It was about as bad as Jurgen Klinsmann could have hoped for, from before the start to the final whistle as Costa Rica thumped the United States 3-1 at Estadio Nacional.
Things started horribly for the USMNT, when they lost Michael Bradley pregame with an ankle sprain. It forced Geoff Cameron into action, and the absence of Bradley’s calm and precise passing was evident throughout.
The match started rough as well. In the third minute the ball slotted through and fell to Bryan Ruiz all alone in the box, and he wasn’t able to put it in the back of the net, forcing a save from Howard. The ensuing corner was beautifully headed in by Jhonny Acosta, taking a deflection off DaMarcus Beasley covering the near post and tucked into the back of the net for an early Costa Rican 1-0 lead.
Costa Rica continued to pinch and collapse their wingers forward into the box, and support them on the wings by launching their wing backs forward. This flooded the box, and in the 10th minute Celso Borges beat the United States defenders in the air to bury another header past a flat-footed Tim Howard to make it a shock 2-0 scoreline early.
The bombing wing backs targeted Michael Orozco on the US’s right flank. Orozco was a surprise start at right back by Jurgen Klinsmann over Michael Parkhurst or Geoff Cameron, and it didn’t appear clear why that decision was made.
The US barely had a sniff on goal in the first half, with their best chance coming off the foot of Fabian Johnson in the 27th minute. The first good buildup from the visitors produced a low cross into the box by Zusi. Johnson found it and unloaded a laser of a volley to the far post but a fabulous save by Keylor Navas turned it around wide.
Just as Costa Rica thought they were going into halftime with a solid lead, Navas took down Fabian Johnson in the box, who had been threaded through on goal. The ball skidded away, and what looked at first like a legitimate challenge was proved by replays to be all man and no ball. The referee awarded a penalty, and Dempsey converted for a massive goal on his 100th cap to make it 2-1.
The second half settled down heavily from the hectic first period, and it took 11 minutes for the first clear chance to rear its head. Clint Dempsey found himself with space out on the top of the box, neatly cut back and forth until he had an opening, and rifled a shot that clattered the left post.
The United States possession looked cleaner and tighter as the second half progressed. By the 70th minute, the chances had minimized but the United States were clearly in the ascendency. It wasn’t to be for the Stars and Stripes though, as a clear miraculously found Joel Campbell who outpaced the center backs caught up too high and he easily slides past Tim Howard for a 3-1 Costa Rican lead.
Matt Besler soon received a yellow card off the ball, and he – along with Geoff Cameron, booked earlier in the match – will miss the meeting with Mexico early next week. Jozy Altidore will also miss the match in Columbus, with an idiotic yet soft yellow for a shove in stoppage time.
The loss ends the national streak of 12 victories in a row for the United States, and means they drop to second place in the Hex standings, a point behind Costa Rica and two up on Honduras, who shocked Mexico at Azteca.
United States – Howard; Orozco, Gonzalez, Besler, Beasley; Cameron, Jones; Zusi (E. Johnson, 58′), Donovan, F. Johnson (Altidore, 71′); Dempsey (Johansson, 90′).
Costa Rica – Navas; G. Gonzalez, J. Acosta, Umana; Gamboa, Oviedo, Borges, Tejada (Cubero, 73′), Bolanos, Campbell, Ruiz.