United States reliance on youth pays off in comeback win over Costa Rica

COLUMBUS (Ohio) -- After being replaced, Sergino and Tim Weah made their way back to the United States bench. The two offensive heroes cheered on the home crowd at Lower.com Field. Dest gave high-fives to his teammates and a few fans. Weah took the time to pass his jersey to someone in crowd. Despite only 17 minutes remaining in Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica they showed their enthusiasm and confidence that the U.S. would win the match.
The U.S. won 2-1 over Ticos to secure three crucial points in its World Cup qualifying campaign.

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Dest and Weah displayed a great deal of energy, which was fitting considering this was a match in which youth overcame experience. The U.S. started lineup was 22 years old and 61 days old, which was the youngest ever in a World Cup qualifier. Costa Rica had a starting XI that included six players older than 30. The youngest Costa Rican player, Keysher Fuller (27 years old), was older than Zack Steffen (26 years). Later in the match, the difference was even more evident when Alvaro Saborio (39), Christian Bolanos (37), and Kendall Waston (33) all entered the match.

The U.S. showed inexperience at times. Not least was its falling behind with less that a minute on the clock. The U.S. proved to be resilient in securing a victory that will likely place it second in the Octagonal standings.

After the match, Gregg Berhalter, United States coach, said that it was a great feeling to navigate through CONCACAF qualifying. Gianluca Busio is on and looks 30 years old. The effort was impressive. They showed great poise and are growing. As a team, they're improving."

The beginning couldn't be more unlucky. Just one minute into the match, Steffen, a surprise starter after Matt Turner's five matches, jumped off his line to clear a through-ball with his head. However, it did not eliminate the danger. As the U.S. defense was trying to get in shape, Ronald Matarrita discovered a wide open Fuller at far post to beat Steffen.

But this young U.S. team did not crumble. It took the initiative and, even though the U.S. seemed a bit too eager with some of their passing, it was first at a lot of second balls, which put constant pressure on Costa Rica's goal.

Weah stated that they were not nervous at all. It was disappointing to concede the goal so early in the game. We knew our game plan and that was to expose their backline. I think we succeeded. Today, the outside backs played an important role. The wingers were excellent. We all played well so it was just us getting together and staying focused.

Sergino Dest and Timothy Weah celebrate scoring a goal against Costa Rica for the United States. Getty Images

It was clear that Keylor Navas, the Ticos' all-world goalkeeper, was not going to be able to score. Dest did exactly that by taking Yunus Musah's pass near the corner, moving the ball to his left foot, and then unleashing a rocket into Navas' top corner. He was not stopped by the fact his shoelace wasn't tied.

Dest stated that he believed it to be Weston McKennie. He made the run behind him and the man follows him so there was room for me. "I was put in and thought that the best thing I could do at this moment was to shoot it because we needed to score. We are down 1-0 so I felt like we needed this point. I was trying to show that it was possible and it was an incredible goal.

Halftime was a crucial moment in the match when it became clear that Navas had sustained an adductor injury. Leonel Moreira would be replacing him. The game was open for all without its talisman.

In the 66th minute, the U.S. took advantage. Dest became provider for Weah's tight-angled drive that went off Moreira and hit the post. Officially, it was an own goal. Berhalter stated that he would work to change that.

It was still a significant moment for Weah. He only discovered five minutes before the game that he would start after Paul Arriola had been injured during warm-up. He noticed that he was about be subbed out just before the goal.

He said, "I saw Matthew [Hoppe] and DeAndre [Yedlin] standing on the sideline getting ready for the come in, so it was kind of clear to me that I was going to get subbed out." "But my goal wasn't to lose focus on until then. It just so happened that the ball came out wide and Serge saw it. I hit it once and it went in. It's all about being present in those moments.

This was a resounding performance by the U.S. after last Sunday's defeat to Panama and especially for Dest. The defender from Ajax and Barcelona had much to offer, but he's been on a rollercoaster ride during qualifying, particularly when he was playing on the left side. Dest was able to raise his level and was the difference-maker in this match. Fans and teammates expected him to do so.

"It almost seems like the sky is the limit for [Dest]." Berhalter said that he could be as great as he wants. His attacking play was unreal, as you saw it today. Serge is just trying to stay positive mentally and pushing himself to be the best on the field.

Dest acknowledged that CONCACAF qualifying games are an "eye-opener" and offer a new world to him than what he is used to in Europe. Dest noted that opponents are hardworking and the intensity is high.

He said, "And it's only physical."

Dest and his team are now learning that they can also play this card. To beat the Ticos, they had to use their physical abilities and brains. The moment when Miles Robinson, a U.S. defender, gave the ball away in half two was the turning point. This prompted Bryan Ruiz of Costa Rica to break away. Robinson was a ferocious runner and ended any threat. Costa Rica didn't have enough legs.

The U.S. also banished some ghosts in the process. The Ticos were the ones who sent the U.S. team's 2018 qualifying effort into a tailspin by winning the road race by a score of 2-0. This Costa Rica team, four years later is clearly in transition. It's still a formidable foe, and the U.S. has at times protected its home turf.

The U.S. will likely be in second place in Octagonal Standings, subject to Mexico's victory against El Salvador. Given that Panama managed to draw, the six points in this window were a little less than expected. The road ahead is going to be tougher. Mexico's bitter rivals at home is imminent, as well as a tilt against Jamaica. Jamaica looked revived following a 2-0 win over Honduras on the road. The U.S. must play more consistently.

However, youth has been a great asset to the U.S., and for now, the qualifying campaign seems to be on track.


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