USMNT books World Cup ticket despite loss to Costa Rica
San José, Costa Rica - After failing to qualify for 2018, the USMNT is back in the big time after securing automatic qualification to the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday, despite a 2-0 loss away to Costa Rica.
Following their 5-1 win over Panama, the US had a healthy enough goal differential to avert the inter-confederation playoff, with a three-point and 10-goal gap between them and Costa Rica coming into the final qualifier.
In what was an intense start, Keylor Navas was on hand to deny the US in the eighth minute with a fantastic double effort. Initially denying Miles Robinson with a reflex save from close range, the PSG keeper then managed to stop the ball from trickling in following a US corner.
The match tightened up significantly and the dead ball was the likeliest avenue to goal for both teams. The home side eventually broke the deadlock in the 51st minute through Juan Pablo Vargas, and doubled the margin eight minutes later from another set piece via Anthony Contreras.
Both sides finish the third round of CONCACAF qualifying on 25 points, but the goal differential separated them, with the United States on +11 and Costa Rica on +5. As a result, Los Ticos will face New Zealand in an inter-confederation playoff in June.
USMNT star Christian Pulisic was relieved at the end, telling CBS Sports that the campaign had "definitely been a roller coaster."
"We battled through most of it, and at the end of the day we are in the top three and we are going to the World Cup. We should be proud."
Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire