With its focus shaken after a teammate suffered serious injuries in a car crash the day before, the U.S. men’s national soccer team gathered all of its fortitude to post a 2-2 tie Wednesday night at RFK Stadium against a Costa Rican team that had everything to play for.
Defender Jonathan Bornstein scored on a header off a corner kick in second-half stoppage time to give the Americans first place in CONCACAF qualifying with a one-point edge on rival Mexico.
“We were pushing extremely hard that whole second half, and we got a couple corners late in the game. I happened to go up for a corner, and Robbie Rogers put in a good ball,” Bornstein said. “We threw a lot of numbers in the box, and I don’t usually go up for corner kicks - usually I stay in the back. But for that one I was like, ‘I’m getting in there.’ ”
The late tally dashed Costa Rica’s hopes of an automatic berth to next summer’s World Cup in South Africa. The tie clinched one for Honduras instead; Costa Rica will face Uruguay to earn a place in the final.
Costa Rican forward Bryan Ruiz scored two goals in a three-minute span in the first half to put the Americans on their heels, but a goal from Michael Bradley in the 72nd minute and Bornstein’s late header pulled the teams even at the final whistle.
The Americans clinched their bid to South Africa with a victory in Honduras on Saturday but had an eye on the top spot in CONCACAF to boost their seed for the World Cup’s final draw, which will take place in December. But when word came Tuesday that forward Charlie Davies had suffered serious injuries in a one-car crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway, the travel-weary team turned its thoughts to its hospitalized teammate.
“The whole team wanted to go out and put a good effort out there today for Charlie, for his family, for everyone that was involved in the situation,” Bornstein said. “To get the tie, to go on to the World Cup as first in the group, I think it shows a lot about our team and what we’re all about.”
After the match, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati said coach Bob Bradley but no players visited Davies on Wednesday. Davies responded to questions from family and friends by squeezing their hands.
“[Davies’] responses continue to be good,” Bradley said. “The responses he isn’t making are due to the medication, not the injury.”
Davies underwent five hours of surgery at Washington Hospital Center to repair a lacerated bladder, right tibia and fibula fractures, a broken left elbow and several facial fractures. U.S. Soccer physician Dan Kalbac said Davies’ recovery time is six to 12 months; that would prevent him from playing in the World Cup, which starts June 11.
The Americans’ improbable rally came with just 10 men on the field after defender Oguchi Onyewu was carted off in the 83rd minute after suffering a torn left patellar tendon. Bradley had used all of his substitutions, so no U.S. player could enter in Onyewu’s place. The D.C. native, who plays for Italian club AC Milan, will be out three to four months.
The Americans have made a habit of coming from behind in this final round of qualifying. After Wednesday’s match, they have earned 11 points in seven matches when they’ve surrendered the first goal.
That’s just fine with Bradley.
“Obviously we’re very proud to win the group,” he said. “It took a really determined, strong effort by our team. We always talk about when you show up on the field, you show people what you’re all about. Tonight is not the way you draw it up on the board before the game, but it still showed the mentality, the spirit - and we’re very proud of that.”