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04 September 2017, 11:30 | Lowell Little
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The U.S. suffered a shocking 2-0 home defeat to Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying on Friday, throwing a Russian Federation 2018 berth back into question and stopping the 2017 momentum achieved under coach Bruce Arena in its tracks.
Costa Rica has been historically bad on its travels, but was perhaps buoyed by the curious decision to stage the game in a location where crowd support would be evenly split.
There was frustration as well on those occasions when the USA managed to get into the attacking third. "If you don't do that, it's not likely that you can qualify for a World Cup".
How many points should the USA need to qualify automatically? "Us, Panama and Honduras play a few games, and one will go to the World Cup, one will go to the playoff, and one will be out". They also swarmed Pulisic any time he was near the ball, taking away the Americans' best player for extended stretches. The host Ticos have all but clinched a berth to Russian Federation, so there will be some questions about the roster that comes in for this game as well as how motivated Costa Rica will be.
The U.S. national soccer team boarded a charter flight Sunday, leaving behind a cool, pre-autumn rain and the jolt from an untimely home defeat for toasty conditions and mounting pressure in Honduras. "The more that he went down that side, I was anxious about him slotting the ball near post because Timmy [Ream] was on his back shoulder". But they'll be facing a highly motivated USA team in what is expected to be hot and rainy conditions.
Costa Rica picked up another three points in the standings to remain in second place, now six points ahead of the US, which sits in third place, one point ahead of Panama.
Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas returned to the Costa Rica line-up, along with Bryan Oviedo, Cristian Gamboa, Celso Borges and Cristian Bolanos, who did not start in Costa Rica's 2-0 loss to United States at the Gold Cup.
By then winning their last two games - vs. Panama in Orlando on October 6 and at T&T four days later - the Americans would claim third place. That's the scenario they face should Panama beat Trinidad and Tobago on Tuesday and then the U.S.in October.
I'm still scratching my head over Ureña's first-half goal on a trademark Tico counter that put Costa Rica ahead.
The United States has qualified for the last seven World Cups. With kickoff set for 3:30 p.m. local time, the weather forecast calls for 90 degrees and 80 percent humidity, making it feel like 106.
It was a night when Arena opted to pair Darlington Nagbe with Michael Bradley in the center of midfield, while Tim Ream partnered Geoff Cameron in the center of defense. Just after this play, Altidore was shown a yellow card. Costa Rica roughed up 18-year-old star Christian Pulisic for much of the night and stayed organized defensively, limiting the Borussia Dortmund midfielder's threats, even as he tried making a mark on the right wing and then centrally.
The African champion was humbled on Friday, with Cameroon losing 4-0 in Nigeria to see its World Cup hopes slipping away.
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