The US national team's road to the 2018 World Cup got a lot tougher on Friday night, as they fell 2-0 to Costa Rica in a shocking home loss in their CONCACAF Hexagonal World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
San Jose Earthquakes striker Marco Ureña was the hero for Los Ticos, scoring an impressive goal against the run of play in the first half before doubling his tally to ice the game in the final minutes.
The result pushes Costa Rica into a tie with Mexico atop the Hex standings, and cranks up the pressure on the Yanks, who now risk being overhauled by Panama, Honduras or both in the race for the region's third and final automatic World Cup berth. The US visit Honduras on Tuesday, while Costa Rica host Mexico.
Receiving an incisive pass from teammate Bryan Ruiz, Ureña opened the scoring when he dribbled at Yanks defender Tim Ream before slotting an angled short past goalkeeper Tim Howard at the half-hour mark.
The Quakes frontrunner completed a dream performance by beating Geoff Cameron, the other US center back, as the hosts chased the game down the stretch.
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- WHEN DISASTER STRIKES: The USMNT weren't awful in this match. Coach Bruce Arena fielded an aggressive side with two out-and-out strikers and only one defensive midfielder, and the Yanks duly won the possession battle, completed plenty of passes and carved out scoring chances. But Costa Rican goalkeeper Keylor Navas made a massive reaction save on Christian Pulisic to preserve the 1-0 lead, and their smart, timely pressing left the US defenders exposed and under pressure at a few critical moments. And Ureña was clinical in punishing them.
I'm sure this has been brought up by others, but...last time #usmnt lost 2 home qualies in 1 qualifying campaign was in 1957 (for 1958 WC).— Jeff Carlisle (@JeffreyCarlisle) September 2, 2017
- DEFENSIVE WOES: Ream and Cameron, and to a lesser extent Howard, looked most culpable on the goals. But it should be noted that this was just the second time they've started together this year, and the first time in a four-man defense (they were in the 3-4-3 system used at Mexico on June 11). Their chemistry was lacking and Los Ticos' canny game plan took advantage of the limited midfield cover provided to them.
- PIVOT TO HONDURAS: This loss leaves the USMNT in greater need of a positive result when they visit sultry San Pedro Sula, site of their worst result in the 2014 Hex, on Tuesday. A Honduras win would put the Yanks behind the 8-ball with only two more games to go in the round. The Hex's fourth-place finishers will face an Asian side in an intercontinental playoff that represents a very nervy road (more like a back door) to Russia.
Bruce's first Hex away game was at San Pedro Sula in 2001. #USMNT won 2-1. Thanks to some late magic from another Clint. Mathis.— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) September 2, 2017
- USA: Tuesday, Sept. 5 – at Honduras – (5:30 pm ET | beIN SPORTS, NBC Universo)
- CRC: Tuesday, Sept. 5 – vs. Mexico (10 pm ET)