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SOCCER

Costa Rica defeats U.S. again

Two early goals make it easy in a 3-1 victory that vaults Costa Rica over the U.S. in World Cup qualifying.

June 04, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

Alkis Panagoulias tried and failed in 1985.

So did Bob Gansler in 1989, Steve Sampson in 1996 and 1997 and Bruce Arena in 2000, 2001 and 2005.

On Wednesday night, it was Bob Bradley's turn and, just like the four U.S. men's national soccer coaches who preceded him, Bradley also fell on his face.

In front of a loud and boisterous crowd at Ricardo Saprissa Stadium in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, Costa Rica trounced the U.S., 3-1, in a 2010 World Cup qualifying match.

It wasn't even that close, and the Ticos could have had five or six goals but for the saves made by U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. They scored after only 83 seconds and were ahead by two goals before the U.S. had taken a shot.

Other than Howard, the American defense of Marvell Wynne, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley was abysmal, the midfield of Jose Torres, Michael Bradley and Pablo Mastroeni was overrun all night, and the forward line of Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey was nonexistent.

"You don't necessarily need me to tell you that was garbage," former U.S. international and now TV analyst Alexi Lalas told viewers on ESPN2. "That wasn't the turf, that wasn't the crowd, that was just bad soccer."

Said John Harkes, another former U.S. World Cup player now doing commentary for ESPN2: "It was a clinic for Costa Rica. If I said anything else I'd be lying."

The U.S. is now 0-7-1 when playing the Ticos on their home ground and has been outscored, 17-6, in Costa Rica.

The victory vaulted Costa Rica, which got goals from Alvaro Saborio, Celso Borges and Pablo Herrera, over the U.S. and into first place in the final, six-nation qualifying group with a 3-1-0 record and nine points.

Going into its next match, against Honduras on Saturday night at Soldier Field in Chicago, the U.S. is second with a 2-1-1 mark and seven points, just ahead of Honduras (1-1-1, four points).

Mexico, which plays El Salvador on Saturday in San Salvador, is fourth with a 1-2-0 record and three points, one more than El Salvador, whose 0-1-2 mark is the same as that of last-place Trinidad and Tobago, which play host to Costa Rica on Saturday.

The top three teams qualify for South Africa 2010 and the fourth-place finisher goes into a playoff with the fifth-place finisher from South America.

The Americans were outclassed and outplayed throughout Wednesday's game. Their only goal came in extra time on a penalty kick by Donovan that was meaningless other than to increase his record goal total to 38 for the national team. It was the first goal for the U.S. in Costa Rica since 2000.

Jones reported from Los Angeles.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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