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U.S. has to get over Costa Rica nightmare

By Brian Westfall, Soccer Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The United States Men's National Team has never enjoyed playing in Costa Rica, so Wednesday's nightmare 3-1 loss in FIFA World Cup qualifying is not something for coach Bob Bradley to worry about - yet.

Glancing back through World Cup qualifying for five of the last six tournaments - the U.S. didn't have to qualify in 1994 as hosts - it's hard to find a single positive result in Costa Rica.

In 2005, the U.S. lost 3-0 at Costa Rica. In 2002 Cup qualifying, the U.S. lost 2-0 and 2-1 in a pair of matches in San Jose. The Americans dropped two matches in 1998 qualifying as well, 3-2 and 2-1. Going back to 1990, the U.S. dropped a 1-0 decision.

Ah, finally, all the way back to May 26, 1985 and the losing streak ends: U.S. 1, Costa Rica 1. A tie? The Americans will take it, especially considering the results of the last 20-plus years.

The U.S. has played exactly eight matches in Costa Rica, and is 0-7-1 all-time. In games in Saprissa Stadium, which features artificial turf, the Americans are 0-7-0 in Cup qualifying and have been outscored 16-5.

The U.S. has earned exactly zero points at Saprissa spanning five qualifying tournaments.
So, U.S. star Landon Donovan was right when he said the U.S. has to "learn from tonight," after Wednesday's loss, "but the most important thing is getting over it as quickly as possible."

Costa Rica has turned Saprissa into a fortress every country dreams of, and it rivals Bolivia's Estadio Hernando Siles Stadium - which sits nearly 12,000 feet above sea level - as the best home-field advantage in the Americas.

The U.S. has earned exactly zero points at Saprissa spanning five qualifying tournaments since 1989, but still reached every single World Cup finals from 1990-2006.

Alvaro Saborio's opening goal - 79 seconds into Wednesday's match - was just the appetizer for another Costa Rican disaster for the U.S.

"I don't think there was any area at all where we were good enough to win a game against a good team," Bradley said after the team's first loss of 2009. "As a group, we came up short in every way."

"A lot went wrong for us," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard added.

Costa Rica jumped into first place in the six-team regional finals of CONCACAF qualifying with nine points, two ahead of the United States.

The U.S., ranked 14th in the world, has no time to dwell on the loss, though. The Americans resume qualifying Saturday against Honduras in Chicago. And if history repeats itself - the Americans have their fingers crossed - the U.S. will be just fine.

The United States has rebounded from all of its losses in Costa Rica to win five of six matches - the other was a draw - between the countries on American soil. The U.S. has outscored Costa Rica 8-1 in those matches, and another win on Oct. 14 on the final day of CONCACAF qualifying will help erase Wednesday's memories.

First, the United States has a tough stretch starting with Honduras, a trip to South Africa later this month for the Confederations Cup, the Gold Cup in July and when qualifying resumes in August, a visit to Mexico, where it is 0-22-1.

As long as the U.S. continues to win its matches on American soil, it has no concerns about not finishing in the top three in CONCACAF and earning a berth in its sixth straight World Cup.

The United States is 15-0-1 at home since losing in Washington, D.C. in 2001. Ironically, the last time the U.S. lost at home it was against Honduras. That can't happen again, or the U.S. really would have something to worry about.

Bradley realizes the U.S. has a "quick turnaround," but after that loss, it's probably a good thing, even though the team will have to adjust to the loss of suspended midfielder Michael Bradley, the coach's son.

"It's never easy coming off a loss, but as professionals we have to put it behind us," U.S. central defender Oguchi Onyewu said. "We have to work as a team, and move forward for the next game."

At least the nightmare is over, and the U.S. should be wide awake now.



Comments? Criticism? Applause?
Contact Tim Keeble at tkeeble@sportsnetwork.com
Contact Brian Westfall at bwestfall@sportsnetwork.com

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