[USA-MEXICO] The USA, one of only seven nations to have qualified for every World Cup since 1990, booked a ticket to Brazil 2014 by beating its archrival, Mexico, 2-0, in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday to make it seven World Cups in a row. Landon Donovan, his U.S. career in doubt a few months ago, set up the first goal -- by fellow comeback kid, Eddie Johnson -- and scored the second.
Paul Kennedy: Dos a Cero sends USA to World Cup
Ridge Mahoney: Solid performances from front to back
Donovan’s four-month sabbatical saw him miss the USA’s first six Hexagonal games. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann stated he’d have to earn back his spot on the team, despite a history of greatness for the USA. And Donovan said during this summer’s Gold Cup that “every game is an audition."
The 31-year-old nailed the tryout, with five goals and seven assists as the USA won lifted the Gold Cup and he hoisted the Golden Ball MVP award.
On Tuesday, a desperate Mexican team looking for only its second Hexagonal win came out strong. U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s busy first half started by saving a DaMarcus Beasley mis-kick before three much more challenging saves on efforts by Javier Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos and Diego Reyes.
Only Donovan, Johnson and Clint Dempsey came close to threatening the Mexican goal in the first half. Both Donovan and Dempsey their close-range shots deflected by defenders into Jose Corona’s hands and Johnson's header went straight to Corona. Dempsey’s effort was notable for the slick back-heel from Johnson that set it up.
As in the 3-1 loss Friday at Costa Rica, the Americans improved in the second half and four minutes in Donovan delivered the perfect corner: An outswinger that teased Corona into thinking he might reach it while curving well out of his reach. Johnson power-headed it into the net.
The goal had a profound effect on the Mexicans. As was the case when Honduras took the lead last Friday in Azteca Stadium -- a 2-1 Honduras win -- they mis-hit simple passes and couldn’t trap balls that pros should handle with ease. While the Mexicans collapsed under the pressure, the Americans weren’t delivering much in the way of brilliant soccer. But sub Mix Diskerud created a highlight when he delicately chipped the ball past a Mexican defender in the penalty area and sent a sharp low ball in front of the goal that an alert Donovan reached before his marker to pound into the net.
It could have been 3-0, but Dempsey banged a stoppage-time penalty kick over the crossbar.
DONOVAN’S QUALIFYING FEATS. Donovan has now helped the USA reach four World Cups, playing in a U.S. record 38 qualifiers while scoring a record 13 goals.
LANDON VS. EL TRI. His game-sealing goal in Columbus marked Donovan’s sixth career strike against Mexico, dating back to his national team debut in 2000.
2-0 -- Friendly (October 2000) Los Angeles
2-0 -- World Cup (June 2002) South Korea.
2-1 -- Friendly (June 2007) in Glendale, Ariz.
2-1 -- Gold Cup final (June 2007) Chicago
2-4 -- Gold Cup final (June 2011) Pasadena, Calif.
2-0 -- World Cup qualifying (Aug. 2013) in Columbus, Ohio.
EDDIE’S RUN. Johnson’s strike puts him second behind Donovan in U.S. qualifying goals with 12 in 21 qualifiers. But the 29-year-old, who scored five goals in his first year with the national team in 2004, scored his last goal for the USA in 2008 before Klinsmann brought him back in the fold in 2012 after his club career revived with the Seattle Sounders following failure abroad. Johnson saved the USA in Antigua & Barbuda with both goals in a 2-1 comeback win in the semifinal round last year and he’s scored five goals this year.
KLINSMANN vs. EL TRI. The victory continued Klinsmann’s undefeated record against Mexico as a German national team player, Germany coach, and U.S. coach.
As a player, Klinsmann celebrated a 2-1 defeat of El Tri in the round of 16 at the 1998 World Cup in France; started in a 0-0 friendly at Azteca in 1993; and came on as a halftime sub in a 1-1 friendly in Dresden in 1992. With him as coach, Germany beat the Mexicans, 4-3, in the 2005 Confederations Cup.
Upon taking the U.S. helm, Klinsmann debuted with a 1-1 tie in August 2011. A year later, the USA won at Mexico for the first time in history, a 1-0 victory in a friendly. And their first Hexagonal meeting was a scoreless tie in Azteca Stadium last March.
WORLD CUP REGULARS. The other six nations that have, like the USA, reached every World Cup since 1990 are Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Spain and South Korea. (Besides 2014 host Brazil, Italy, Argentina and South Korea have already clinched for next summer.)
EARLY IN. Only once before since the Hexagonal – the six-team, 10-game, final-round format – was introduced has the USA, which has two games left, clinched a World Cup spot this early. In 2005, under Coach Bruce Arena, the Americans booked a ticket on Matchday 7 -- with another 2-0 win over Mexico in Columbus. In 1997, 2001 and 2009, they clinched on Matchday 9.
Sept. 10 in Columbus
USA 2 Mexico 0. Goals: E.Johnson 49, Donovan 78.
USA --Howard; F.Johnson (Parkhurst 46), Goodson, Gonzalez, Beasley; Jones, Beckerman; Bedoya (Zusi 84), Dempsey, Donovan; E.Johnson (Diskerud 76).
Mexico --Jose Corona; Mier, Reyes, Moreno, Salcido (Reyna 77); Arce (Peralta 69), Zavala, Gimenez (Herrera 55), Guardado; dos Santos, Hernandez.
Yellow cards:USA -- Bedoya 45+1, Donovan 85.
Referee:Courtney Campbell (Jamaica).
USA 2 Mexico 0
Jamaica 1 Costa Rica 1
Honduras 2 Panama 2
PTS TEAM W-T-L +/1
15 Costa Rica 4-3-1 12/6
16 USA 5-1-2 10/6
11 Honduras 3-2-3 10/10
8 Mexico 1-5-2 4/6
8 Panama 1-5-2 7/9
4 Jamaica 0-4-4 3/9