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Costa Rica 3, United States 2

March 24, 1997

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) _ A late lapse cost the United States a point in its World Cup qualifying match at Costa Rica. The Americans hope it won’t be a critical point.

Roy Lassiter, who played professionally in Costa Rica and was booed when he entered the game in the second half, tied it 2-2 in the 68th minute. But Ronald Gomez scored eight minutes later and Costa Rica had a 3-2 victory Sunday.

``We had that one point in our hands ... we lost it,″ U.S. coach Steve Sampson said. ``We tried to hang on and cover the spaces on defense, but their speed was too much.″

Before a jubilant crowd of 20,000 at Saprissa Stadium, Gomez scored with 14 minutes left, tipping in a clearing attempt by defender Mike Burns. Harold Wallace picked up a loose ball outside the penalty area, faked defender Alexi Lalas and then chipped a cross that Burns kicked onto the foot of Gomez at the near goalpost.

``We shouldn’t have allowed those gaps in the back, we should have been tighter,″ Burns said. ``With 15 minutes left, that should never have happened.″

The United States, Costa Rica and Mexico are tied with four points in the six-team group, but the Americans (1-1-1) have played three games and Mexico and Costa Rica (both 1-0-1) two each. The top three teams in the North and Central American and Caribbean region advance to the 32-team tournament in France next summer.

Jamaica (0-0-1) is fourth in the group, followed by El Salvador (0-0) and Canada (0-2). Each team plays a home-and-home series with its five opponents, with the qualifying round to end Nov. 16.

``You have just watched two teams that will be playing in France,″ Sampson said. ``Costa Rica fought hard for this victory. They simply have excellent speed.″

The United States seemed to have regained command after Lassiter’s goal. The U.S. striker intercepted a pass from Mauricio Solis to Gomez. Then he worked past two defenders at the top of the penalty area and beat goalkeeper Hermidio Barrantes to the far side to make it 2-2.

``I was really surprised at the pass Solis made across the field,″ Lassiter said. ``I’m the type of person who will always capitalize on errors. If you’re going to make those kind of mistakes with me that close to the goal, I’m not going to miss.″

Hernan Medford of Costa Rica opened the scoring in the 10th minute, ending a five-game shutout streak in qualifying for U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller. Eric Wynalda tied it in the 24th minute, his record 30th international goal for the U.S. team. He scored from about 15 yards, sending the ball into the upper right corner of the net.

Eight minutes later, Solis dribbled own the middle of the field and beat Keller with a 35-yard shot into the upper left corner to make it 2-1.

Costa Rica had beaten the United States 2-1 last December in this stadium during the semifinals, a match in which fans pelted the Americans with objects thrown from the stands.

The United States was missing Ernie Stewart, serving a one-game suspension for accumulating two yellow cards. Cobi Jones got his second yellow card and will miss the Americans’ game against Mexico on April 20 at Foxboro, Mass.

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