The underperforming U.S. national team's road to the World Cup got considerably more difficult Friday when doctors in England announced that keeper Tim Howard could miss several weeks after breaking two bones in his back.
Howard, who captained the U.S. team in its World Cup qualifying loss to Honduras last month, was hurt playing for his English club team, Everton, in the FA Cup last week.
The U.S., which must finish among the top three in its six-team qualifying pool to secure an invitation to Brazil 2014, plays host to Costa Rica, then travels to Mexico for its next two matches later this month.
Everton Manager David Moyes did not rule out Howard for either game.
"He has two fractures, but they are not bones that are supporting anything. It is off the spine. They are not weight-bearing," Moyes told reporters in England. "It just needs a bit of healing time. It is not like a pure fracture where you need to wait to look at it. It is a question of whether he can cope with the pain. The bones will heal themselves, but it's not good."