Jonathan Bornstein scored in the fifth minute of stoppage time to give the USA a 2-2 draw with Costa Rica on Wednesday that denied the Ticos a berth in the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Bryan Ruiz scored in the 21st and 24th minutes to give Costa Rica a 2-0 half-time lead and Michael Bradley pulled one back for the USA in the 72nd minute before Bornstein struck the equaliser.
The USA finished atop the North, Central America and Caribbean regional qualifying group at 6-2-2 for 20 points, one ahead of Mexico, with Honduras third ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference. The result means Costa Rica will face Uruguay, South America's fifth-place team, in a two-leg playoff for a South Africa 2010 berth.
"It's a good thing we respond and compete," USA coach Bob Bradley said. "It was a strong effort. It's not how you draw it up, but it showed their maturity, the spirit of our team and we're very proud of that."
But the victory came at a heavy cost. USA defender Oguchi Onyewu of AC Milan will be out three to four months with a torn left patella tendon, the injury coming a day after a car crash that severely injured US forward Charlie Davies and likely took him out of South Africa 2010.
"We've had two days of tough news," Bradley said. "It's another setback for us. Gooch [Onyewu] has been such an important part of our team. It's normally three or four months recovery time. He's young. He's healthy. He has good doctors. He's someone we're sure is going to get back."
With Onyewu carried off on a stretcher in the 83rd minute, the ten-man US side were left to stand alone, as the Americans had used all their substitutions. It proved enough. Michael Bradley, the US coach's son, scored in the 72nd minute, but the Ticos were still on track for a FIFA World Cup berth until defender Bornstein took a pass from Robbie Rogers and nodded it past Costa Rican goalkeeper Keilor Navas.
"We put a lot of numbers in the box," Bornstein said. "I don't usually go up for that, but it was last-shot time. No one marked me. I just snuck in there and the ball landed on my head."
Seconds away from a victory that would have meant a third consecutive trip to the global football showdown, Costa Rica instead lost out to Honduras. The USA finished atop the regional qualifying group at 6-2-2 for 20 points, one more than Mexico with Honduras third ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference.
"We're very proud to win the group," coach Bradley said.
Ruiz opened the scoring by racing around US defender Steve Cherundolo to the right of Tim Howard and striking the ball past the sprawled goalkeeper. Ruiz struck again just minutes later on a give-and-go play, taking the ball at the top of the area and curling a left-footed kick high into the far corner past a diving Howard. Bradley answered 27 minutes into the second half after Navas stopped a Landon Donovan shot, Bradley chipping the rebound over Navas into the net.
Ticos coach Rene Simoes, a Brazilian and former Jamaica coach hired for the last qualifiers, was ejected in stoppage time, escorted off before Costa Rica was delivered a heartbreaking blow. The USA lead Costa Rica 12-11 with five drawn in the all-time rivalry. Costa Rica has now gone 24 years since winning a qualifier on US soil.