Wednesday, September 11, 2013

USA Advances to World Cup

From Huffington Post Sports:

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The United States has qualified for the World Cup while Mexico has taken another step backward after the Americans held on for a 2-0 victory over their CONCACAF rivals in a crucial CONCACAF qualifying match at Columbus Crew Stadium on Tuesday.

Coming off a devastating loss at Costa Rica four days earlier, Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan scored in the second half to put the Stars and Stripes in position to finish in the top three of the Hexagonal to book a place in Brazil next summer.

The USA, which moved back into first place ahead of Costa Rica, officially qualified for the World Cup after Panama lost to Honduras an hour after the final whistle of its win.

Fighting for position, 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 coach Jose Manuel de la Torre. He was replaced by Luis Fernando 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 first half.

But after the nervy moment, Jurgen 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 goal line.

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.