Costa Rica shocked the United States with a 2-0 victory in a World Cup qualifying game Friday night on the strength of two goals from Marco Ureña in front of a sold-out crowd of 26,500 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey.
Ureña put Costa Rica on top in the 30th minute by converting a through ball down the right side from Bryan Ruiz. Ureña beat two defenders and took on charging U.S. goalie Tim Howard with a right-footed shot to the far side of the goal for a 1-0 lead.
The goal came about seven minutes after Jozy Altidore appeared to be pulled down in the box by Kendall Waston.
The U.S. had other chances but Costa Rica goalie Keylor Navas repeatedly rose the challenge. U.S. defender Tim Ream hit a bouncing header that went just over the crossbar to start the second half.
Christian Pulisic, the youngest player on the U.S. roster, missed a golden opportunity in the 67th minute after Clint Dempsey entered the game. Dempsey took a free kick from the right and put it into the wall, with the ball finding Pulisic on the left, who put a ball through a defender’s legs for a deflection on goal, but Costa Rica goalie Navas made a sensational one-handed reach while hitting the ground to keep the U.S. scoreless.
After picking up his yellow card, Altidore earned a double chance from point blank range on Navas, but came up short. Costa Rica countered with Ureña burying the ball on a direct attack with another right-footer past Howard’s right hand.
Costa Rica picked up another three points in the standings to remain in second place, now six points ahead of the U.S., which sits in third place, one point ahead of Panama.
The top three teams in the Hex standings automatically qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia while the fourth-place team advances to an inter-confederation play-in tournament.
The U.S. travels to Honduras for a 5:30 p.m. ET game on Tuesday before hosting Panama Oct. 6 in Orlando. It completes the CONCACAF qualifying Oct. 10 in Trinidad and Tobago. Altidore picked up a yellow card in the 80th minutes, his second of the tournament, and will miss Tuesday’s game in Honduras as a result.
Costa Rica now leads the all-time series between the teams 16-15-6, and the U.S. has lost to Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier on home soil for the first time since May 31, 1985, in Torrance, California, ending an eight-match unbeaten streak.
The loss also ended manager Bruce Arena’s remarkable 14-game unbeaten streak (9-0-5) to begin his second tenure as the coach of the men’s team. It also marked the first time Costa Rica has shut out the U.S. in World Cup qualifying since a 0-0 draw in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 11, 2000.