Clint Dempsey was set to make his 100th appearance for the U.S. national team in Friday night's World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica, and Landon Donovan was in the starting lineup for his first qualifier in 15 months.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made seven changes from his lineup for last month's 4-3 exhibition win at Bosnia-Herzegovina, keeping only goalkeeper Tim Howard, defensive midfielders Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones, and Fabian Johnson, who moved to attacking midfield from left back.
Michael Orozco started at right back, with Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler in central defense, and DaMarcus Beasley at left back. Graham Zusi joined Donovan and Johnson in the advanced midfield, with Dempsey the lone forward.
Orozco was to make his first qualifying appearance since Oct. 15, 2008, against Trinidad and Tobago 2. After Brad Evans strained a calf muscle while playing for Seattle last weekend, Geoff Cameron and Michael Parkhurst had been the leading contenders to take over.
Dempsey, who would become the 14th American men's player to reach the century mark for appearances, started up front in the absence of Jozy Altidore, who injured a hamstring while playing for Sunderland. Altidore, the first American to score in five straight international matches,
Costa Rica, still angry about the 1-0 loss to the U.S. during a March snow storm in Commerce City, Colo., didn't start star forward Alvaro Saborio. Keylor Navas was in goal, and Michael Umana, Giancarlo Gonzalez and Jhonny Acosta were in the center of a five-man defense, with Bryan Oviedo and Cristian Gamboa as wingbacks. Celso Borges, Yeltsin Tejeda and Cristian Bolanos were in the midfield, and Joel Campbell and Bryan Ruiz were at forward.
The game was at the 2-year-old Estadio Nacional, which has grass and a running track keeping fans far from the field. Previous qualifiers against the U.S. were at Estadio Saprissa, which has artificial turf and fans right near the sidelines.
The U.S. (4-1-1) began the night in first place in the final round of North and Central American and Caribbean qualifying with 13 points, two ahead of Costa Rica (3-1-2). Mexico (1-0-5) was third with 11 points, followed by Honduras (2-3-1) with seven, Panama (1-1-3) with six and Jamaica (0-4-2) with two.
The top three nations advance to next year's 32-nation field in Brazil, and the No. 4 team goes to a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
The Americans, 0-7-2 at Costa Rica, would clinch its seventh straight World Cup appearance with a win, a tie by Honduras at Mexico and a loss or tie by Panama against visiting Jamaica.
The U.S. took a team-record 12-game winning streak into the match, three shy of Spain's world mark.
Next up is a Tuesday qualifier against Mexico at Columbus, Ohio. Eight Americans entered Friday's game with yellow cards and faced suspension with another yellow: Altidore, Besler, Bradley, Cameron, Dempsey, Howard, Johnson and Jones.