The USMNT were in pole position in the hex when they headed down to Costa Rica. But that was never going to be an easy game, and with key players unfit to start (ace midfielder Michael Bradley was a late scratch) the USA found themselves behind early and unable to recover, eventually suffering a 3-1 loss that sees the hosts leapfrog their guests to take the lead in the hex.
The United States were under siege from the off. The Ticos, hoping for revenge after the snowpocalypse in Colorado, swarmed over their guests immediately after kicking. Tim Howard was forced to claw away a mis-hit shot from Bryan Ruiz that looked destined to find the back of the net, but that was only putting off the inevitable -- Jhonny Acosta netted from the resultant corner, rising to smash header straight through DaMarcus Beasley at the near post.
That was 1-0. Costa Rica weren't satisfied with 1-0. Joel Campbell should have made it two from a Bryan Oviedo cross, and a left-sided overload resulted in the second in short order. Keylor Navas released the hosts after collecting a Clint Dempsey bicycle kick, and Christian Bolanos sent in a cross which Celso Borges nodded past a wrong-footed Howard to double the lead.
The rest of the half featured a slew of Ticos chances against a backdrop of terrified, lost-looking play from the USMNT. Bolanos wasted a chance to make it 3-0 when he was set free (he attempted a dive to make up for it, to no avail), while the USA had Howard to thank for stopping Campbell one on one.
But somehow, miraculously, the visitors only went into the break down by one. A hopeful punt forward escaped Fabian Johnson, but the Hoffenheim man ended up getting wiped out in the area by Keylor Navas after the ball had passed the pair by. The referee pointed to the spot; Dempsey rifled home.
The first half was dominated by Costa Rica, but their superiority was nowhere near as distinct after the interval. Dempsey had the next good chance after some excellent work from Landon Donovan -- after being fed in the centre the Seattle Sounders man weaved his way around a defender before sending a cannon of a shot off Navas' right-hand post.
The Ticoas still had more than their fair share of good moments, and one such attack forced Geoff Cameron to take a suspension when the defender-cum-midfielder took a yellow for bringing down Campbell on the run. In the 76th minute, the reason Cameron was willing to take a yellow to stop Campell became obvious -- the striker gave Costa Rica their two-goal lead back.
Jozy Altidore was conducting what seemed like a hugely promising attack down the USA left, and Michael Umana fired a desperate clearance downfield. Somehow, that turned into a defense-annihilating through ball, with Campbell racing clear of both Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez before slotting past Howard to make the score 3-1. Seconds later, Besler was booked for a foul on the striker, earning him a suspension for the match against Mexico. Considering the way he defended on that goal, that might be a positive for the USA.
Altidore was the next to get a suspension, because Altidore is silly. What a mess this game was.
Costa Rica starting lineup (4-4-2): Keylor Navas; Bryan Oviedo, Johnny Acosta, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Michael Umana; Christian Bolanos, Yeltsin Tejada (Jose Cubero, 71'), Celso Borges, Cristian Gamboa; Joel Campbell, Bryan Ruiz (Alvaro Saborio, 80').
Goals: Acosta (2'), Borges (10'), Campbell (76').
USA starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; Damarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Omar Gonzalez, Michael Orozco; Jermaine Jones, Geoff Cameron; Fabian Johnson (Jozy Altiore, 73'), Landon Donovan, Graham Zusi (Eddie Johnson, 58'); Clint Dempsey.
Goals: Dempsey (43', p)