The U.S. national team lost for the first time since May, finding the Ticos' new Estadio Nacional no kinder to visit than Saprissa.
The United States saw its 12-game winning streak snapped Friday with a 3-1 loss to Costa Rica at the Estadio Nacional — not vaunted Saprissa of past cycles. Johnny Acosta, Celso Borges and Joel Campbell struck for the Ticos, while Clint Dempsey converted a penalty kick for the visitors.
The Americans were dealt a tough blow before the match even began, with midfield stalwart Michael Bradley limping off the field following warm-ups and being replaced in the lineup by Geoff Cameron.
Matters didn't get any better once the game started. Costa Rica didn't wait to put the United States under pressure, with Bryan Ruiz getting behind the American defense in the second minute but having his close-range effort pushed aside by Tim Howard.
It ultimately mattered not, as the Ticos scored on the subsequent corner kick. Making a near post run, Acosta nodded a shot that glanced off the head of DaMarcus Beasley, who was manning the post, and found net.
Just seven minutes later, Costa Rica doubled its advantage. Overpowering Beasley, Borges charged onto a service from Christian Bolanos and headed a shot home. After falling behind 2-0 just 13 minutes into their 3-1 World Cup qualifying loss at Saprissa in 2009, the Americans were down by that margin after nine minutes Friday.
The Americans pulled one back three minutes before intermission. Running onto a chip from Graham Zusi, Fabian Johnson collided with goalkeeper Keylor Navas at the top of the box, leading the referee to point to the spot. Going for power over placement, Dempsey in his 100th cap hit his penalty off Navas and in.
In the 57th minute, Dempsey nearly got the equalizer when his bid from beyond the box rang the post.
But Costa Rica got its insurance goal in the 75th minute when Campbell ran onto a clearance, outpaced Matt Besler and slotted a shot that slipped through Howard's legs.
The United States (4-2-1) resumes qualifying Tuesday with a crucial match against rival Mexico in Columbus, Ohio. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann's side will be without Besler, Cameron and Jozy Altidore, who were suspended with yellow cards received Friday.