BRIAN SCIARETTA - Wednesday, October 14, 2009
United States vs Costa Rica
World Cup Qualifying - Wednesday October 14, 2009
RFK Stadium
The resiliency of the USA was once again put to test Wednesday night as they overcame a two goal deficit in the second half to earn a tie with Costa Rica and finish atop the 2010 CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings.

Despite having already clinched a place in next year's World Cup in South Africa, USA Coach Bob Bradley started a strong lineup featuring regulars Tim Howard, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Landon Donovan.

The team was playing just one day after learning that their starting forward, Charlie Davies, was seriously injured in a car accident early Tuesday morning. Fans in attendance paid tribute to the fallen player by holding up signs that simply read "9," a reference to the number Davies wears for the Stars and Stripes.

"We're happy he's alive; that, in and of itself, gave us a lift," Tim Howard described. "Charlie would give anything at this moment to put on a jersey and to have it all back. You almost feel lucky and privileged, and that was motivation for us."

So as the Americans were playing with heavy hearts hoping to honor their injured teammate with the result, Costa Rica entered game needing a win to secure automatic qualification to their third straight World Cup.

A failure to win against the USA combined with a Honduran win over El Salvador would drop Costa Rica into fourth place in CONCACAF and into a playoff series with the fifth place South American finisher for a final berth in the World Cup, confirmed just before kickoff to be Uruguay.

Following the opening whistle, the Americans started the game with most of the pressure and possession. In the tenth minute, they had a great opportunity to take the lead when Altidore found a wide open Conor Casey making a run alone on goal. Casey, the hero in Saturday's 3-2 win against Honduras, however failed to capitalize as he shot the ball well over the cross bar.

The USA continued to generate most of scoring chances but it was the Ticos who struck first 21st minute when forward Bryan Ruiz beat Onyewu off a dribble on the left side and fired a shot past Howard.

Just three minutes later, Costa Rica capitalized again and doubled their lead when Ruiz fired home a perfect 22 yard left footed shot to the upper left corner leaving Howard no chance to prevent the 2-0 deficit.

While the first half ended with Costa Rica clutching on to their two-goal lead, the major story of the game to that point was the Americans' poor finishing. Donovan along with forwards Casey and Altidore all saw multiple chances each go to waste.

"We did finish the first half pushing hard. We had a number of really good chances at the end of the first half. We talked about the fact we needed to continue in that regard," coach Bob Bradley said of the first half. "The biggest thing I was unhappy with was just sometimes we weren't playing the ball fast enough."

The second half saw the USA increase their pressure but their run of poor finishing continued.

This finally changed in the 72nd minute when Michael Bradley pulled the USA back a goal when he was in place to score off the rebound of a Donovan shot. For Bradley, it was his third goal of the final CONCACAF qualifying round.

In the 83rd minute, the USA suffered a major setback when Onyewu landed awkwardly after making an effort on a header in the Costa Rica penalty area. The 27 year-old defender immediately signaled for medical attention and had to be taken off the field on a stretcher.

At that time, the Americans had already used all three substitutions and were therefore forced to play the remainder of the game with only ten players on the field.

Adding to the late drama, shortly before the start of injury time in the 89th minute Costa Rican head coach Rene Simoes was ejected from the game for arguing with the officials in an incident which lasted for several minutes, contributing to the five minutes of stoppage time awarded.

Despite playing a man down, USA kept up the pressure and continued to create a flurry of scoring opportunities in the dying moments. Their hard work finally paid off in the fifth and final minute of injury time when a corner kick by second-half substitute Robbie Rogers found an unmarked Jonathan Bornstein who headed the ball into the net for a dramatic equalizer.

"We threw a lot of numbers in the box. I usually don't go up for corner kicks. Usually I stay in the back. This was a last shot effort," Bornstein said of the goal, his first in World Cup qualifying. "[Robbie Rogers] put in a good ball and I found myself wide open, no one marked me. I kind of snuck in there, the ball just kind of fell on my head and I put it away."

The 2-2 final score combined with Honduras' 1-0 win over El Salvador meant that Costa Rica dropped to fourth place in CONCACAF. They will now have to play a difficult two game playoff series next month against Uruguay, South America's fifth place finisher, for a World Cup berth.

Also in CONCACAF qualifying, Mexico tied Trinidad and Tobago by an identical 2-2 score, with the result ensuring that the USA achieved their stated goal of finishing first in World Cup qualifying. The Stars and Stripes finish with 20 points, one point ahead of archrivals Mexico.

After the game, concern centered on Onyewu who was diagnosed with a torn left patellar tendon and is expected to miss up to four months of action.

"Obviously we've had two days of tough news. [Onyewu] has been such an important part of our team," coach Bradley explained. "But again, that's normally three to four months. He's going to get back and he's going to be ready to go, but nonetheless it's another setback for us."

The draw also marked the fifth time in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying that the Americans earned a result in game in which they had been at some point trailing. It was also the second time in qualifying that they managed to turn around a two-goal deficit into a draw.

