US clinches World Cup berth after beating Mexico
US soccer fans saw their team beat Mexico 2-0 on Tuesday night to guarantee an early place at next year's World Cup in Brazil
The United States’ soccer squad on Tuesday night secured its seventh straight World Cup appearance with second-half goals from Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan in a 2-0 home win over Mexico.
“People want to come to Columbus and see US-Mexico. It’s almost like the mecca really for us,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “You almost feel like it’s our destiny to win here.”
Noisy American fans stood and sang in the Columbus Crew Stadium for one-and-a-half hours before kick-off, and about 1,000 stayed to celebrate for an hour after the final whistle. The US also needed a win or a tie from the match between Honduras and Panama to clinch qualification with two games in hand, and the North American supporters watched on the video board as the Hondurans held on for a 2-2 draw.
US players crowded around a television in their locker room, and then sprayed champagne in celebration before returning to the field to join fans.
“It’s great to do it sooner than later, but to get it against your rival is even sweeter,” US captain Clint Dempsey said.
After withstanding Mexican pressure for the first 20 minutes, the US settled into the match and got the breakthrough in the 49th minute when Johnson jumped above defender Diego Reyes to meet Donovan’s corner kick eight yards out and head the ball past Mexico’s static goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
With the Mexicans shifting to an offence-minded 3-4-3 formation, the US scored in the 78th minute following a throw-in when Mix Diskerud threaded the ball across the middle of the pitch. Dempsey got the slightest of touches as he slid into the goalmouth, and Donovan poked the ball into the net from two yards out.
Obviously this is a huge, huge evening for all of us,” US coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s a huge milestone whenever you make it to a World Cup.”
The US moved into first place in the North and Central American and Caribbean finals with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica, who were held to a 1-1 tie at last-place Jamaica and also qualified.
Honduras are third with 11 points and on-track for the region’s final automatic berth for the 32-nation field for the tournament in Brazil next June.
Panama moved ahead of Mexico on goal difference for fourth place, which allows them a play-off chance in a match against Oceania champions New Zealand.
“This a team that could and should play better,” said as Mexico coach Luis Fernando Tena, who replaced Chepo de la Torre following Friday’s 2-1 home loss to Honduras. “It has to take a step forward if we want to make it to the World Cup.”
Following wins over Mexico in qualifiers by identical 2-0 scores at Columbus in 2001, 2005 and 2009, the US Soccer Federation picked the same venue for this year’s match. The capacity crowd of 24,584 taunted the Mexicans with chants of “You’re not going to Brazil!”
“Amazing, amazing crowd,” Klinsmann said. “Kind of pushed these guys.”
Fans were so loud during the anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” that singer Kayleigh Schofield was forced to alter her tempo to match that of the crowd.
“I think it really got into Mexico’s head, especially when we scored that first goal. You could see it on Mexico’s face. They were really defeated,” American defender Omar Gonzalez said. “From that point on we really took control of the game.”
Johnson, starting because of Jozy Altidore’s suspension, nearly scored from Donovan’s cross in the third minute of the second half, but the pass was just ahead of him.
A minute later, the US took just their second corner kick of the match. Jermaine Jones and Johnson both broke in from behind the penalty spot, and Mexico was slow to react as Johnson scored his 12th goal in 21 qualifying appearances.
“We’ve got some good height in the box, and this time I wanted to make sure I kept it down enough,” Johnson said. “I was very fortunate it went in.”
Donovan increased his US goals tally to a record 57, setting off a non-stop sing-a-long for the closing minutes of the match.
“You [could] see it when we came in the stadium. It was rockin’ already,” Donovan said. “That’s a real atmosphere. That’s what we face when we go away, and it’s nice that other teams have to face it when they come here.”
Mexico now have a tough challenge, hosting Panama on October 11 before ending their World Cup qualifying campaign four days later against Costa Rica.
“They looked relatively timid and shy throughout [against us]. I’ve never seen a Mexico team look that way,” Donovan said.
Dealing with an injury to midfielder Michael Bradley and yellow-card suspensions that included defender Matt Besler and midfielder Geoff Cameron, Klinsmann had to make several changes to the team that lost 3-1 against Costa Rica on Friday – a defeat that ended the North Americans’ record 12-game winning streak.
Fabian Johnson shifted from midfield to the back line, and Clarence Goodson was among four new starters, joined by midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya, and Eddie Johnson. Fabian Johnson strained his left hamstring during the action and was replaced by Michael Parkhurst for the start of the second half.
Mexico dominated the first 20 minutes of the opening half and the last five, forcing Howard to make several sprawling saves.
“Once we weathered that storm, Mexico didn't have much in the second half,” Gonzalez said.
Now the Americans can take it easy in the final two qualifiers against Jamaica on October 11 at Kansas City and in Panama four days later. In addition, exhibition matches are likely to be played against Scotland and Austria in November.
Klinsmann won the World Cup as a player with Germany in 1990 and coached his native country to the 2006 semifinals.