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Gringos tremble in Monster’s Cave

The U.S. Men’s National Team lived up to a long-held legend Wednesday night, which says the “gringo” soccer team quakes in the presence of “La Cueva del Monstruo” (the Monster’s Cave)  — the delightful name given to the Ricardo Saprissa Stadium north of San Jose.

The lone goal made via Landon Donovan’s late penalty kick did little to appease the Monstruo, which chomped up and spit out the Americans 3-1 with seemingly little effort.

Incidentally, Donovan’s goal — his 10th in World Cub qualifying — was the first in the Monster’s Cave since 2000. I hate to say it, but when it comes to soccer, the Americans cannot win in Costa Rica.

The front-page headline in a local paper the morning of the match read “¡Tiemblen Gringos!” or Tremble, gringos! The same paper, Al Dia, the next day ran with a one-word headline in all caps, “¡YES!”

As I watched the game from my living room, a safe distance from the raucous growls of the Monster’s Cave, I emailed back and forth with my brother and friends who watched the match at one of our favorite bars back home in Park Slope, Brooklyn: The Gate. One friend, rapper Loki da Trixta, booed and hissed over emails via his Blackberry as the gringo side continued to fall hard.

The loss drops U.S. to second place in the final round, tipping Costa Rica over to the top in qualifying through four games — or so says the American team’s official website. I’m no soccer buff.

But it wasn’t a mere trembling in the cave that lost the gringos the match. They plainly stank, according to head coach Bob Bradley.

"As a group tonight, we came up short in every way," Bradley said, according to the same site. "I don't think there was any area at all where we were good enough to win a game against a good team. We were under pressure from the start. We fell short. We recognize that, and we have a quick turnaround for the next game."

The defeated gringos can only hope to redeem themselves a bit in that next game, against Honduras at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday.