Costa Rica roared to the top of the CONCACAF qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with a stunning 3-1 win over USA in San Jose. In front of a raucous capacity crowd at the Estadio Saprissa, where the US have never won, Rodrigo Kenton's men were in dazzling form, outclassing the previously unbeaten Americans, controlling possession and scoring at will.
The throngs of lively, red-clad home supporters buzzing around the stands didn't have to wait long for something to shout about. Swiss-based Alvaro Saborio shrugged off Jose Francisco Torres and Pablo Mastroeni, wriggling into the American penalty area and bending a stunning goal past Tim Howard with only two minutes gone off the clock.
With the visitors having considerable trouble adjusting to the conditions, the Ticos were oozing confidence and class, bossing possession and running circles around their guests, who went into the game a point ahead at the top of the final round of regional qualifying.
We were under pressure from the start and we didn't control the game. I just don't think we were good enough.
On 12 minutes, Costa Rica sent their fans into raptures once more. After a lightning quick build-up down the left flank, Esteban Sirias broke into the box on the end of a cheeky give-and-go, sending a low ball across Howard's goalmouth. Young Tico playmaker Celso Borges met the cross and bulged the back of the US net for the second time inside the opening quarter-hour.
The US failed to find a foothold as the half wore on. Unable to put a shot on target in the opening period, they headed into the changing rooms on the wrong side of a 2-0 scoreline and with nothing to smile about.
The home team kept up the momentum at the start of the second half. Sirias crossed dangerously in the 52nd minute, and Borges went just inches from scoring his second of the game from close range. Minutes later, the Americans suffered another blow when Michael Bradley was booked for a challenge in midfield, ruling him out of Saturday's home game against Honduras.
Things got even worse for the floundering Americans in the 69th minute when Pablo Herrera waltzed unopposed into the penalty area. Unmarked and with acres of space around him, the second-half substitute slammed the ball inside Howard's near post to make the score 3-0.
The Americans did manage to pull back a goal through a Landon Donovan penalty in injury time, but it was far too little and far too late to have an impact on the outcome. New 'hexagonal' leaders Costa Rica will face Trinidad and Tobago next on the road on Saturday, while USA will look to rebound against third-place Honduras in Chicago that same day.
US coach Bob Bradley knows that better will be required if his side are to bounce back. "We were under pressure from the start and we didn't control the game," Bradley admitted. "In the first goal our reactions were a little bit slow and Saborio scores a very good goal. We knew we were going to feel the pressure and we did. I just don't think we were good enough."