SAN JOSE, Costa Rica -- When the U.S. soccer team plays in Costa Rica, the Americans resemble the doormat they used to be rather than the regional power they've become.
Alvaro Saborio scored 79 seconds in, the second-fastest goal against the United States in a World Cup qualifier, and Costa Rica coasted to a 3-1 victory Wednesday night.
Celso Borges added a goal in the 13th minute, and Pablo Herrera sealed the victory for 41st-ranked Costa Rica when he made it 3-0 in the 69th.
When the embarrassing wipeout was nearly over, Landon Donovan converted a penalty kick in the second minute of second-half stoppage time, tying Brian McBride's American record of 10 goals in qualifying.
"We consider us probably the fastest, strongest team in the region, but today we got out-passed, outplayed and out-competed in every sense," American goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "We were below average across the board."
The Ticos shredded the defense of the region's top-ranked team on the artificial turf of Saprissa Stadium.
"It's disappointing to play that way," Donovan said. "We were never in control because of the way we started the game, and that makes it difficult."
It was a tough start to a difficult three-match stretch of qualifying for the No. 14 Americans, who dropped to 0-7-1 in qualifying at Costa Rica, including 0-7 at San Jose, where they've been outscored 16-5. Donovan's goal was the first for the Americans in Costa Rica since Earnie Stewart's in 2000.
"We were under pressure from the start and we didn't control the game. They took advantage," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "I just don't think we were good enough."
The Americans now come home to Chicago, where on Saturday they'll host Honduras, the last team to beat them in a qualifier on U.S. soil. The United States is 15-0-1 at home since the 3-2 defeat at Washington's RFK Stadium in September 2001. Then, on Aug. 12, the Americans play at Mexico, where they are 0-22-1.
"We need to learn from tonight, but the most important thing is getting over it as quickly as possible, and taking what you can from it," Donovan said. "We have three days physically and mentally for Honduras, who is a very good team that has been rested and preparing for this game."
The U.S. will be missing midfielder Michael Bradley on Saturday after he picked up a yellow card in the 54th minute, earning a one-game suspension.
Still, the United States remains in good position to qualify for its sixth straight World Cup as long as it wins its remaining home matches, which include games against El Salvador (Sept. 5 at Sandy, Utah) and Costa Rica (Oct. 14 at Washington).
Costa Rica (3-1) leapfrogged into first place in the six-team regional finals of North and Central America and the Caribbean with nine points, two ahead of the United States (2-1-1).
Honduras (1-1-1) has four points, followed by Mexico (1-2) with three, and El Salvador (0-1-2) and Trinidad and Tobago (0-1-2) with two points each. The top three nations qualify for next year's World Cup in South Africa, and the No. 4 team meets the fifth-place team from South America in a playoff for another berth.
Saborio got the first goal when he cut around Jose Francisco Torres, faked past Pablo Mastroeni and then easily beat an onrushing Bradley and DaMarcus Beasley to curl a 20-yard, left-footed shot over Howard. The only earlier goal against the United States in a qualifier was by Mexico's Carlos Hermosillo in the first minute of a 2-2 tie at Foxborough, Mass., in April 1997.
"We knew they were going to come out with energy, and that is exactly how we did not want to start the game, with them scoring so quickly," said defender Carlos Bocanegra, the U.S. captain.
Esteban Sirias created the second goal when he went down the left flank, avoided a tackle by Mastroeni and crossed to Borges, who had a wide-open shot from 11 yards.
Herrera entered in the 56th and scored 13 minutes later when he got around Bradley and beat Howard to the near post from about 15 yards as Bocanegra was slow to come out and close him down.
With Steve Cherundolo and Frank Hejduk sidelined, the U.S. started Marvell Wynne Jr. -- son of the former major league baseball player -- at right back. Forward Brian Ching was out with a hamstring injury.
"It's never easy coming off a loss, but as professionals we have to put it behind us," defender Oguchi Onyewu said. "We have to work as a team, and move forward for the next game."