Costa Rica snapped the USA’s team-record 12-match win streak by bursting out to a quick lead in the first nine minutes of play, and completed a shock 3-1 home victory in World Cup qualifying action on Friday night.
U.S. midfielder Clint Dempsey netted his 13th career goal in the qualifying rounds off a penalty in the 43rd minute, and also had a chance to tie the match in the 56th but his shot went just wide of the net.
Goals by Johnny Acosta in the third minute, and Celso Borges in the ninth, handed Costa Rica a 2-0 lead, but it was midfielder Joel Campbell’s strike in the 75th minute that all but sewed up the win. It was a bit of payback for Costa Rica after the U.S.'s victory in snow-covered Colorado back in March.
With three matches remaining, Costa Rica now stands in the first place with 14 points in the North, Central America and Caribbean standings, just one point ahead of the U.S. Right behind is Honduras in third, and Mexico is in fourth. The top three teams advance to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup, and the U.S. can assure their spot with a victory over reeling Mexico on Tuesday. Fourth place can still qualify, but needs to win a playoff in New Zealand to do so.
Campbell also earned an assist on Acosta’s goal. U.S. keeper Tim Howard saved a shot from Bryan Ruiz, but conceded a corner kick in the process. Campbell then lofted the ball to the center of the box and Acosta headed it home to the top right corner of the net.
Six minutes later, Christian Bolanos started a fast break and streaked down the sideline. He fired a corner over the U.S. backline and Borges went straight up for a header that slipped past Howard for the 2-0 lead.
Costa Rica keeper Keylos Navas was issued a yellow card for a foul on Dempsey in the penalty area, which earned the American his opportunity. Navas appeared to make the save, but Dempsey’s shot ricocheted off him and into the right side of the net.
Campbell later silenced any attempt of an equalizer from the Americans. Standing in his own area, Costa Rica’s Jose Cubero fired a through ball over midfield and Campbell chased it down for a left footed shot through Howard’s legs.
The U.S. couldn’t make more with their 66-34 possession advantage, while the Ticos fired off 12 shots, with five on goal.