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U.S. Beats Jamaica 1-0, Mexico Advances in World Cup Qualifying

The U.S. beat Jamaica 1-0 to move into a share of first place in its qualifying group for the 2014 soccer World Cup as Mexico sealed a place in the next phase.

Herculez Gomez got the only goal in Columbus, Ohio, last night as the U.S., which has played in every World Cup since 1990, avenged a 2-1 defeat to Jamaica in Kingston on Sept. 7.

“It was important for us to regroup after what happened in Jamaica,” Gomez told ESPN in a televised interview. “With the help of the crowd, we persevered.”

The win lifted the U.S. to seven points through four of six games in the third round of the regional qualifying competition. The Americans are tied atop the standings with Guatemala, which beat Antigua and Barbuda 1-0 last night. Jamaica is third, also with seven points, while Antigua and Barbuda has one point.

From the ninth through the 11th minute of the game at Columbus Crew Stadium, the capacity crowd of almost 24,000 applauded and waved U.S. flags to mark the 11th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil.

The game was scoreless after the first half, even as the U.S. had 79 percent of possession and struck the frame of the Jamaican goal three times in the opening 30 minutes.

The U.S. got the breakthrough after 55 minutes, when Gomez scored with a free kick from about 22 yards (20 meters).

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann made five changes to the team that lost in Kingston four days earlier.

Kingston Defeat

In that game, Clint Dempsey scored after 35 seconds -- the fastest goal in World Cup qualifying for the U.S. -- before Jamaica rallied to log its sole win in 20 meetings between the countries. It was only the third time in 40 years that the U.S. lost a World Cup qualifier after leading, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

The U.S.’s next qualifier is away against Antigua and Barbuda on Dec. 12 before it completes this stage of games four days later at home against Guatemala, which beat Antigua and Barbuda last night on a 25th-minute goal from Carlos Ruiz.

In Group B yesterday, Javier Hernandez got the only goal as Mexico beat Costa Rica to move to 12 points and guarantee first place in the group with two games to spare. El Salvador is in second place with five points after a 3-2 win at last-place Guyana, while Costa Rica has four points.

Canada relinquished first place in Group C with a 2-0 loss in Panama, while Honduras beat Cuba 1-0 to move into second place on goal difference. Panama leads the standings with nine points, two more than Canada and Honduras, while Cuba has lost all four games so far.

The top two teams from each of the three pools advance to the final round of qualifying for the North and Central America and Caribbean region, to be played from February through October 2013. The top three countries from that stage claim a place at the World Cup, which is scheduled for June 12 to July 13, 2014, in Brazil.

The team that finishes fourth enters a two-game playoff against the winner of the Oceania group, which comprises New Zealand, Tahiti, New Caledonia and the Solomon Islands.

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