WASHINGTON - What a game. It seemed for the longest time like Costa Rica would pull off the upset, but Jonathan Bornstein scored in the final seconds of stoppage time to give the U.S. a 2-2 tie.
There are video highlights at the very bottom of the post. But I hope you'll read my commentary before scrolling down.
Unfortunately, I don't have the press conference audio because the feed was fouled up. But you didn't miss much, except for U.S. Soccer Federation praising the fans in Honduras for applauding the U.S. players off the field after Saturday night's game.
The atmosphere in Honduras was different than any away game we've played in, I'd say, 20 years - when we were in Trinidad [in 1989]. The anthem wasn't booed, we were clapped off the ifled. There were thousands of people at the airport, in the streets. The country was behind the team, we broke their hearts and they clapped us off the field. That doesn't happen too often.
You can be sure there are plenty of celebrations going on in San Pedro Sula today, as Honduras is headed to the World Cup for the first time since 1982. Costa Rica, meanwhile, will play a two-leg playoff with Uruguay for a World Cup berth.
Which brings me to a few talking points that I have after last night's game.
- One thing I missed in my story and my liveblog was Costa Rica coach Rene Simoes and quite a few other people on the Ticos' bench being ejected in the 88th minute for arguing with the officials. Simoes et al. were removed from the field with visible help from stadium security and D.C. police, and Simoes could be suspended for at least one leg of the playoff against Uruguay.
- Oguchi Onyewu's torn patella tendon is a big deal. It might not affect the U.S. team directly for now, but it will certainly affect AC Milan. It will be worth watching how hard Onyewu has to work to get back on the field after he has recovered, and whether Milan signs any players to replace Onyewu in the interim.
- There were plenty of reasons for Jonathan Bornstein to celebrate when he headed home the equalizer in the 96th minute. But one of the ones he might hope you didn't notice was that he got beaten on Costa Rica's second goal. Bryan Ruiz cut inside of Bornstein after receiving the ball and ran right by him before smashing the ball past Tim Howard from the edge of the 18-yard box.
(Yes, I said the distance was less than that in my game recap for the paper. I misjudged it from the press box. It happens sometimes.)
- Among the many chances and half-chances that the U.S. missed in the first half, Conor Casey's in the ninth minute stands out. Not just because he was completely unmarked when he took the pass from Jozy Altidore, but because the ninth minute was when the American fans delivered their tribute to Charlie Davies.
It was quite a sight to see the big mass of U.S. fans along the opposite sideline from the press box holding up their "9" placards and leting off all those smoke bombs.
Altidore had two notable misses of his own. The first was a shot from about 12 yards out in the first half that was saved spectacularly by Costa Rica goalkeeper Keilor Navas. The second was an even more open chance that he sent over the crossbar in the 80th minute. That shot really should have been the game-tying goal, not Bornstein's header.
- It's worth reiterating that the U.S. has finished in first place outright in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying for the first time ever. The U.S. finished in first place four years ago as well, but only on goal difference over Mexico. Given El Tri's historical dominance of CONCACAF, and the fact that it still has the region's best individual talents, the U.S.' accomplishment is important even if it doesn't result in a top seed for the World Cup group draw.
The final standings were as follows:
1. United States, 20 points
2. Mexico, 19 points
3. Honduras, 16 points (+6 goal differential)
4. Costa Rica, 16 points (0 goal differential)
5. El Salvador, 8 points
6. Trinidad & Tobago, 6 points
- Sometimes, a team will jog around the pitch to salute its fans as a matter of formality. The U.S. players' celebrations at the final whistle last night were anything but that, though. They were organic and heartfealt, and even the fireworks overhead were a nice touch after what has been a truly crazy week.
- Speaking of the celebrations, hats off to the U.S. fans. You all know that I grew up here in D.C., and I've been going to games at RFK Stadium for a long time. In the late 90's and at the beginning of this decade, the fans here were renowned as the loudest and most passionate in the country. But as MLS expanded, other markets - specifically Chicago, Toronto and Seattle - took over that mantle.
(Philadelphia will get its crack next year, of course. And given everything we've seen so far, there's a very real possibility that the fans in our region will go straight to the top of the list. As I said a few weeks ago, it's no coincidence that the Union's first game is at the Sounders. Nor is it a coincidence that Toronto FC got its wish to host the Union in its 2010 home opener.)
Perhaps it's because D.C. United has been mediocre since its last MLS Cup title five years ago, but it seems to me that the atmosphere at RFK isn't what it used to be. There's always been a certain buzz around national team games, but that's been caused in no small part by fans of the visiting team.
That was the case again last night, as there were Costa Rican fans all over the place. But once Michael Bradley scored, the U.S. fans took over. For those last 20 or so minutes, the place rocked the way it used to - and those of you who stood in the bouncing bleachers last night know I mean that literally. Even the press box shook a bit.
Below, you'll find my live coverage from the game. Or at least the parts of it that showed up, as I had trouble with my wireless connection all night.
Greetings from the press box at a cool, rainy RFK Stadium, where the U.S. national soccer team is playing its final World Cup qualifying match tonight against Costa Rica. For once, I get to work in a press box that isn't enclosed, which means the big mass of U.S. fans across the field from me is coming through loud and clear.
But fear not for the health of my computer. There's a huge overhang protecting the press box from the rain.
You'll see two live elements below. The first is my chat, in which I'll offer my comments. You're welcome to send in questions as well, but please keep in mind that I'm covering this game for the Inquirer, so I have print deadlines to deal with.
The second is a widget pulling in Tweets about tonight's game from fans across the country and journalists here in D.C
If you want to watch the game on TV, it's being brodacast on ESPN2. Adrian Healey and John Harkes are the commentators. You'll also see a new video player over to the right, featuring some footage I shot of U.S. fans marching into the stadium before the game. I think you'll enjoy that.
Off we go.