The United States Men’s National Team was able to celebrate in Columbus, Ohio with a 2-1 victory against Costa Rica at Lower.com Field in FIFA World Cup qualifying on Wednesday night. The first ever USMNT match at the new home of the Columbus Crew started with a goal by Costa Rica just 60 seconds into the game that forced the United States to come from behind. Sergino Dest’s first half thunderbolt and a second half own goal helped the U.S. to its eighth all-time World Cup qualifying win in Columbus.
Head coach Gregg Berhalter’s lineup included nine changes from the last match against Panama. Former Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen got his first start in goal in World Cup qualifying and center back Chris Richards was selected for his first competitive USMNT start. Costa Rica’s lineup featured Paris Saint-Germain keeper Keylor Navas and longtime captain Bryan Ruiz. Crew winger Luis Diaz was absent from the squad for the second consecutive game.
The United States got off to the worst possible start imaginable, conceding an early goal just 60 seconds in. Steffen came off his line to clear with Ruiz keeping the ball inbounds with a nifty backheel pass. The cross from Ronald Matarrita floated to the back post to a wide open Keysher Fuller who opened the scoring. It was the first time in 23 years the USMNT conceded in the first minute of a game.
Costa Rica’s goal was questioned for a possible offside with Jonathan Moya standing in front of the U.S. defender during Fuller’s shot. The replay showed that Dest was standing out of bounds when the forward shot was taken and therefore kept everyone onside.
The Americans responded with a majority of the possession and execution on combination setups and it finally paid off in the 25th minute. The U.S. equalized and scored in the first half for the first time in eight games with a spectacular Dest goal. The Barcelona fullback received the ball just outside the penalty box and cut with his left foot to smash a shot in the top corner past Navas.
Costa Rica gained some offensive momentum in the last 10 minutes of the first half before the halftime whistle. Its best chance was a scramble in front of the net that was saved by a last-ditch Richards slide tackle. The Stars and Stripes went back to the Crew locker room level at one.
The second half started with a shocking substitute with Navas leaving with a right abductor injury. Costa Rica backup goalkeeper Leonel Moreira came on for Los Ticos in what we expected to be an entertaining second half. It was just that.
It didn’t take long for the first good chance, which came for Los Ticos after a bad pass in the back by Miles Robinson. A weak ball across to Richards was intercepted by Bryan Ruiz who had a clean breakaway. Ruiz’s lack of pace let him down with Robinson chasing him down easily to recover and prevent a second goal for Costa Rica.
The United States broke the deadlock in the 65th minute. Dest got the ball just outside the 18-yard box and saw attacker Tim Weah running towards the goal. Dest’s through ball was perfectly placed for Weah who shot on goal with a bounce off the post. The bounce came off the substitute Costa Rica keeper Moreira’s head and went into the net, officially ruled as an own goal.
With the three points all but sealed, former Black & Gold boss Gregg Berhalter brought on current Crew talisman Gyasi Zardes off the bench. Zardes played the final three minutes and stoppage time to close out the United States' third win of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
The USA closes out the October World Cup qualifying window with two home wins and one loss on the road in Panama. The six points earned is enough to put the Americans in the top three of the group heading into the two-game schedule in November. The USMNT players will return to their respective clubs and reconvene on Nov. 12 at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio for the home match against rivals Mexico.