The U.S. men's national team stumbled at home on its continued quest to qualify for the 2018 World Cup with Costa Rica delivering the Americans a 2-0 setback at Red Bull Arena Friday night.
Marco Ureña's two goals were the difference, while Keylor Navas came up with two massive saves to keep the American attack at bay, denying Christian Pulisic and Jozy Altidore in the second half with the result still in the balance.
The Americans had turned around their qualifying campaign under manager Bruce Arena, who took over after the previous qualifier between the two nations–a 4-0 Costa Rica win that spelled the end for Jurgen Klinsmann. With four points in each of the last two windows, the U.S. climbed out of the cellar and into qualification position, but a setback at home against Los Ticos is detrimental, and places plenty of importance on Tuesday's match in San Pedro Sula vs. Honduras.
The crowd in the New York area was up for the match from the start, trotting out a New York-themed tifo prior to the first kick.
Costa Rica nearly threatened against the run of play in the seventh minute, with Tim Ream, getting the start at center back, committing a terrible turnover in the USA's half while under pressure from Ureña. The USA defense recovered, though, and Costa Rica didn't ultimately get a chance on frame.
Pulisic showed off his skills in the 13th minute, weaving through three Costa Rica defenders to carry possession out of the U.S. half, before ultimately drawing a foul and yellow card.
The USA's best early chance came on the counterattack in the 16th minute, with Fabian Johnson springing Pulisic, who carried down the field. The USA worked the ball to Bobby Wood, Darlington Nagbe and Altidore, whose lofted cross was controlled by Pulisic at the far post before he flubbed his close-range opportunity off the bounce.
The U.S. had another promising attack broken up in the 20th minute, when Nagbe and Altidore worked a slick combination, before Nagbe had it taken off his foot in the box at the last moment.
Pulisic had another chance go begging when he tried to hit a left-footed one-timer from the center of the box, but he got the connection wrong and booted it into the stands.
The Americans had penalty shouts denied a few moments later, after Kendall Waston appeared to yank Altidore down after a cross from Pulisic from the right.
Ureña gave Costa Rica the 1-0 lead in the 30th minute on the counter, splitting Ream and Geoff Cameron, twisting Ream around and the hitting a seemingly innocuous ball by Tim Howard to beat him at the far post for the opener.
Pulisic had a great look at a potential equalizer in the 38th minute after Altidore found him on the doorstep with a cutback pass from the right, but Waston stepped up to provide the block, preventing Pulisic from testing Navas.
The USA looked to equalize early in the second half and it nearly came through Ream, who bounced a header over the bar off of Graham Zusi's corner kick.
Dempsey came on for the USA in the 63rd minute and looked to make an immediate impact after Pulisic drew another foul. His free kick chance, which came from a similar site to that of his last goal vs. Costa Rica, deflected off the wall to Bradley, who laid it off for Pulisic. The Dortmund rising star had his deflected chance swatted away sensationally by Navas, though, keeping the Ticos out in front.
The U.S. had a pair of penalty shouts turned away late, with Altidore and Dempsey both denied by the referee on plays in which they felt they were dragged down in the box.
Making matters worse, Altidore picked up a yellow card following an altercation after a Pulisic foul, which rules him out for Tuesday's qualifier in Honduras via accumulation.
After Navas denied Altidore from close range on one end, Ureña iced the game on the other. Another defense breakdown allowed the San Jose Earthquakes forward to have a breakaway, and he beat Howard with ease for his second of the night.
A number of other U.S. players are on yellow-card caution watch on Tuesday, with another card resulting in a suspension for the next match. Michael Bradley, Cameron, Matt Besler, Alejandro Bedoya and Paul Arriola are all on notice.
Here are the rosters for both teams:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Eric Lichaj (Nottingham Forest), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (D.C. United), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund), Cristian Roldan (Seattle Sounders FC)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Chris Wondolowski (San Jose Earthquakes), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
GOALKEEPERS: Leonel Moreira (Herediano), Patrick Pemberton (Alajuelense), Keylor Navas (Real Madrid)
DEFENDERS: Johnny Acosta (Herediano), Francisco Calvo (Minnesota United FC), Cristian Gamboa (Celtic), Giancarlo Gonzalez (Bologna), Kenner Gutierrez (Alajuelense), Bryan Oviedo (Sunderland), Jose Salvatierra (Alajuelense), Michael Umaña (Pars Jonoubi), Kendall Waston (Vancouver Whitecaps FC)
MIDFIELDERS: Randall Azofeifa (Herediano), Cristian Bolaños (Vancouver Whitecaps FC), Celso Borges (Deportivo La Coruña), David Guzmán (Portland Timbers), Bryan Ruíz (Sporting Lisbon), Yeltsin Tejeda (Lausanne-Sport), Johan Venegas (Minnesota United FC), Rodney Wallace (New York City FC)
FORWARDS: Daniel Colindres (Saprissa), Josê Ortiz (Herediano), David Ramírez (Saprissa), Marco Ureña (San Jose Earthquakes)