24,584 fans in Columbus, Ohio were loud and proud as the U.S. men’s national soccer team not only beat their bitter rivals last night, they also earned a spot in the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Goals from Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan in the second half helped the Yanks beat a struggling Mexico side 2-0.
"A qualifying campaign is a very difficult road. It is a special moment,” head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said after the game.
"Against your rival, it's even sweeter," USA captain Clint Dempsey noted.
Both Mexico and USA came into last night’s match with a hangover of defeat from Friday’s World Cup qualifiers. Mexico lost 2-1 at the Azteca against Honduras while the Americans were trounced 3-1 by Costa Rica in San Jose. Both sides faced a must-win situation going into last night’s match; control of the CONCACAF hexagonal was at stake for the U.S. while Mexico was trying to stay in contention.
The pace of the first half was at a crawl. Each team had very few quality chances put on goal, but for the most part it looked as if they were afraid of each other. The deadlock was broken in the 49th minute as Eddie Johnson scored off a header from a Landon Donovan corner kick. The U.S. has shown great potential from their set pieces throughout the qualification stages, but has seldom finished their opportunities. Johnson would exit the match moments later after hitting his head to the ground after going up for a 50-50 ball.
Donovan secured a U.S. victory with an insurance goal in the 78th minute. After Clint Dempsey was unable to get a foot onto a low cross from Mikkel Diskarud, Donovan was in the right place at the right time to tap the ball across the goal line. Dempsey had a chance to convert a penalty kick to make the game 3-0 in stoppage time, but hit the ball wide to the right of the goal.
With Costa Rica drawing even with Jamaica 1-1 last night, the United States sits atop of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying table with 16 points. The loss puts Mexico in fifth place as Panama has able to tie Honduras 2-2. If the qualification stages ended today, the United States, Costa Rica and Honduras would automatically qualify for Brazil 2014 and Panama would enter a playoff match against New Zealand for potential qualification.