The victory, combined with Honduras tying Panama 2-2 in Tegucigalpa an hour later, gave the USA its seventh-consecutive FIFA World Cup berth and 10th overall.
The USA is looking good for World Cup 2014. This year, the U.S. Men's National team set a new record for victories in a calendar year with 14, improving to 14-3-2 in 2013 and topping the previous record of 13 wins set in 2005 and 2009. USA head coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the man behind the surging team, moves to 25-9-6 since taking the coaching reins in 2011.
"Step-by-step, we’re getting closer to taking the game to the opponents," said Klinsmann. "We’re not sitting back and reacting to what happens. We want to take it into their half.
Certain things that maybe two years ago [the team] may have wondered what this was all about. All this extra work, extra here, extra there, now it’s just normal. The players come in and they know there are double sessions waiting for them."
Tough times for Mexico
Mexico was playing its first match under Luis Fernando Tena, who replaced recently fired head coach Jose Manuel de la Torre. Tena, who led Mexico to the 2012 Olympic gold medal in men's soccer, had just three days to prepare El Tri as an emergency replacement.
The loss to the U.S. dropped Mexico to fifth place. El Tri is likely playing for fourth place and a berth in the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand in its battle for a ticket to World Cup.
USA surges toward World Cup
Eddie Johnson scored the 19th goal of his career and 12th tally in World Cup Qualifying by smashing home a header off a Landon Donovan corner kick early in the second half. Johnson's goal was his fifth in 2013 and his 12 World Cup Qualifying goals have come in only 21 matches.
In the 78th minute, Donovan dashed Mexico's World Cup hopes and stamped the USA's tickets to Brazil off an edgy assist from Mix Diskerud, who came on as a substitute only two minutes earlier. Diskerud chipped the ball to himself aside of the penalty area, beat a defender with a touch toward the end line and sliced the ball across the face of the goal. Dempsey re-directed it and Donovan slammed his shot from four yards out into the empty net for his sixth career goal against Mexico.
With the goal and an assist, Donovan broke his international points record for a calendar year with 24 in 2013 (eight goals, eight assists), besting his previous points mark of 22 in 2007 (nine goals, four assists).
In stoppage, captain Clint Dempsey nearly scored a third goal but delivered a penalty kick just wide the post after he was taken down in the right side of the box.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard made three saves to log another clean sheet, the 32nd of his career, tied for second-most with 1990 and 1994 World Cup starter Tony Meola.
"The crazy thing about [Tim Howard] is those are big saves for most goalies and for him, we almost expect it of him because he does it so often," said Donovan. "You just feel so confident, you feel like they're never going to score, and that's a big plus."
It was the fourth consecutive time during a World Cup Qualifying cycle that the USA defeated Mexico 2-0 at Crew Stadium, sustaining the "dos a cero" taunt.. The U.S. is now 17-32-13 all-time against Mexico.
"This is a great crowd. It's become its own monster," said Howard. "People want to come to Columbus and see USA vs. Mexico. Because of the way results have gone the last four times, you almost feel like it's our destiny to win here."
The U.S. resumes 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying when it hosts Jamaica on Oct. 11 in Kansas City, Kan. Kickoff at Sporting Park is set for 5:30 p.m. CT, and the match will be broadcast live on ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas and ESPN Deportes Radio.
Four days later, the USA completes the Hexagonal when it faces Panama at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City. Coverage on beIN SPORT begins at 10 p.m. ET.
USA - Eddie Johnson (Landon Donovan) 49th minute
USA - Landon Donovan (Clint Dempsey) 78
USA: 1-Tim Howard; 23-Fabian Johnson (15-Michael Parkhurst, 46), 21-Clarence Goodson, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 13-Jermaine Jones, 5-Kyle Beckerman; 11-Alejandro Bedoya (19-Graham Zusi, 84), 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 10-Landon Donovan; 18-Eddie Johnson (14-Mix Diskerud, 76)
Substitutions Not Used: 12-Brad Guzan, 22-Nick Rimando, 2-Edgar Castillo, 4-Michael Orozco, 6-Joe Corona, 9-Aron Johannsson, 16-Jose Torres, 17-Brad Davis
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
MEX: 1-Jesús Corona (capt.); 21-Hiram Mier, 4-Diego Reyes, 15-Héctor Moreno, 3-Carlos Salcido (8-Ángel Reyna, 77); 7-Christian Giménez (16-Héctor Herrera, 55), 5-Fernando Arce (19-Oribe Peralta, 69), 17-Jesús Zavala, 18-Andrés Guardado; 14-Javier Hernández, 10-Giovani Dos Santos
Substitutions Not Used: 2-Francisco Rodríguez, 9-Raúl Jiménez, 11-Javier Aquino, 12-Jonathan Orozco, 13-Severo Meza, 20-Jorge Torres Nilo, 22-Damián Álvarez, 23-Alfredo Talavera
Head coach: Luis Fernando Tena
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 9 / 8
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 3 / 2
Corner Kicks: 2 / 7
Fouls: 13 / 9
Offside: 0 / 3
USA - Alejandro Bedoya (caution) 45+1 minute
USA - Landon Donovan (caution) 85
Referee: Courtney Campbell (JAM)
Assistant Referee 1: Ricardo Antonio Morgan (JAM)
Assistant Referee 2: Garnet Page (JAM)
Fourth Official: Valdin Legister (JAM)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Landon Donovan