The United States men’s national team lost its final World Cup qualifier on Wednesday but is headed to the 2022 World Cup with a third-place finish in CONCACAF’s Octagonal.
[ MORE: USMNT World Cup qualifying schedule ]
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas played a brilliant first half and Los Ticos scored twice off U.S. errors in the box to win 2-0 in San Jose on Wednesday.
Man City goalkeeper Zach Steffen won’t want to watch the highlights of a slow reaction to Juan Pablo Vargas’ 51st-minute header off a set piece and a misadventure that helped Anthony Contreras double the advantage.
Costa Rica vs USMNT final score, stats
Costa Rica 2, USMNT 0
Goals scorers: Vargas (51′), Contreras (59′)
Shots: Costa Rica 12, USMNT 15
Shots on target: Costa Rica 5, USMNT 6
Possession: Costa Rica 35, USMNT 65
Three things we learned from Costa Rica vs USMNT
1. Berhalter, USMNT finish Octagonal with mission accomplished: The journey from Couva to Qatar has not been an easy one and almost every single one of the World Cup qualifying windows has seen the USMNT throw at least one stinker out there. There was the 0-0 at El Salvador, an insipid 1-0 loss at Panama, and a humbling defeat to Canada in Hamilton.
But the Americans played some of their best football of the Gregg Berhalter era over the final 270 minutes of World Cup qualifying save for Zack Steffen in San Jose on Wednesday and a 10-minute, coach-designed tactical brake-pushing at the end of the scoreless draw with Mexico. Opposition chances were at a premium and the Yanks were superior away to Mexico and Costa Rica — just not at goalkeeper — was also smashing a desperate Panama at home.
Forget Mexico being down and the general malaise of every nation not named Canada for a minute, because there will be a lot of time to ask serious questions about how this backline can fare against a true Top-15 side or if Ricardo Pepi, Jordan Pefok, or another center forward can become the center forward needed to get out of a World Cup group. This was a very good window for a USMNT program that missed the 2018 World Cup.
2. Etch these names on the team sheet for Qatar: Berhalter has preached rotation for these three-match windows and he made some big changes against Panama, alterations that were nothing short of brilliant even if questioned by some misguided writers (First time for everything).
But while Weston McKennie, Sergino Dest, and Matt Turner weren’t available, look who started all three matches of this pivotal, World Cup-berth sealing international break: Tyler Adams, Christian Pulisic, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Walker Zimmerman, Yunus Musah, and Zack Steffen. And we can’t say for sure we wouldn’t have seen DeAndre Yedlin and Timothy Weah thrice had they not had yellow-card accumulation suspensions for Panama.
Pretty safe to see that barring injuries or a match-up issue here or there, you’re going to see Pulisic, Adams, McKennie, Antonee Robinson, and Musah in most of the Starting XIs for Qatar. Steffen, however, has opened the door.
3. Keylor Navas may get Costa Rica to Qatar: Make no mistake about it, Navas remains an absolute stud between the sticks for Costa Rica and — assuming his second-half injury isn’t a lot worse than it looked — is going to be a problem for the Kiwis. While this wasn’t Costa Rica at its best due to keeping players safe for the inter-confederation playoff, the USMNT was superior and could’ve been up 2-0 at the half. Keylor Navas was fantastic and had four first-half saves and will give Los Ticos faith that they can do what Honduras couldn’t in 2017 and get past New Zealand.
Man of the Match: Keylor Navas
USMNT Man of the Match: Miles Robinson