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Costa Rica climbs to Hexagonal summit with win
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Action from the top-of-the-table CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying clash between host Costa Rica (right) and the United States on September 6, 2013, at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose. (Photo: Imagenes en Costa Rica)

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- Costa Rica moved atop the final round table of World Cup Qualifying in CONCACAF on Friday behind a 3-1 triumph over the United States at the Estadio Nacional.

Johnny Acosta and Celso Borges scored first-half goals and Joel Campbell sealed it with an insurance tally for the Ticos (4-1-2, 13 points), who moved past the previous first-place Americans (4-1-2, 13).

Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick late in the first half for the Americans, who had their 12-game winning streak snapped.

Even before the opening whistle, the U.S. suffered a major loss, when center midfielder Michael Bradley suffered a sprained left ankle during the warm-up.  Geoff Cameron replaced the Roma standout in the starting line-up and that change impacted the American game plan.

In fact, the host started on the front foot, striking for the first goal in the third minute.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard had swatted away an effort from Bryan Ruiz for a corner.  On the ensuing kick, an in-swinger from Joel Campbell was sent into the area that Acosta headed past Howard into the left corner for a 1-0 lead. Acosta beat his man, Dempsey, as the ball deflected off of left back DaMarcus Beasley.

Dempsey attempted the Americans' first shot in the ninth minute on a 19-yard bicycle kick that was easily saved by goalkeeper Keylor Navas.

Shortly afterwards, Costa Rica wound up celebrating once again off a counterattack as Cristian Bolaños fed Borges, who headed the ball home for a 2-0 advantage in the 10th minute.

The U.S. tried to halve the lead in the 29th minute, but Navas slammed away Fabian Johnson's 14-yard blast.

Six minutes later, Howard denied Campbell after the talented young striker got behind the U.S. defense to fire a point-blank shot that the keeper saved.

Navas, however, wasn’t perfect, taking down Johnson in the penalty area and referee Marco Antonio Rodriguez pointed to the penalty spot.

Dempsey, who was playing in his 100th international, took the penalty and he fired a shot into the middle of the goal that Navas got a hand on, but could not save as the U.S. sliced the lead to 2-1 in the 43rd minute.

It was Dempsey's eighth goal during this qualifying cycle.

Dempsey came close on connecting for a second goal in the 56th minute, ripping a shot off the left post.

As it turned out, the U.S. sustained two future personnel setbacks in the second half.  In the 62nd minute, Cameron was issued a yellow card, his second of the round, which means he will miss Tuesday’s qualifier against Mexico in Columbus. Matthew Besler also was slapped with his second yellow card of the Hexagonal late in the match, forcing him out of Tuesday’s encounter as well.

In an attempt to secure the equalizer, U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made a pair of offensive substitutions, brining on speedster Eddie Johnson for Graham Zusi in the 58th minute and striker Jozy Altidore for Fabian Johnson in the 71st minute.

It would be Costa Rica, though, that would net the next goal in the 75th minute. Second-half substitute Jose Miguel Cubero sent Campbell a through ball and the striker was off to the races, running past a pair of U.S. defenders before depositing the ball in the back of the net for a 3-1 advantage.

The U.S. will host Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday while Costa Rica will travel to Honduras for match day seven in the hexagonal.

 NOTES:  Costa Rica (8-1-0) has never lost to the U.S. at home in World Cup Qualifying…the U.S. was 2-0-0 against Costa Rica in 2013 heading into match, winning their last encounter 1-0 in a CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage match on July 16.

 

 
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