Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan scored second-half goals at Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio, last night to leave the U.S. unbeaten in seven World Cup qualifiers at home since 1972 against Mexico.
“We knew it was going to be a tense game, we knew there was a lot at stake,” U.S. coach Juergen Klinsmann told ESPN. “Throughout the entire team everybody was so dedicated, was so hungry for this win.”
The U.S. had to wait about an hour after the game to find out if it had booked one of 32 places at soccer’s quadrennial showpiece. For the U.S. to reach the tournament in Brazil, Honduras had to avoid defeat at home. Honduras led 2-1 before conceding a goal in added time at the end of the game.
After failing to reach soccer’s showpiece 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.
The four-yearly championship is scheduled from June 12 to July 13, 2014. The U.S. and Costa Rica join Argentina, Australia, Iran, Italy, Japan, South Korea and the Netherlands in securing berths. Record five-time winner Brazil automatically qualifies as host.
The top three teams in the six-nation North, Central America and Caribbean group advance, with the fourth-place finisher entering a two-game playoff against Oceania group winner New Zealand for another spot.
With two rounds of games remaining, the U.S. leads the standings with 16 points, one more than Costa Rica. Honduras is third with 11 points, followed by Panama and Mexico with eight each, and Jamaica, which has four points.
The U.S. plays its last home qualifier Oct. 11 against Jamaica in Kansas City, four days before it completes its schedule at Panama.
Johnson opened the scoring four minutes into the second half last night when he reached a corner kick ahead of Mexico goalkeeper Jose Corona to head the ball into the middle of the net for his 19th international goal.
Donovan, the career top scorer for the U.S. with 57 goals from 152 appearances, doubled the advantage with 12 minutes remaining as he turned in substitute Mikkel Diskerud’s low center for his sixth goal against Mexico.
Clint Dempsey of the U.S. failed to score with a penalty kick in the fifth minute of added time at the end of the game.
“These guys put in a lot of hard work over the past two years and to have an opportunity in front of a crowd like this to qualify is pretty special,” Donovan told ESPN.
It was the first game in charge of Mexico for Luis Fernando Tena, who was promoted from assistant coach when Jose Manuel de la Torre was fired following a 2-1 home defeat to Honduras in a World Cup qualifier on Sept. 6.
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