The Americans, who opened with a 2-0 loss to Nigeria, will need a win Friday (6:30 pm ET, NBC Universo, FS2) against host Chile to keep its hopes of second-round passage alive.
After Luka Ivanusec scored the 2-2 equalizer in the 77th minute, Croatia hit the post three times, including twice in stoppage time.
In a first half during which Croatia threatened mainly with long-range shots handled by U.S. goalkeeper William Pulisic, the Americans went ahead on goals in the 20th and 40th minutes. Christian Pulisic was instrumental in both.
After Josh Perez delivered the ball to Luca de la Torre streaking through the middle, three Croatians converged on de la Torre as he stroked the ball into Pulisic’s path. His low shot from 12 yards beat the diving keeper Adrian Semper for the USA’s first goal of the tournament.
Pulisic, who had been attacking mainly from the left, appeared on the right wing five minutes before halftime and drove in a cross that Brandon Vazquez headed hard into the net from seven yards out. Vazquez had missed an open-net sitter from five yards four minutes earlier.
While the USA managed a slight edge (53%-47%) in first-half possession, the second-half was stunningly lop-sided in Croatia’s favor. The Croatians out-shot the USA 18-1 in the final 45 minutes after an 11-5 edge in the first half. The full game possession stats favored Croatia 57%-43%.
Desperate goalmouth clearances and saves by William Pulisic kept the Croatians at bay until the 65th minute when Ivanusec beat left back John Nelson to Borna Sosa’s high cross. The deflection landed conveniently for Karlo Majic to slam home from six yards.
Croatia continued to its torment of the U.S. defense, especially on right back Tyler Adams’ side, from where Josip Brekalo broke through to lay on a ball that Ivanusec directed into the net from 19 yards.
Oct. 20 in Vina del Mar
USA 2 Croatia 2. Goals: C.Pulisic 20, Vasquez 40; Majic 65, Ivanusec 77.
USA – W. Pulisic; Adams, Arellano, Barbir, Nelson; McCabe, de la Torre (Wright, 83), C. Pulisic, Zendejas; Vasquez (Gallardo 75), Perez (Calvillo, 68).
Croatia -- Semper, Sosa, Erlic (Dira, 44), Kalaica, Soldo, Brekalo, Durasek (Ivanusec, 44), Majic (Babic, 83), Moro, Lovren, Sverko.