out in style and making history with a first win in Costa Rica. So there’s disappointment there. But we're talking big picture here and it's all about playing in the World Cup – and the USMNT will do that in November.
- MOMENT OF THE MATCH: It was all about qualifying for the World Cup and that became official at the final whistle.
- MAN OF THE MATCH: In what could be his final home qualifying match, goalkeeper Keylor Navas was spectacular for the Ticos. The 35-year-old made a few diving saves when the match was scoreless and received a rousing ovation from the home fans after leaving the match with what appeared to be a minor knock in the second half.
- CRC: June 13 or June 14 vs. New Zealand | Inter-Confederation Playoff
- USA: 2022 FIFA World Cup