For the seventh straight qualifying cycle, the US Men's National Team have punched their ticket for the World Cup.
Tuesday night's result, a 2-0 win over Mexico in front of 24,584 fans in Columbus Ohio, was the latest in a World Cup tradition that's known as "Dos A Cero". The 2-0 scoreline has now been the margin of victory in seven US home victories over Mexico's "El Tri", including World Cup qualifiers in 2001, 2005, and 2009. After a nervy first half, Eddie Johnson put the US on the board in the 49th minute with a towering header on a corner kick. The goal shook an already weary Mexico side, and Landon Donovan put the game out of reach with a tap-in in the 78th minute. The US were given a chance to make it 3-0 with a stoppage-time penalty kick, but Clint Dempsey missed, leaving the "Dos A Cero" legend (amusingly) intact.
Here's video of Eddie Johnson's game winner from one of the supporters' sections (via Devin Pleuler):
"I think you could feel it in the body language of the Mexican players," US coach Jurgen Klinsmann told Gothamist after the game, "that once they didn't get a goal they tried really hard for in the first 20-25 minutes, they got heavier and heavier. You could see the psychological load in their minds that they started to doubt themselves.”
Goalkeeper Tim Howard reflected on the adversity the team had faced this year. "We’ve answered the bell a bunch of times. Guatemala in Kansas City, the snow game when there was all this internal strife and we ‘hated’ each other, playing like crap in Costa Rica [and bouncing back tonight] - we’ve answered the bell. We have a lot of resiliency, and that’s good to see.”
The victory, coupled with a 2-2 draw between Honduras and Panama, guaranteed that the US cannot finish lower than third place in CONCACAF qualifying, thus ensuring their place in Brazil next June. The US is one of 10 teams that have already qualified out of what will be a final field of 32. Mexico, who have been downright terrible this year, now finds themselves in 5th place (on tiebreakers with Panama) with just two matches to go, leaving them in danger of being forced into a play-off with New Zealand, or worse, not qualifying at all.
Full highlights from US Soccer:
Additional reporting by Pablo Maurer