United States defender Omar Gonzalez celebrates with fans after the United States' 2-0 win. Rick Osentoski, USA TODAY Sports
COLUMBUS - There's a
reason the U.S. men's soccer team schedules its biggest games at Crew
Stadium. On Tuesday night, the Americans extended their undefeated
record in Columbus and virtually guaranteed themselves a berth in the
2014 World Cup with a 2-0 triumph over Mexico.
Eddie Johnson's 49th-minute
goal proved all the offense the Americans needed. The forward sparked
pandemonium from the packed crowd of 24,584 by punching in Landon
Donovan's corner to give the U.S. an improbable lead just minutes into
the second half. Half an hour later, Donovan scored one of his own,
sliding to poke in a low cross.
The U.S. will qualify for next summer's World Cup in Brazil if Honduras ties or beats Panama later Tuesday night.
Americans moved into first place of their six-team qualifying group
with 16 points, surpassing Costa Rica (15 points). Costa Rica tied
Jamaica 1-1 on Tuesday. The top three teams in the group qualify for the
World Cup, and the fourth-place team will play New Zealand in a
Until Johnson's header, the Americans looked shaky
and at times completely out-of-sync. Mexico earned a pair of corners in
the first five minutes of the contest and would have scored in the 10th
had U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard not reacted quickly to defender DaMarcus
Beasley's attempted clearance that sliced backwards. The veteran came
up big again moments later, diving right to punch away a curling shot
that looked destined for the back of the net. And on the final play
before halftime, Howard deflected a header to keep Mexico off the
Once they took the lead, the Americans defended
relentlessly, playing keep-away to run out the clock. And it worked, as
Mexico couldn't generate serious chances after falling behind even as
it substituted in more attackers.
The U.S. won despite playing
without Jozy Altidore, Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron, who all missed the
game due to yellow card accumulation. Star midfielder Michael Bradley
was also ruled out of the game with a sprained left ankle, and the
absence of his distributing prowess proved particularly detrimental as
the Americans struggled to connect on passes in the opening minutes.
the Americans eventually began creating opportunities midway through
the first half and tallied the game's two goals in the second. Donovan,
his right eye nearly swollen shut due to an infection, was free on the
left flank in the 28th minute, but he had his shot partially blocked.
Earlier, the midfielder's crossed free kick had popped back out to
Jermaine Jones, but the ensuing strike soared narrowly over the
crossbar. And in the 32nd minute, Donovan's corner was punched toward
the goal by Johnson, but Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona
smothered the shot.
But Corona couldn't stop the
Donovan-to-Johnson goal in the second half, and he was similarly
helpless when Donovan sealed the victory and a potential World Cup