"When any team goes down it becomes a little bit more urgent," Altidore said following the game. "But we have to do that from the [start]. We were too lackadaisical in the first half. In the second half, the energy was there [and] we matched them physically. We got more chances and fortunately we put them away. "

"You have to look at the whole game," Bradley said about his team's ability to raise its game when trailing. "You have to look at the things you've done well and you have to look at areas you need to improve. In that regard it's a plus that we can compete and keep pushing when we're behind, [but] it's a minus, of late, we've had too many situations where we have to."
Thursday October 15, 2009 9:57 pm
Torres should get so much credit for last nights tie. As soon as he went there the ball was just flowing all over the field. It was great, with these performance I have no doubt he should be a starter.
Thursday October 15, 2009 3:01 pm
To Dell , I don't think Bradley is a racism ,, but if he don't look a Torres as start and don't give a chance to Castillo ,,i will think that he have some thing again mexican americans ,, you don't know how hungry are the mexican american fans, they think Bradley don't like them ,, and let me tell you something they born here, they are as much american as him,,look at the army or navy lots of mexican american there, they feel americans and Torres is the best in the mid field,Bradley Torres and jones ,,and Castillo can play LBand we has to give a look to Orosco ,,, now gooch is out ,,so orosco can feel the spot ,, but knowing BB he think big is good ,, no any more BB and keep Cooper ,, Casey was lucky in Honduras ,everybody knows exep Bradley,,
i like tuesday
Thursday October 15, 2009 1:23 pm
Was at the match last night. Anyways, some things about soccer you canít see watching a match on television, only in person. For instance, you can only tell how quick a players feet are in person. I had a very good view of central midfield in the second half and want to say Paco Torres is the real deal. He was easily the best player on the pitch in the 30 minutes he played. He is much much quicker with the ball than any other player (including LD) and makes good, quick decisions. The game changed because he quickly switched the point of attack and set a much higher tempo in possession.

Torres is outrageously talented and should be starting as our midfield general in all seriousness. We do not score an equalizer at the death playing with 3 at the back without the Torres-induced stranglehold we had on the midfield in the final 30 minutes. I really hope that Bob Bradley saw how he completely changed the game. Last night at least, he was head and shoulder above the other options.

Bornstein has decent technical ability but his problem is slow decision-making. He should be encouraged not to take more than 2 touches about 90% of the time. When he takes more he gets indecisive and simply left with no options. His defensive positioning is slightly suspect but often goes unpunished because of his speed. Still, he had a good match and scored the equalizer and seems to be gaining in confidence.
Thursday October 15, 2009 12:47 pm
Robert Kiernan knows his game.

The DM's job is provide an outlet and begin possession. Possession begins in the back. His job is not to make dramatic passes, but to shield, hold, and make a pass that is not a dangerous give away to set of a counter attack. Clark and Bradley don't stop attacks without fouling because they have gotten into the habit of using aggression before intelligence, skill, and subtlety (i.e., body position). A good DM who doesn't have a play on the ball will restrict passing options for the attacking player to the wings where it is easier to defend.
Thursday October 15, 2009 12:45 pm
Congratulations to Bob Bradley for winning the group and leading us to another world cup. He deserves some credit.
I continue to be impressed with Altidore. His touch is solid and he looks dangerous every time he touches the ball.
High marks also to torres, cherundolo, and rogers. expected more from feilhaber - maybe he's a better option to come off the bench and settle things down.
Thursday October 15, 2009 10:54 am
The draw was impressive considering. The header goal by Bornstein a pleasant surprise, much like Ricky Ricardo's rip at T&T, however this two-step the majority of our players are dancing is killing me - did Casey think the net was a mile high after the game in Honduras? That's amateur at this level - at least hit the target. I will always have faith in the US whoever is put on the field but nothing would help us more than some serious consistency leading up to WC. Sadly (and my heart goes out to Davies and those involved in tragic accident as well as Gooch) that we are in for even more rebuilding rather than simple tinkering in the coming months...
Christina Mantha
Thursday October 15, 2009 10:39 am
I agree with Anthony - this was not a great win for us. I hope the team can do better in the future. Thanks for such a great article though.
Anthony R.
Thursday October 15, 2009 9:24 am
"It was a hard week for everyone," midfielder Landon Donovan said, "and it was a nice night to do something special."

Something special? What's so special about being down 0-2 at home? This mentality will get us nowhere.
Thursday October 15, 2009 9:21 am
Well the players that I noticed were Torres, Cherundolo and Rogers. But while I am certainly glad Bornstein scored, over all I still see him turning over the ball way too often. Our midfield again didn't look to good, both Feilhaber and Holden had subpar matches, Bradley missed his mark on the second Costa Rican goal... we just looked mediocre in the first half.
But once the subs came in, things changed... After last night, if Bob Bradley won't play Paco Torres, well I just don't know what the kid needs to do to show that he deserves to be one of our starters... he's so young, yet he plays with his head up and with great poise. The rap on him supposedly is that he's not big enough to play as a DMF, yet when he was out there he didn't turn over the ball the way our other MF's seemed to be doing over and over and when at the end we needed to regain possession, well he went down the left flank and just took the ball away to start the counter attack without fouling his man... this is something that both Bradley and Clark have a really hard time doing. When we were in injury time, he shielded the ball at midfield and was fouled, but maintained possession. His Corners were dangerous... something that can't be said of Holden's in the first half.
Both Cherundolo and Robbie Rogers looked very dangerous out on the flank, which is something that we must continue to work on if we are to be competitive at the next level.
Thursday October 15, 2009 2:18 am
Why is a come from behind lucky draw at home to a country of less than 5 million anything less than failure?

Gary is exactly correct about MB's mark. I actually think MB is a quality player who has been in a bit of a funk lately, but he doesn't always close down the way he should.
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