COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The United States clinched its seventh straight World Cup appearance by beating Mexico 2-0 on Tuesday, with Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan scoring second-half goals.
After withstanding Mexican pressure for the first 20 minutes, the U. S. settled in the match and got the breakthrough in the 49th minute when Johnson out-jumped defender Diego Reyes to meet Donovan's corner and head the ball past frozen goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
With Mexico shifting to an attacking 3-4-3 formation in the search for an equalizer, the U. S. scored in the 78th following a throw in when Mix Diskerud threaded the ball across the middle. