A 66th minute Rodney Wallace goal separated the two sides as Jurgen Klinsmann suffered the first loss of his stint in charge of the United States.
Portland Timbers midfielder Rodney Wallace, making his international debut, scored the only goal of the game to separate the sides.
Despite the loss, Klinsmann remained positive.
"From a performance point of view it was very very positive," the German-born coach said. "There was confidence there, there was technical ability there. From what we trained and how they implemented, it was very good."
With interim coach Ronald Gonzalez already knowing that Jorge Luis Pinto will take over after this match, Costa Rica started sloppily. Los Ticos also missed the sharpness of strikers Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz, who both made moves to London clubs this summer.
The USA took charge in the opening minutes and carved out a handful of chances. Landon Donovan, in particular, was guilty of spurning finishes, tucking a Brek Shea feed wide at the far post and putting a free kick onto the top of the goal.
Los Ticos slowly found their feet as the match progressed and took the lead in the second half. Real Salt Lake striker Alvaro Saborio broke the offside trap and pulled the ball back into the box. Tim Howard managed to paw away Michael Barrantes' stinging effort, but substitute Rodney Wallace pushed a diving header into the back of the net from the rebound.
The United States lacked the second-half injection of pace it had received against Mexico in Klinsmann's first game and couldn't find a way back into the match. Kinsmann admitted the fitness of his players isn't where he wants it yet.
"The physical part of it, that's again where we need to step up a bit more, be more hungry," he said.
Brek Shea was the liveliest U.S. attacker, but he had difficulties connecting with others. Late in the match he juked his marker to cut into the box, but pushed Chivas USA defender Michael Umana over the advancing once he lost the ball. After a scuffle with several Costa Rican players confronting him, both Shea and Sacha Kljestan were issued yellow cards.
Nick Rosano contributed additional reporting.
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