Sixty seconds in, Costa Rica was celebrating and the U.S. World Cup campaign was spinning out of control.
Sergiño Dest and Tim Weah, two young Americans unscarred by the failure of four years ago, got them back on track.
Shoelaces untied, Dest curled an 18-yard, left-footed shot past Keylor Navas in the 25th minute. Weah’s shot for the go-ahead goal deflected off the near post and then off backup goalkeeper Leonel Moreiera in the 66th, and the U.S. exhaled with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night that eased pressure as qualifying neared the halfway point.
“We can’t lose again,” the 20-year-old Dest said. “We needed it really bad,”
Goalkeeper Zack Steffen, one of nine new starters inserted following Sunday’s dismal 1-0 loss at Panama, made a costly headed clearance that led to Keysher Fuller’s goal 60 seconds in, the fastest goal conceded by the U.S. in 23 years.
Dest ended a streak of eight straight first halves without an American goal following a pass from Yunus Musah on the right flank after Weah had switched the ball from the opposite side. Dest cut toward the center and curled the ball just beyond Navas’ outstretched right hand into the upper corner.
Navas left at halftime because of a strained adductor muscle
Weah, a 21-year-old son of Liberia President and former FIFA Player of the Year George Weah, joined the lineup about five minutes before kickoff after Paul Arriola injured his right groin during warmups.
“Everything was kind of a rush. I had to warm up, get ready quick,” Weah said.
With Matthew Hoppe on the touchline about to replace Weah, Weston McKennie passed to Dest, who dished to Weah. His 10-yard shot from an angle hit the post and ricocheted off a diving Moreira and in,
“It just so happened that the ball came out wide to Serge, and I saw the run,” Weah said. “I just hit it one time, and it happened to go in.”
Weah originally was credited with a goal, but it was changed to an own goal by Moreira.
“We’ll talk to FIFA about that,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said.
Mexico leads with 14 points after a 2-0 win at El Salvador, and the U.S. has 11 after six of 14 matches going into its Nov. 12 meeting with El Tri at Cincinnati.
Canada has 10 after a 4-1 win over Panama, which has eight. The top three teams qualify for next year’s World Cup, and the fourth-place team advances to a playoff.
Costa Rica (six), Jamaica and El Salvador (five each) and Honduras (three) trail.