SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Ricardo Pepi, Kellyn Acosta, Tim Weah and DeAndre Yedlin returned to the starting lineup as U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter made four changes for Wednesday night’s final World Cup qualifier at Costa Rica.
With the U.S. in position to clinch a World Cup return as long as the Americans did not lose by six goals or more, Berhalter replaced Jesús Ferreira with Pepi and Luca de La Torre with Acosta.
Yedlin and Weah returned from one-game suspensions for yellow card accumulation. Yedlin took over at right back from Shaq Moore and Weah on right wing from Paul Arriola, who did not dress because of groin tightness.
Zack Steffen was in goal, Walker Zimmerman paired with Miles Robinson in central defense, and Antonee Robinson was at left back.
Tyler Adams was in defensive midfield, with Yunus Musah and Acosta in advanced midfield. Christian Pulisic, coming off his first international hat trick in Sunday's 5-1 rout of Panama at Orlando, Florida, was on the left wing.
Pulisic, Yedlin and Acosta were the only holdovers from the 2-1 loss at Trinidad and Tobago on Oct. 10, 2017 that ended the Americans' streak of seven straight World Cup appearances.
The United States began the night in second place with 25 points, three behind Canada, and ahead of Mexico on goal difference. Costa Rica was fourth with 22.
The American lineup averaged 24 years, 142 days, its only time with an average age over 24 in 14 qualifying matches. The U.S. lineup averaged a record low 23 years, 302 days this cycle, below the previous mark of 24 years, 66 days in qualifying for 1990 when the Americans earned their first World Cup trip since 1950.
Zimmerman captained the U.S. for the fifth time and paired with Miles Robinson for the sixth time in qualifying and seventh time overall.
Adams and Antonee Robinson tied for the most appearances in the qualifying cycle, each playing in their 13th game.
Costa Rica coach Luis Fernando Suárez made seven changes from Sunday’s 2-1 win at El Salvador, holding out defenders Francisco Calvo and Keysher Fuller, midfielders Celso Borges, Bryan Oviedo and Alonso Martínez along with forward Joel Campbell. Those six carried yellow cards and with another yellow would be suspended for a potential June playoff against New Zealand.
Midfielder Jewison Bennette was the only starter carrying a yellow card, and defender Bryan Oviedo and midfielder Bryan Ruiz were among those on the bench with yellows.
Midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda also was out of the lineup.
Keylor Navas was in goal; Carlos Martínez at right back; Johan Venegas, Kendall Waston and Daniel Chacón in central defense; and Ian Lawrence at left back.
Brandon Aguilera, Orlando Galo, Bennette and Carlos Mora were in midfield, and Anthony Contreras headed the attack.
Only Navas, Waston, Vargas and Contreras also started Sunday.
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