U.S. Beats Panama to Lead World Cup Group as Mexico Draws Again

The U.S. beat Panama 2-0 to take the outright lead in its group midway through the final qualifying round for next year’s soccer World Cup as Mexico tied 0-0 at home for the third straight game.

Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson scored for the U.S. in the first World Cup qualifier to be played in Seattle for 37 years. Also last night in the six-nation group, Honduras beat last-place Jamaica 2-0.

The U.S. has 10 points through five of 10 games, two more than Costa Rica and Mexico, which has drawn five of its six matches. Honduras has seven points, one more than Panama, and Jamaica has two points from six games.

The top three teams in the North, Central America and Caribbean region advance to the 32-nation tournament in Brazil, with the fourth-place finisher entering a two-game playoff against New Zealand, the winner of the Oceania group. Soccer’s global championship is scheduled from June 12 to July 13, 2014.

After failing to qualify from 1954 through 1986, the U.S. has played at every World Cup since 1990, making the quarterfinals in 2002 and the round of 16 in 1994 and 2010.

U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann reacted furiously when Mexican referee Roberto Garcia Orozco declined an appeal for a penalty kick when Altidore was upended in the 34th minute at CenturyLink Field last night.

U.S. Goals

The home team took the lead on its next attack. Michael Bradley gained possession near the center circle and drove forward before finding Fabian Johnson on the left of the penalty area. His low cross was met by Altidore at the far post.

The U.S. doubled its advantage eight minutes into the second half. Geoff Cameron sent a pass from near the center spot over the Panama defense and Johnson controlled the ball with one touch before slipping it past goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.

Johnson, who plays his home games in Major League Soccer at the same stadium for the Seattle Sounders, has now scored 11 goals in World Cup qualifiers, one fewer than the U.S. record held jointly by Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey.

The victory extended the U.S.’s unbeaten run at home in World Cup qualifying to 24 matches stretching back to 2001.

The next qualifier for the Americans is against Honduras on June 18 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Salt Lake City.

Delayed Start

The start of Mexico’s game was delayed 10 minutes because the driver of the Costa Rica team coach got lost on the way to the 104,000-seat Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Costa Rica had the better of the chances in the first half. Joel Campbell struck a post with a shot and drew a diving save from Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona with another before captain Brian Ruiz’s first-time drive flew just over the bar four minutes before halftime.

Mexico had few chances after the break, with its last good opportunity coming in the 84th minute. The ball flew narrowly wide of the Costa Rica goal as Javier Hernandez failed to connect with Gerardo Flores’s flick on from Andres Guardado’s free kick.

Boos and jeers rang out around the world’s largest soccer stadium as Mexico failed to score in seven minutes of added time at the end of the game.

In Honduras, Oscar Garcia gave the home team the lead after 10 minutes against Jamaica and Roger Espinoza added a second goal two minutes from the end.

To contact the reporter on this story: Dex McLuskey in Dallas at dmcluskey@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Sillup at msillup@bloomberg.net.

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