FOOTBALL: Lletget’s head and foot the difference in U.S.’s 2-0 win over Costa Rica

U.S. National Team midfielder Sebastian Lletget

They call them “friendlies,” but there was nothing comfortable about the physical match-up between the young U.S. men’s National Team and a similarly youthful Costa Rica squad at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, California

The difference was second-half sub Sebastian Lletget.

The scoreless first half was marked by some inefficiency on offense from both sides, but both the U.S. and Costa Rica had chances and both keepers had to make saves. But neither side could make a polished finish that would lead to a quality scoring chance.

The U.S. controlled the second half from the outset and mounted nearly continuous scoring chances.

Corey Baird barely missed scoring the opening goal in the 46th minute, shooting wide of the left corner of the goal off a Gyasi Zardes pass. Then Cristian Roldan missed an open net in the 51st minute after a brilliant break-out pass from Wil Trapp, but the shot was again wide-left of the goal.

Nick Lima just missed scoring by hitting the left goal post in the 54th minute and Djordje Mihailovic couldn’t get the ball down on a header a minute later, off a great entry pass from Paul Arriola. Defender Aaron Long hit the post, then shot the rebound over the net, all off a Mihailovic corner five minutes later.

In the 68th minute, Roldan hit the post again on a a left-footed later from the top of the box.

The pressure continued, and Lletget finally got a goal in the 80th minute. A Trapp pass down the left side found Jonathan Lewis, whose pass across the face of the goal was headed in past Costa Rican keeper Esteban Alvarado for a 1-0 lead.

It was Lletget’s second career goal for the U.S. in his seventh appearance, but he wasn’t done.

After more U.S. pressure, Lletget played a perfect lead-out pass down the center of the field which Arriola was able to run down just as Alvarado came out to smother the ball. Arriola’s touch popped it into the goal for the 2-0 final in the 88th minute.

Two friendlies, two wins, so the Gregg Berhalfter Era is off to a good start. The U.S. is now 16-16-6 all-time vs. Costa Rica and ended a two-game losing streak from the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying.

Next up: games against Ecuador on 21 March (in Orlando) and Chile on 26 March (in Houston).