The U.S. Men’s National Team has qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar after a 2-0 loss at Costa Rica on the final matchday of Concacaf World Cup qualifying. With the result, the USA finishes third in the Octagonal standings tied with Costa Rica on 25 points but well ahead ib goal differential in the final table and thus clinching one of the confederation’s three automatic berths.
The USA, Canada and Mexico earned Concacaf’s three automatic berths while Costa Rica will face New Zealand in a one-game playoff for a final World Cup spot.
Tonight’s match was a culmination of a condensed and highly challenging seven-month World Cup qualifying campaign that featured 14 matches – seven home and seven away. The USA’s starting lineups during those games averaged 23 years, 302 days, which is the youngest in team history for a qualifying cycle.
The USMNT will learn its path at the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Friday at the Final Draw for the tournament in Doha, Qatar (Noon ET on FS1, Telemundo). The USA will return to action during the June international window, which will include the first matches of the 2022-23 Concacaf Nations League.
Heading into the match, the U.S. needed a win, draw or a loss by no more than six goals against Los Ticos to earn a spot at Qatar 2022. Despite the loss, the USMNT, which hasn’t earned a point during World Cup qualifying in Costa Rica since 1985 — before every player on the current U.S. roster was born — got the job done with a performance that was perhaps not reflective of the final result.
Costa Rica held out a number of its regular starters who were carrying a yellow card to avoid possible suspensions for the all-important World Cup playoff, but Los Ticos came up with a strong defensive effort, making things difficult for the U.S. in front of goal. Many of the USA’s best chances came on set play opportunities – the Americans had 12 corner kicks to Costa Rica’s three – and defender Miles Robinson almost had the game’s opening goal in the eighth minute, striking a volley that was well-saved by Costa Rica’s world class goalkeeper, Keilor Navas.
A few minutes later, center forward Ricardo Pepi spearheaded another dangerous look, connecting with winger Tim Weah on the run down the right side and he ripped a shot on goal that was slapped away by the veteran Navas. Los Ticos were able to jump on a few U.S. mistakes to get some dangerous looks on the break, but goalkeeper Zack Steffen wasn’t forced to make his first save until the 35th minute.
Despite the slow-going first half, the U.S. had a promising start after the break, rattling off a flurry of threatening chances in the 48th on another corner kick opportunity. Pulisic served the restart it in for Robinson, who sent a strong header at Navas before the rebound trickled out to Ricardo Pepi, who teed it up for Weah to take a hit on goal. His shot was also saved, and Walker Zimmerman sailed the follow-up over the crossbar from close range.
The U.S. conceded its first goal shortly thereafter and while the USA held a big advantage on corners, Costa Rica was the first to capitalize on one in the 51st minute. Juna Pablo Vargas headed home a swinging ball from Brandon Aguilera to put the hosts ahead.
Los Ticos brought a renewed vigor after the game’s first goal and doubled their advantage just a few minutes later on another set piece opportunity. In the aftermath of a booming free kick from 40 yards out, Jewlson Bennette connected with Anthony Contreras, who tapped it from the doorstep to double Costa Rica’s advantage
A number of second-half substitutes provided a spark for the USA off the bench, including forward Gio Reyna. The teenager helped create one of the USMNT’s best chances in the second half, driving it forward for Pulisic, whose 71st-minute shot was deflected but led to Musah firing a shot from the edge of the box.
USA: 1-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin (7-Shaq Moore, 61), 3-Walker Zimmerman (Capt.), 12-Miles Robinson, 5-Antonee Robinson; 4-Tyler Adams (14-Luca de la Torre, 46), 6-Yunus Musah, 23-Kellyn Acosta; 21-Tim Weah (11-Gio Reyna, 61), 9-Ricardo Pepi (20-Jesús Ferreira, 61), 10-Christian Pulisic (13-Jordan Morris, 84)
Substitutes Not Used: 18-Ethan Horvath, 8-Cristian Roldan, 15-Aaron Long, 16-George Bello, 17-Jordan Pefok, 19-James Sands, 22-Erik Palmer-Brown
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter
CRC: 1-Keylor Navas (Capt.) (18-Esteban Alvarado, 79); 2-Carlos Martinez, 6-Daniel Chacon, 19-Kendall Waston (17-Yeltsin Tejeda, 64), 3-Juan Pablo Vargas, 22-Ian Lawrence; 15-Carlos Mora (16-Alonso Martinez, 65), 14-Orlando Galo, 20-Brandon Aguilera (4-Douglas Lopez, 68), 9-Jewison Bennette (21-José Ortiz, 79); 7-Anthony Contreras
Substitutes Not Used: 23-Leonel Moreira, 5-Youstin Salas, 8-Bryan Oviedo, 10-Bryan Ruiz, 11-Johan Venegas, 12-Joel Campbell, 13-Gerson Torres
Head coach: Luis Fernando Suárez