Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dos a Cero was more than just a chant that U.S. Men’s National Team fans were singing on Tuesday night.
It was the scoreline. Again.
The Americans booked their place in next summer’s World Cup with a 2-0 win over Mexico on Tuesday night, making it four straight times that the Americans have beaten their southern rivals in a World Cup qualifier at Crew Stadium by that scoreline.
Honduras helped the U.S. secure the berth by posting a 2-2 draw vs. Panama on Tuesday night, a match that the Americans watched the tail end of in their locker room before celebrating the 2014 World Cup qualification.
“This is a huge, huge evening for all of us and we’re all extremely proud of this team,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “They gave everything tonight from the first second on. The effort, kind of how they were dedicated, how they were helping each other.”
Playing in front of an electric crowd of 24,584, the Americans used a brilliant first-half performance from Tim Howard and second-half goals from Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan to push past an El Tri team that just cannot find a way to put an end to its misery. Clint Dempsey also had an opportunity to add to the lead with a penalty kick in stoppage time, but he mis-hit what was the game’s final kick.
The victory gave the U.S. 16 points in the CONCACAF Hexagonal while leaving Mexico with eight. The Americans joined Costa Rica as teams to secure a place in the World Cup based on Tuesday’s results.
“These opportunities don’t come very often and we wanted to make the most of it,” said left back DaMarcus Beasley. “Freaky it was 2-0, but to win here, to beat Mexico and to qualify for the World Cup all in one, it’s an unbelievable feeling.”
The first half had its share of chances, but Howard was the star of the opening 45 minutes. Howard made a string of fines saves, including a stunning full-stretch dive to deny Christian Gimenez in the 19th minute.
Howard also made a pair of quality saves late in the first half to prevent the U.S. from going down. Howard made a sure-handed stop on a curling effort from Giovani Dos Santos in the 43rd minute and got down well to incredibly push away a dipping Diego Reyes header two minutes later.
“There’s a lot to say about (Howard), but obviously he’s been a great goalkeeper for the past I don’t know however many years,” said centerback Omar Gonzalez. “Tonight, he showed it.”
Offensively, the U.S. came closest to scoring on a headed effort from Eddie Johnson just after the hour-mark. Johnson rose up to meet a corner kick from Landon Donovan, but could not get the ball past Mexico goalkeeper Jose de Jesus Corona.
That was not the case four minutes after halftime. Johnson beat Corona and put the Americans on the board on a similar play, nodding home a Donovan corner with authority to send the pro-U.S. crowd into complete pandemonium.
“I saw the opportunity to get inside my man and I think Clint made a good run to the near post and Clarence (Goodson) kind of took his guy away and Landon put the ball in a spot for us to attack it,” said Johnson. “We’ve got some great height in the box and this time I wanted to make sure I keep it down and on frame. I was very fortunate that it went in.”
Those festive scenes were repeated in the 78th minute, as the Americans effectively put the game out of reach. Mix Diskerud, who entered the game moments earlier, displayed some individual technical brilliance after a throw-in from the right and proceeded to unleash a low cross that Donovan blasted into the back of the net at the far post.
The Americans dominated most of the remainder of the match and had a late chance to add to their healthy lead with a penalty kick in the final minute of stoppage time. But Dempsey missed wide on his attempt from 12 yards out to leave the scoreline at 2-0.
“It’s this mystical thing. It’s like this ghost,” said midfielder Alejandro Bedoya. “Clint missed that penalty and I feel like there was something that’s haunting (for) that to happen on purpose because just to keep that Dos a Cero.
“What is that, four straight now? That’s crazy, it’s unbelievable, it’s such a weird thing, but we’ll take it any day, all day.”
Even with the win, the U.S. had to anxiously watch the Honduras-Panama game from insider the Americans’ locker room for about an hour to see if they would get the result needed to punch the their ticket to Brazil. The U.S. ultimately got just that thanks to a 2-2 draw.
“We were just waiting for this moment when this game is over and Panama came back last minute,” said Klinsmann. “It’s a huge milestone whenever you make it to the World Cup, the biggest competition in this sport, especially the World Cup that is hosted in Brazil, one of the biggest soccer nations in the world.
“It means a lot to all of us, to all the fans and to our country as well.”