A Sergino Dest stunner and an own goal created by a Timothy Weah strike were all the United States men’s national team needed to overcome Costa Rica to take all three points in the final game of this round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers at the Lower.com Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, on Wednesday night.
After a very frustrating 1-0 loss over the weekend in Panama, for which head coach Gregg Berhalter was roundly criticized for due to his squad selection, the young team had to respond as it is a tight race to claim one of the three automatic spots for the World Cup.
Berhalter elected to continue with his 4-3-3 formation with nine changes being made. Zack Steffen got the start in goal in the place of Matt Turner. Chris Richards got his first start and partnered with Miles Robinson in the center-back spots. Sergino Dest and Antonee Robinson returned to the starting eleven at the wingback positions. Captain Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie, and Yunus Musah manned the midfield. Up top, Brenden Aaronson and Ricardo Pepi started alongside Weah, who got his second start in the place of Paul Arriola as it reported he suffered an injury.
There were many familiar faces in the Costa Rica side as their head coach, Luis Fernando Suarez, relied on the veterans to thwart the U.S. and steal a win to move them up the standings in the Octagonal.
The horror of that fateful night at Red Bull Arena when the Americans fell in a 2-0 loss to los Ticos in September 2017 came back in the first minute of play when the team was left exposed after Steffen was forced to come out of the area to head away the ball allowing the visitors to regain possession and Keysher Fuller would get his shot into the back of the net.
Fortunately, the U.S. did not get phased by allowing the opening goal as they pushed to break down by the Costa Rica backline. McKennie had a chance in the 13th minute, but his effort was stopped by Keylor Navas. Pepi followed with his own chance about 10 minutes later with a header, but he couldn’t direct enough towards the goal as the ball sailed wide of the mark.
Just when the hosts needed a goal, Dest would come to the rescue in the 25th minute after some fine play by the team. Musah would play the ball to the Barcelona man and he would step to his left before firing a left-footed rocket past Navas and into the goal.
This was the Americans’ first goal in the first half in nine games.
The goal appeared to wake up the team as they pushed to find more goals going into the second half. With Costa Rica beginning to show signs of exhaustion against their much younger opponents, that goal had to come soon.
It finally did in the 66th minute when Aaronson played the ball into the area for Weah and his strike came crashing off the frame of the goal before hitting goalkeeper Leonel Moreira and trickling over the line to the U.S. the lead. It was later determined to be an own goal, but that did not affect the scoreline.
It was a nail-biter near the end of the game as Costa Rica had two opportunities on free-kicks to score the equalizer, but the U.S. was able to hold off the threat and seal the win as the referee blew his whistle to end the game.
The U.S., at the moment, returns to the top of the Octagonal standings with 11 points.
Now, all of the preparations and hype will get underway for the big game against cross-border rivals Mexico as the two teams will face off in the first of their two games on November 12 in Cincinnati.