Mexico’s Hector Moreno celebrates with teammates after scoring against El Salvador in a 2-0 World Cup qualifier in San Salvador
Timothy Weah set up the winner as the United States came from behind to defeat Costa Rica 2-1 and reignite their 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign on Wednesday.
Weah, who plays for French champions Lille, was drafted into the US starting line-up shortly before kick-off after D.C. United’s Chris Arriola suffered an injury in the warm-up.
The 21-year-old son of Liberian football icon George Weah was instrumental in the winning US goal, picking up a pass from Barcelona wingback Sergino Dest and rifling a shot towards Costa Rica goalkeeper Leonel Moreira’s near-post.
Weah’s effort cannoned off the woodwork and ricocheted off Moreira and into the net for an own goal on 66 minutes.
It completed a well-earned comeback for US coach Gregg Berhalter’s young side, who recovered after falling behind inside the first minute from Keysher Fuller before Dest’s 25th-minute equalizer.
The win in Columbus, Ohio, gave the United States 11 points from six matches, three behind Mexico after El Tri’s 2-0 victory over El Salvador in San Salvador.
“The team dug in and stuck together and I was really happy with the performance after conceding the first-minute goal,” US captain Tyler Adams said.
The United States had suffered an upset 1-0 away defeat to Panama on Sunday, when Berhalter was criticized for making seven changes from the team that beat Jamaica last week.
Against Costa Rica on Wednesday, Berhalter returned to the nucleus of the team that had brushed aside Jamaica, making 10 changes, and his team looked a more threatening and dynamic unit as a result.
The line-up was also the youngest ever US team to start a World Cup qualifying match, with an average age of 22 years and 229 days.
But the Americans were given a fright early on when a swift counter-attack by Costa Rica saw Ronald Matarrita beat Dest down the left flank before crossing to the far post for Fuller to volley home from inside the area.
The setback galvanized the United States, however, and they dominated possession for long periods before drawing level midway through the half.
Weah broke down the left and played a deep cross that found Yunus Musah on the opposite flank. The Valencia midfielder laid off to Dest, who cut in and rifled a left-footed shot into the top corner past Costa Rica keeper Keylor Navas.
The United States will try to build on the victory when they host Mexico on November 12.
Mexico maintained their lead in the eight-nation final qualifying group with a victory over El Salvador in a bruising encounter that saw both teams reduced to 10 men in the second half.
Mexico centerback Hector Moreno headed in a corner kick in the 30th minute.
Raul Jimenez sealed the win with a penalty in second-half stoppage time.
Canada moved into third in the standings on 10 points with an impressive 4-1 victory over Panama in Toronto, a victory keyed by Alphonso Davies’s impressive 66th-minute strike.
The Bayern Munich star put Canada in front when he surged down the right flank and got control of a ball headed out of bounds.
He eluded defender Fidel Escobar and fired a low shot past Panamanian goalkeeper Luis Mejia for a 2-1 Canada lead.
Panama had seized the lead in the fifth minute through Rolando Blackburn.
The hosts equalized in the 28th when Davies’s corner kick was headed toward the goal by Tajon Buchanan, deflecting off the body of Panama’s Michael Murillo who was charged with an own-goal.
Buchanan added a goal in the 71st minute and Jonathan David capped the scoring in the 78th.
Jamaica notched their first victory of the campaign — a 2-0 victory over Honduras in San Pedro Sula.