Sounders star Eddie Johnson broke open a tense deadlock with a 49th-minute header from Landon Donovan’s corner kick to help the U.S. Men’s National Team beat Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, OH., Tuesday to secure a berth in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Johnson outleaped his Mexican defender, Diego Reyes, and and scored from eight yards out to help the U.S. advance to its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance.
His Sounders teammate, U.S. captain Clint Dempsey, was a part of the insurance goal in the 78th minute. Following a throw-in, Mix Diskerud threaded the ball across the goalmouth, Dempsey touched the ball and slightly redirected it to Donovan, who had an easy tap-in from two yards.
The U.S. (5-2-1) moved into first place in the North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) finals with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica (4-1-3), which was held to a 1-1 tie at last-place Jamaica.
The top three teams qualify, and the U.S. spot was secured when third-place Honduras drew 2-2 with Panama Tuesday night. That game in Honduras ended at few minutes after the American victory, which prompted a slightly delayed champagne celebration in Columbus. Mexico (1-2-5) is fourth and likely headed to a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
U.S. players, many carrying large American flags on poles, celebrated their win with a lap around the field, saluting the crowd.
Following wins over Mexico in qualifiers by identical 2-0 scores at Columbus Crew Stadium in 2001, 2005 and 2009, the U.S. Soccer Federation picked the same venue for this year’s match. The capacity crowd of 24,584 taunted the Mexicans with chants of “You’re not going to Brazil!”
In the 32nd minute, Johnson’s header off Donovan’s corner kick was saved by goalkeeper Jesus Corona. Johnson nearly scored off Donovan’s cross in the third minute of the second half, but the pass was just ahead of him. A minute later, Johnson scored his 12th goal in 21 qualifying appearances.
Donovan’s goal, increasing his national team record to 57, set off a nonstop singalong for the closing minutes of the match.
Dempsey missed a penalty kick in second-half stoppage time, just before the final whistle.
Johnson and Dempsey will rejoin the Sounders this week in preparation for Friday’s match against MLS Western Conference leader Real Salt Lake at the Clink. The upper bowl will be opened for the match between the West’s top two teams.