Costa Rica whips U.S. soccer team

Americans in danger of missing World Cup after third straight qualifier loss

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) -- Amazingly, the United States put itself in jeopardy of missing next year's World Cup.

The Americans played their third straight dismal qualifier, losing to Costa Rica 2-0 Wednesday on two goals by Rolando Fonseca.

After going unbeaten in the first five games of the regional finals, the U.S. team has lost three straight qualifiers for the first time in 29 years and tumbled into fourth place in the finals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

''We know we have to get six points to be in the next World Cup,'' U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.

Costa Rica (6-1-1) clinched its first World Cup berth since 1990, totally outplaying an American team that only twice came close to scoring. With five minutes to go, a special edition of the El Dia newspaper was handed out through the stands, proclaiming the victory.

''They came out hard,'' U.S. midfielder Earnie Stewart said. ''They played very good. They put us under pressure.''

The United States (4-3-1), seeking its fourth straight World Cup appearance, has games remaining against Jamaica on Oct. 7, at Foxboro, Mass., and at Trinidad and Tobago on Nov. 11.

The Americans probably need a win and a tie and possibly two wins to capture one of the region's three berths. Both opponents have little incentive, though. Trinidad (0-7-1) has been eliminated and Jamaica (2-4-2) has virtually no chance of qualifying.

Honduras (4-2-2) moved into second place with 14 points by beating Jamaica 1-0 Wednesday night and Mexico (4-3-1) took over third, ahead of the U.S. team on goal difference, with a 3-0 win over Trinidad.

There were just two American flags visible in the crowd of 24,000 at Sparissa Stadium, and the U.S. players looked as outnumbered as their fans.

It rained throughout the afternoon, stopped just before the start of the game, then resumed at halftime. U.S. players had trouble with the footing on the muddy field.

Costa Rica dominated throughout, and the Americans didn't have a legitimate scoring chance in the first half.

''We were probably a little too deep, a little too conservative in the early going,'' Arena said. ''You have to give Costa Rica credit. They did a great job attacking.''

Playing a much more defensive lineup than in Saturday's 3-2 loss to Honduras at Washington, the Americans still had breakdowns that gave away goal chances.

Fonseca nearly scored in the 26th minute, but his header toward an open net was headed away by Chris Armas at the goal line.

Carlos Llamosa caused the penalty kick when he stuck out his right leg and clearly tripped the left leg of Ronaldo Gomez, who was streaking into the penalty area.

Goalkeeper Brad Friedel dived to his right on the penalty kick, and Fonseca's shot went in straight up the middle of the goal.

Fonseca got the second goal in the 70th minute, moving past Eddie Pope on what appeared to be a failed offside trap, taking a through pass from Mauricio Solis and beating Friedel.

The only decent scoring chances for the United States were Greg Vanney's spinning shot that Erick Lonnis knocked over the crossbar two minutes into the second half, and Preki Radosavljevic's long shot that went just wide in the 79th.

Notes: Llamosa got his second yellow card of the finals, and he will be suspended for the Jamaica game. ... The previous three-game losing streak for the United States in qualifying was two games to Haiti in 1969 and one to Canada in 1972 as qualifying for the 1974 tournament began. ... Pope saved a late shot by Paulo Wanchope from going into an open net.



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