The U.S. is currently in first place in the CONCACAF qualifying group with a record of 5-2-1. Their 16 points are one more than second-place Costa Rica, who also clinched a berth at next year’s World Cup with a 1-1 tie against Jamaica. There are still two qualifying matches remaining, but the top three teams are guaranteed a place in the 32-team tournament and the Americans can’t finish any worse than third. Things don’t look too good for Mexico though as they’re presently in fifth place. The fourth place team in the CONCACAF group will meet New Zealand in a two-game playoff series with the winner heading to Brazil next June.
The U.S. had beaten Mexico 2-0 at Columbus Crew Stadium in world Cup qualifying games in 2009, 2005 and 2001 and that’s why they chose to play the game there rather than a larger venue somewhere else in the country. The stadium in Columbus held just 24,584 for the game, but it proved to be four times lucky for the team. Johnson’s goal was his 12th in his last 21 World Cup qualifying games and Donovan’s marker was his 57th in an American uniform, which is the national team’s record.
The Americans were without some key players against Mexico as midfielder Michael Bradley had to sit the game out with an injury and defender Matt Besler, forward Jozy Altidore and midfielder Geoff Cameron were all forced to watch from the stands due to suspensions received in a 2-1 defeat at Costa Rica just four days earlier. In addition, Fabian Johnson suffered a hamstring injury against Mexico and was replaced at halftime by Michael Parkhurst.
The Mexicans were desperate for a win and all three points and came out strong in the first 20 minutes. However, U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard, who plays for Everton in the English Premier League, made several fine saves to keep them off of the scoreboard until the Americans settled into the game. After the game Howard said, “People want to come to Columbus and see U.S.-Mexico. It’s almost like the Mecca, really, for us. You almost feel like it’s our destiny to win here.”
The berth for next year’s World Cup wasn’t clinched until an hour after the game as the Americans had to wait for the final score to come in from the Honduras vs Panama game. The U.S. needed Honduras to earn at least one point and they did so with a 2-2 tie. Approximately 1,000 fans waited at Columbus Crew Stadium and watched the Honduras game on the big screen and then started celebrating all over again when the final whistle blew. The American team was watching the match in their dressing room and then returned to the pitch to celebrate with the supporters.
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