The United States all but sealed a place in the 2014 World Cup finals with an emphatic win against Mexico in Columbus. With El Tri in disarray and having just fired their head coach, they looked ripe for the taking, and the USMNT were suitably ruthless, earning a 2-0 victory. Unless Honduras fail to beat or draw Panama, the United States will qualify for the World Cup.
Both sides did their fair share of attacking in the first half, but any chances were mostly the result of sloppy play. DaMarcus Beasley nearly managed to score a comedy own goal when he completely failed to clear a cross and allowed the ball to bounce off his standing leg and towards the bottom corner -- Tim Howard came to the rescue for the US there -- and both midfields facilitated a counterattacking game by coughing up possession at the slightest provocation.
Howard was marginally the busier of the two goalkeepers in the opening exchanges, saving from ace diver Giovani Dos Santos as well as Christian Gimenez and Diego Reyes, but it was the hosts who had the best chance to score when Eddie Johnson managed to work some space on a corner kick only to direct his header straight down Jose Corona's throat. Corona was also very lucky to see his defenders block efforts from Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan that, without interference, might have proved rather troubling for El Tri.
Referee Walter Quesada seemed content to let play go, refusing to book Kyle Beckerman for a professional foul in the center circle or Dos Santos for the aforementioned dive, but he finally pulled the cards out of his pocket to caution Alejandro Bedoya after he brought down Gimenez on the run.
Jurgen Klinsmann made a change at the break, bringing on Michael Parkhurst for the execrable Fabian Johnson, and a goal soon followed. The US made fantastic progress down the right flank, exploiting a mistake from Carlos Salcido. Eventually they won a corner, and Mexico left Eddie Johnson free again. The Seattle Sounders star made no mistake this time.
Down 1-0, Mexico had it all to do, and didn't look much like closing the gap. Their buildup play barely deserved the name, and their defending looked increasingly panicky as they were confronted with an ever more confident USA side. El Tri switched to a 4-4-2 with 20 minutes left, introducing Oribe Peralta for Fernando Arce.
The United States were forced to make a switch up top as well, with Eddie Johnson going off with an apparent head injury in the 76th minute. Mix Diskerud came on to replace him, with Dempsey pushing up to lead the line. Klinsmann's switch proved far more effective than his guests' -- from a throw-in, Diskerud peeled around the back of the defense and sent in a low cross which Donovan met with an emphatic finish.
With Honduras leading against Panama, dos a cero was enough for the hosts to qualify -- they didn't even need to worry about Dempsey missing a penalty with the last kick of the match. The USA are through; Mexico are going to need to do a lot of work to match their old rivals. Despite their opponents being wracked with suspensions and injuries, they were nowhere near getting a result today, and that's not a good sign.
USA starting lineup (4-2-3-1): Tim Howard; DaMarcus Beasley, Clarence Goodson, Omar Gonzalez, Fabian Johnson (Michael Parkhurst, 45'); Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman; Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Alejandro Bedoya (Graham Zusi, 84'); Eddie Johnson (Mix Diskerud, 76').
Goals: Eddie Johnson (49'), Donovan (78').
Mexico starting lineup (4-3-3): Jose Corona; Carlos Salcido, Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes, Hiram Mier; Christian Gimenez (Hector Herrera, 55'), Jesus Zavala, Fernando Arce (Oribe Peralta, 69'); Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos.