Those mistakes and this performance now clouds the qualification picture for the Yanks, who remain in third place by the narrowest of margins.
With a bit of a makeshift backline – the United States were without influential center back John Brooks as well as first-choice right back DeAndre Yedlin – coach Bruce Arena’s side at times looked confused defensively. Costa Rica’s first goal personified this issue, as a Bryan Ruiz through ball in the 30th minute perfectly dissected the center-back pairing of Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream.
Ureña took the pass and from an acute angle, tucked the ball inside the back post, exposing goalkeeper Tim Howard’s hesitation and positioning.
It was a goal very much against the run play, stunning the hosts.
“We turned the ball over in a bad part of the field,” Arena said of that moment.
“It was a bad mistake.”
The Ticos’ second goal came when Cameron’s struggles continued in the form of a pass out of the back that was intercepted and quickly converted into a game-clinching goal for the visitors. It was emblematic of a night where the United States may have controlled the game, but saw Costa Rica make the big plays.
“Back line made some mistakes, we didn’t come up with any big saves, attacking players weren’t dangerous on the night,” lamented Arena after his team’s first loss since he returned to the post late last year.
It was a night of missed opportunities for the USMNT. They had claims for a penalty call go unheeded in the 24th minute when Jozy Altidore was dragged down in the area, and captain Michael Bradley said that he thought Ruiz handled the ball before making that pass to spring Ureña for Costa Rica’s opener.
Yet the hosts managed just two shots on goal despite dictating much of the flow of the match, wastefulness that now leaves World Cup qualification far from a sure thing.
“We obviously didn’t play well tonight. On the night, we didn’t make any plays that mattered,” Arena said. “We probably outplayed them in most of the positions on the field, made some critical errors, didn’t capitalize, take advantage of opportunities. Didn’t have a good night.
“Give Costa Rica credit, they outplayed us and outcoached us.”
Los Ticos, too, could muster only two shots on goal – but both hit the back of the net, and combined with a typically organized defensive display, earned them only their second road qualifying victory over the US in 10 tries.
“I think we were sloppy on the ball. They were going to sit in and hit us on the counter. We just weren’t good when they sprung forward,” Howard said. “Ureña took his goals well. At this level, when strikers get in tight, sometimes you get punished.”