The U.S. last qualified in 2008, failing to reach the 2012 London Games and 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.
This qualifying opener originally was scheduled for March 20 last year, but was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic. FIFA kept the original age limit, requiring players be born Jan. 1, 1997, or later.
The United States faces the Dominican Republic on Sunday night and Mexico on Wednesday. The top two nations advance to the semifinals on March 28 along with two teams from Group B, which starts Friday and includes Canada, El Salvador, Haiti and Honduras.
Semifinal winners will be the final two nations in the 16-team field for the Olympic tournament, to be played from July 21 to Aug. 7 in Tokyo, Kashima, Miyagi, Saitama, Sapporo and Yokohama. At the Olympics, each team can use three players over the age limit.
Men’s Olympic soccer is complicated by FIFA rules that say clubs do not have to release players for qualifying or for the Olympics themselves. That left the U.S. coach Jason Kreis without top young players such as Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, Tyler Adams, Gio Reyna, Josh Sargent and Sergino Dest.
Most of the U.S. players were playing their first competitive match since last fall.
Ferreira, a 20-year-old who was born in Colombia and became a U.S. citizen in December 2019, plays for FC Dallas in Major League Soccer. He scored twice for the senior national team in a 7-0 rout of Trinidad and Tobago in January.
He nearly scored in the second minute after he stripped the ball from Fernan Faerron, but Ferreira clanged an open shot off the near post.
Ferreira broke through after Mauricio Pineda passed down the left flank to Sam Vines, who crossed. The ball bounced past Hassani Dotson and Costa Rica’s Aaron Salazar to Ferreira, who scored with a right-foot shot from 8 yards.
Salt Lake’s David Ochoa, a surprise starter over San Jose’s JT Marcinkowski, had nine saves.
There were water breaks in each half on a sunny afternoon with the temperature near 90 degrees. Ferreira appeared to cramp in the second half and was replaced by Sebastian Soto in the 67th.
Costa Rica put the ball in Ochoa’s net in the 39th following a corner kick only for the goal to be disallowed for offside. Faerron hit a post in the 83rd but was whistled for offside.
Midfielder Ulysses Llanez will miss qualifying because of an ankle injury and was replaced on the 20-man the U.S. roster by Tanner Tessmann.