Costa Rica’s Marco Ureña (right) attempts to hold off the USA’s Tim Ream during their World Cup qualifier on September 1, 2017, in Harrison, New Jersey, USA. (Photo: John Dorton/Isiphotos.com)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- Marco Ureña scored two goals and Costa Rica (4W-2D-1L, 14 points) earned a 2-0 win over the host United States (2-2-3, 8) in a final round CONCACAF qualifier for the 2018 FIFA World Cup on Friday night at Red Bull Arena.
It was only the fourth time in the past 32 years that the United States lost at home in qualifying play, also falling to the Ticos in 1985, Honduras in 2001 and Mexico in 2016.
The win provisionally lifted the Costa Ricans to the top of the Hexagonal table, while the Americans remained in the third place. Mexico can return to sole possession of first place with a draw against visiting Panama later in the evening, while Honduras can close to within three points of the U.S. by defeating host Trinidad & Tobago.
Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas was magnificent in recording the shutout. The Real Madrid star denied striker Jozy Altidore twice and midfielder Christian Pulisic on spectacular flailing hand/foot save in the 67th minute.
The Ticos drew first blood in the 30th minute. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard launched a pass 30 yards away from his net into the Costa Rican end that right-back Cristian Gamboa headed directly to teammate Bryan Ruiz. The 2016 CONCACAF Player of the Year lifted his head and found Ureña sprinting in between defenders Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron.
Without any assistance, Ream attempted to hold off Ureña in the box, but the San Jose Earthquakes forward – while falling down – snapped off a right-footed shot from seven-yards out to beat Howard, who was never fully able to retreat to his line.
The Central American power took advantage of another U.S. error in the 82nd minute, when a Cameron pass was intercepted by David Guzman near the midfield line. The midfielder immediately recognized the unbalanced U.S. defense and found an unmarked Ureña for a right-footed finish from 18-yards out.
It was slightly more than a month ago that the U.S. defeated Costa Rica, 2-0, in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals.
The Americans will look to bounce back at Honduras on Tuesday, while Costa Rica hosts Mexico.