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The United States has qualified for the football (soccer) World Cup as the top team the North, Central America and Caribbean region (CONCACAF). The U.S. men rallied to claim a dramatic 2-2 tie against Costa Rica.
The United States had already qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa with a 3-2 victory over Honduras on Saturday. At stake for the United States in the final qualifying game was first place. Costa Rica needed a win to take the last of three automatic qualifying berths.
The Central Americans roared to a 2-0 lead in a first half soaked by light, cold rain. Bryan Ruiz scored twice within a three-minute span, netting his first goal in the 21st minute. U.S. coach Bob Bradley had a simple message for his team at halftime.
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"The biggest thing I was unhappy with was just at times we just were not playing the ball fast enough," Bradley said. "And, I got on the team for that. And, the fact we needed to play the ball quicker and push the game harder. And, making sure that we understood that we came here to win the game and win the group."
But the United States did not completely respond until Michael Bradley scored in the 72nd minute. The crowd of more than 26,243 erupted with chants of "U.S.A.!" The pace of the Americans visibly increased on the field. But precious time kept slipping by. Virtually all of five minutes of stoppage time had expired when Jonathan Bornstein stunned Costa Rica with a header off a last-chance corner kick.
"I do not usually go up for corner kicks," Bornstein said. "I usually just stay in the back. But for that one, I am getting in there. This is the last shot effort. So they put in a good ball. I found myself wide open. No one marked me. I kind of snuck in there. And, the ball just fell on my head and I put it away."
The final whistle blew seconds after his score to push the United States one point ahead of Mexico, which was stunned by a 2-2 draw at last-place Trinidad and Tobago.
Elsewhere, Honduras beat El Salvador, 1-0, and qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1982. Honduras finished ahead of Costa Rica on goal difference. As the CONCACAF region's fourth-place team, Costa Rica still has a chance to reach the World Cup. But the team faces a two-match playoff against fifth-placed South American finisher Uruguay next month.
At the end of Wednesday's match, U.S. players held up a banner with the number "9" of teammate Charlie Davies, who was seriously injured in a car crash Tuesday and is unlikely to play in next year's World Cup.