The Soccer Desk

Brazil Bound

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Dos a Cero.  These words were a common theme during last night’s World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico.  The legend that has become the standard 2-0 victory at Columbus Crew Stadium against Mexico carried on last night, which included a beautifully headed goal from Eddie Johnson and a flicked tap in from none other than Landon Donovan, insuring a spot in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil for the seventh straight time.

First Half:

You wouldn’t have known it from the scoreline, but Mexico came out after the first whistle swinging.  Instead of a fierce start from the USMNT with a capacity crowd of screaming American Outlaws behind them, the Yanks came out looking skiddish and unsure of themselves.  The Mexicans smelled blood immediately and capitalized on more than one occasion.

If not from Tim Howard, Mexico could have easily been up early in the half, but the veteran keeper came up big, making a couple of key diving saves, while also barking out orders to his backline.  One has to wonder why Howard isn’t wearing the armband for the US, but that’s a story for another day.

The US was finally able to calm down once they got into a rhythm, and on the offensive side of things, had a few key chances of their own.   Although Eddie Johnson would score later in the second half, he had his first good chance off a corner from Landon Donovan.  Raising himself high in the air, Johnson had the power, but Corona was there to make the grab.  Clint Dempsey also had one of the better looks of the first 45, but his shot was deflected off a Mexican defender.  Had it not been, it was easily goal bound, with Corona going the wrong way.  Despite a good offensive showing from both teams, it was the defense that kept this a 0-0 draw at the half.

Second Half:

Klinsmann’s squad came out in the second half the way they should have in the first: fast and furious with goals on their mind.  Just three minutes into the final 45, the Yanks almost saw themselves get on the board.  A low cross into the box just missed the foot of Eddie Johnson, who made a great run into the area.  Donovan would pick up the ball and take a shot of his own, but it would go wide.

Not to worry though, as the goal would come just moments after the missed attempt.  With another corner awarded, Donovan put a perfect ball into the box, finding EJ’s head once again, this time beating Corona for the 1-0 lead in the 49th.  Much like his attempt in the first half, Johnson went up high to get this one, beating both a defender and Corona, who was attempting to punch the ball away.

Late in the match, Dos a Cero would be become a reality.  Mix Diskerud, who came into this one as a sub, would beat a defender in the box and send a probing low cross to Landon Donovan, who would flick the ball past a shocked Jose Corona, giving the US a commanding 2-0 lead in the 79th.

With the final whistle blowing and a 2-2 Honduras/Panama draw, the USMNT secured a spot in the 2014 World Cup for the seventh time in a row, while Mexico’s chances of even qualifying continue to dwindle.

Match Notes:

Just to touch on it briefly, Tim Howard should be wearing the captain’s armband from here on out.  His leadership last night, directing both his backline and team as a whole, was unrivaled.  Although Duece wore the band, he had no problem letting Howard take the reigns.  Add on top of that the fact that he preserved a very important shutout, this was truly his night.

This match also seemed to be an official coming out party for Eddie Johnson.  Although he had a strong showing during the last set of qualifiers, his performance during last night’s match not only showed that he can be a great backup to Jozy Altidore, but an important starter as well.

Landon Donovan is back.  While his play wasn’t up to spec last Friday in Costa Rica, his service into the box off corners and his goal late in the match probably reminded many of the Donovan of old.  Add his spectacular Gold Cup run, LD is going to yet another World Cup.

Next Up:

The USMNT have exactly a month off until their next set of quliaifers which of course now, mean absolutely nothing.  October 11th will see the US take on Jamaica at Sporting Park in Kansas City with a 6:30 p.m. ET time kick off on ESPN, followed by a trip down to Panama on the 15th with a 10:00 p.m. ET kick off on BeIN Sport.  Don’t be surprised to see Klinsmann call in a Gold Cup like B squad to give his main starters as much a rest as possible before the World Cup.  As always, TSD will have full coverage of both these matches.  Stay tuned as the road to Brazil continues.

 

photo courtesy of empireofsoccer.com