The U.S. men’s national soccer team will be heading to Brazil next year after clinching its berth to the 2014 World Cup on Tuesday.
The team defeated Mexico 2-0 and then watched Honduras tie Panama to ensure its place for next year’s tournament in Brazil. The U.S. has qualified for seven straight World Cups.
America returned to soccer’s top event in 1990 after a 40-year absence, and first-round exits in ’90, 1998 and 2006 were mixed in with second-round trips in 1994 and 2010, plus a trip to the quarterfinals in 2002.
The trip to the World Cup, however, has not been smooth. The Americans lost 3-1 Friday night in an away match to Costa Rica, and started off slowly against Mexico — heading into the locker room with a 0-0 score.
Mexico was the superior team in the first half, with three shots on goal compared to just one for the United States, but a second-half scoring surge secured the victory for the Americans.
Eddie Johnson scored in the 49th minute and Landon Donovan added another in the 78th as the Americans defeated Mexico in Columbus by a 2-0 outcome for the fourth consecutive time.
“They looked relatively timid and shy throughout,” Donovan said. “I’ve never seen a Mexico team look that way. When we scored the goal, it was pretty clear we were going to get a second or third or it was going to end 1-0.”
The Americans have not lost a home qualifier since 2011 against Honduras in Washington.
The U.S. (5-2-1) moved into first place in the North and Central American and Caribbean finals with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica (4-1-3), which was held to a 1-1 tie at last-place Jamaica and also clinched.
Honduras (3-3-2) is third with 11 points and on track for the region’s final automatic berth for the 32-nation field for Brazil next June. Panama moved ahead of Mexico (both 1-2-5) on goals scored for fourth place, which advances to a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
Mexico is in danger of missing the World Cup for the first time since 1990. Its remaining games next month are home against Panama and at Costa Rica.
The U.S. team had the benefit of being at home, where fans created a festive and patriotic atmosphere.
Fans began gathering outside the stadium before noon, creating a day-long, patriotic-themed festival of sight and sound. Mexican supporters were able to secure tickets, but for the most part this was a U.S. jamboree.
Fans affiliated with supporters’ groups, primarily the American Outlaws, totaled more than 9,000 filling 27 sections — a national team record. Before the game, chants of “Dos a cero!” (Two to nothing) echoed through the parking lots.
The 2014 World Cup will be held in Brazil from June 12 to July 13 next year.