The loss snapped the USA's record-breaking 12-game winning streak, which is just three shy of the world record for consecutive wins in full internationals, set by Spain.
Costa Rica is gunning for its first World Cup since 2006. Since falling to the U.S. on March 22 in Colorado, the Costa Ricans are unbeaten in their last four World Cup Qualifiers, going 4-0-1.
The U.S. now needs a win against Mexico in its next World Cup qualifier on Sept. 10 at Crew Stadium, combined with a Honduras win or draw at home against Panama to clinch a berth at World Cup Brazil. But Mexico lost to Honduras 2-1 at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City and is desperate for a result.
The USA dropped to second place with 13 points behind leaders Costa Rica (14 points) and ahead of Honduras (10) and Mexico (8). Panama (7) and Jamaica (3) split the points in their meeting Friday night with a 0-0 draw.
Bradley injured pre-game
The U.S. Men's National Team (USMNT) dropped two goals within 2-0 the first nine minutes of the match. The squad suffered an unusual setback just before the game started when star midfielder Michael Bradley rolled his ankle during warm-ups and had to be replaced in the starting lineup by Geoff Cameron.
"It's not an excuse but it hurts," said Donovan. "This team has in large part been built around Michael and that hurts. We lose a leader and a good player but that doesn't account for how we started and how we played. We still needed to do better than that."
Costa Rica scored just two minutes into the game, exactly as it did in its last home World Cup qualifier against the USA in 2009 (also a 3-1 win for the Ticos). Johnny Acosta, assisted by Joel Campbell, scored in just the second minute and Celso Borges, assisted by Christian Bolaños, doubled the lead to 2-0 in the ninth minute.
Eddie Johnson drew a penalty just before the half and Clint Dempsey stepped up and converted, his eighth goal in this World Cup qualifying in his 100th match for the U.S. National Team. Dempsey had his next-best opportunity in the 56th minute, but hit the post. Now with 36 goals, Dempsey is second on the USA's all-time scoring list behind Landon Donovan, the USA's all-time leader in World Cup Qualifying appearances (38).
The match marked Dempsey and Donovan's first game together since June 12, 2012, a 1-1 tie with Guatemala.
Costa Rica's Campbell, assisted by Jose Miguel Cubero, added the final blow in the 75th minute to create the final score of 3-1.
Back line changes ahead
The USA had three players receive their second yellow card in the tournament, which means all three - Cameron, Besler and Altidore - will be suspended for the Mexico game, making for an innovative back line. Besler and Gonzalez have been the center back pairing for the last five qualifiers.
On September 10, the USA-Mexico World Cup Qualifier will be broadcast live on Tuesday on ESPN, WatchESPN and UniMas at 8 p.m. ET.
The USA will finish World Cup qualifying with matches on Oct. 11 against Jamaica at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kansas (5:30 p.m. CT on ESPN, WatchESPN and UniMas) and Oct. 15 against Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City, Panama (10 p.m. ET on beIN Sport).
USA 1 0 1
CRC 2 1 3
CRC - Johnny Acosta (Joel Campbell) 2nd minute
CRC - Celso Borges (Christian Bolaños) 9
USA - Clint Dempsey (penalty kick) 43
CRC - Joel Campbell (Jose Miguel Cubero) 75
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 21-Michael Orozco, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 5-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 20-Geoff Cameron, 13-Jermaine Jones; 19-Graham Zusi (18-Eddie Johnson, 58), 10-Landon Donovan, 23-Fabian Johnson (17-Jozy Altidore, 71); 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.) (9-Aron Johannsson, 90)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Brad Guzan,22-Nick Rimando, 2-Edgar Castillo, 6-Michael Parkhurst, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 14-Kyle Beckerman, 15-John Brooks, 16-Mix Diskerud, 4-Michael Bradley
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
CRC: 1-Keylor Navas; 4-Michael Umaña, 3-Giancarlo Gonzalez, 2-Johnny Acosta, 8-Bryan Oviedo; 16-Christian Gamboa, 5-Celso Borges, 17-Yeltsin Tejeda (22-Jose Miguel Cubero, 73), 7-Christian Bolaños (14-Randall Brenes, 86); 12-Joel Campbell, 10-Bryan Ruiz (9-Alvaro Saborio, 80)
Substitutions Not Used: 18-Patrick Pemberton, 6-Oscar Duarte, 13-Carlos Johnson, 15-Junior Diaz, 20-Diego Calvo, 21-Victor Nuñez, 19-Mauricio Castillo, 11-Michael Barrantes
Head coach: Jorge Luis Pinto
Stats Summary: USA / CRC
Shots: 7 / 13
Shots on Goal: 4 / 6
Saves: 3 / 3
Corner Kicks: 4 / 2
Fouls: 9 / 13
Offside: 1 / 5
CRC - Michael Umaña (Caution) 32nd minute
CRC - Christian Bolanos (Caution) 36
CRC - Keylor Navas (Caution) 41
USA - Geoff Cameron (Caution) 62
USA - Matt Besler (Caution) 78
USA - Jozy Altidore (Caution) 90+3
Referee: Marco Rodriguez (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Marvin Torrentera (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Marcos Quintero (MEX)
Fourth Official: Jose Peñaloza (MEX)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey