qualified for the World Cup for the seventh straight time after Panama lost to
Honduras an hour after the final whistle of its win.
"This is a huge, huge evening for all of us," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann
said. "It's a huge milestone whenever you make it to a World Cup."
Costa Rica, which beat the U.S. 3-1 on Friday and played to a shocking draw
with Jamaica earlier Tuesday, is in second place. Honduras is currently in third
followed by Panama in fourth Mexico in fifth.
The top three CONCACAF teams qualify for next year's 32-nation competition in
Brazil, and the fourth-place finisher will play in a one-game playoff with
Oceania winner New Zealand.
"This a team that could and should play better," said Mexico head coach Luis
Fernando Tena, who took over for Jose Manuel de la Torre on Saturday. "It has to
take a step forward if we want to make it to the World Cup."
The U.S. was without arguably the region's top player, Michael Bradley, who
sat out for the second straight game with an ankle injury. Three additional
Americans also missed the match because of yellow card accumulation: forward
Jozy Altidore, midfielder Geoff Cameron and defender Matt Besler.
Ahead of the game, Klinsmann called in four additional players, including
Clarence Goodson, who started in place of Besler in central defense along with
Omar Gonzalez. Fabian Johnson shifted from midfield to the back line opposite of
left back DaMarcus Beasley. Jermaine Jones, Clint Dempsey, Donovan, Alejandro
Bedoya and lone striker Johnson filled out the 4-2-3-1 formation.
Mexico opened the match with a different feel from Friday, when the team had
a late second-half collapse at home against Honduras for its second loss in the
Hexagonal that ultimately led to the firing of De la Torre. Hours later, he was
replaced by Tena, who put star striker Javier 'Chicharito' Hernandez back in the
starting XI despite the striker coming off a hamstring injury.
After shifting much of their lineup from the Costa Rica loss, the Americans
looked a bit unsettled after kickoff. Mexico was on the attack early, forcing
goalkeeper Tim Howard to make a diving save on an attempt from Christian Giménez
in the 18th minute for the first scoring opportunity from either side in the
But after the nervy moment, Klinsmann's men calmed down and had some chances
of their own, with both Dempsey and Donovan getting into the box for shots that
were blocked by Mexican defenders. Johnson nearly had the opener off a corner
kick in the 32nd minute, but Mexico keeper Jesus Corona saved the attempt on the
The teams entered the half scoreless. But that wouldn't last long.
Playing with a sense of urgency in front of a raucous crowd, the U.S. came
out of the locker room much like Mexico did to open the game. However, the Stars
and Stripes were able to capitalize off of their surge when Johnson used his
head to slip one into El Tri's goal.
Johnson, who has reinvented himself on the U.S. national team after rejoining
MLS last year, sneaked into the middle off a corner kick delivered by Donovan,
beat Corona to the ball and headed it in to help the Americans move one step
closer to stamping their passports for Brazil.
Later in the half, Johnson was forced to leave the game with a head injury
after taking a nasty fall on the pitch while going up for a header midway
through the second half. He was replaced by Mix Diskerud, but it turned out the
loss of the team's best offensive player on the night wouldn't cause any
For insurance, with just over 12 minutes remaining in the match, Diskerud
kept a short throw-in alive in the box and put his head up to find Donovan at
the far post to poke home the second goal of the match.
With just seconds left to play, Dempsey nearly made it an even worse night
for the visitors but he was unable to convert on a penalty kick that flew to the
right of the goal. But the mission had already been accomplished.
"We're continuing the growth of the game here in the sport, we're improving,
getting better and we've got to make sure we do well in Brazil to keep it
going," Dempsey said.
The U.S. improved to 24-0-2 in home qualifiers since losing to Honduras in
September 2001 at RFK Stadium in Washington, and is now 38-1-7 in qualifiers at
home since losing to Costa Rica in 1985.
The nation has also defeated Mexico at Columbus Crew Stadium for the fourth
straight World Cup qualifier after topping its biggest rival by a scoreline of
2-0 in 2001, 2005 and 2009. The Americans increased their undefeated run at the
MLS stadium overall by winning for the seventh time to go along with two
While the U.S. fans, led by the American Outlaws supporting group, left the
party atmosphere at the stadium, El Tri left with their heads down looking for
answers. Tena may find himself out after just one game in charge as the team
would need two wins in two games for any hope of reaching the World Cup on an
“This isn’t the best moment to make decisions,” Tena said when asked if he'd
resign. “I have to analyze a lot of things.”