It could not have been more perfect, could it? Mexico. Columbus. Insane crowd. Nice night. National TV. Frankie Hejduk leading cheers.
Dos a cero.
And after an hour’s wait, a World Cup berth.
My match report from Crew Stadium (aka Mexico’s Hell).
*USA 5-2-1, 16 points
*Costa Rica 4-1-3, 15 points
Honduras 3-3-2, 11 points
Panama 1-2-5, 8 points
Mexico 1-2-5, 8 points
Jamaica 0-4-4, 4 points
*clinched World Cup berth
Mexico dropped to fifth place. Yes, fifth. Equal on points and goal difference with Panama but with three fewer goals scored. Panama’s late equalizer at Honduras might have helped Mexico: Honduras dropped two points at home and is still not in the clear. The Catrachos should seal the third automatic berth in their last two matches, but the room for error has narrowed.
El Tri is staring at the CONCACAF-Oceania playoff in November.
Mexico’s remaining matches:
Oct. 11 home vs. Panama
Oct. 15 at Costa Rica
Honduras’ remaining matches:
Oct. 11 home vs. Costa Rica
Oct. 15 at Jamaica
Panama’s remaining matches:
Oct. 11 at Mexico
Oct. 15 home vs. USA
U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann says he will approach the final two inconsequential qualifiers with full power: vs. Jamaica at Sporting Park in Kansas City, Kan., and Panama in Panama City.
“We take this very seriously, so it doesn’t change anything. This is business.”
Do I believe him? Yes and no. He did make a good point: There are not a lot of FIFA fixture dates between now and the World Cup, and getting the first team together at every opportunity is critical. That said, will all European-based regulars return for these last two games? Not likely. There will also be pressure on Klinsmann from MLS teams in playoff contention to leave their players off the list. These are official matchdays, but with the World Cup berth secured, compromise is in order.
Klinsmann will, however, have an opportunity to continue evaluating players — without the stress of needing results.
In addition to the two qualifiers, he is arranging a pair of friendlies in Europe during the FIFA fixture window in mid-November. (You know, when Mexico is on an 87-hour flight to Auckland.) Scotland and Austria are the front-runners.
The World Cup draw will take place Dec. 6 at a seaside resort in Brazil’s Bahia state. (Sepp doesn’t do convention centers anymore.)
Ten of 32 slots have been filled: Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Argentina, Costa Rica, United States.
Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Colombia are on the brink.
USA-Mexico video package: