The Americans had opened training camp a week ago believing they would arrive in San Pedro Sula for Tuesday's qualifier in position to all but finalize a 2018 World Cup berth. That clash now looms large, and vital, for the U.S. No U.S. team ever lost two home games in qualifying and still reached the World Cup.
The Americans (2-3-2) stand third with eight points and a plus-one goal differential (the first tiebreaker).
With 30 minutes gone, Costa Rica made its telling move.
Ian Quillen of the MLS' official website called Friday "the Yanks' biggest match since Brazil 2014" because "Costa Rica have been the United States' greatest threat" to joining Mexico as "the region's giants in the World Cup picture".
However, facing Central American opposition on the road is a very different proposition, as the US discovered in 2013, losing 2-1 in the first game of an ultimately successful campaign.
Minutes later, Michael Bradley played Altidore into the penalty area, but his subsequent centering pass right across the goalmouth was cleared to safety by the Costa Rica defense.
"For me, everything happened a little bit too fast".
Panama is likely to win Tuesday at Trinidad, and a loss at Honduras would drop the US into fifth place heading into the October matches. A draw or win against the Catrachos would leave the U.S.in position to secure a berth with wins against Panama on October 6 at Orlando, Florida, and at last-place Trinidad and Tobago four days later. Navas then made a sliding stop on Altidore just before Urena's second goal.
Switzerland continue ideal qualifiers record with their eight wins as many games. They celebrated lustily a 1-0 victory that eliminated the USA from contention and sent Costa Rica into the final round, from which it reached Mexico '86.
'We still have three games left in the competition and were still in position to qualify for the World Cup, ' coach Bruce Arena said.
Honduras has the hardest schedule, but those last two matches very well will come against teams that have already clinched and, accordingly, might use secondary players.
"Any time you lose you're going to be frustrated, but this is a team that's always showed a tough mentality and when the cards are down then we play our best". Bottom line: Friday was disgusting for the US and a setback-and Jozy Altidore's yellow card that rules him out of Tuesday's match doesn't help-but it certainly doesn't erase the Americans' chance of making the World Cup.
"We have to put this past us real quick", Arena said.
Both goals were products of giveaways in bad spots, but the Costa Ricans also controlled midfield for the majority of the match and bottled up the Americans when they got within sight of goal.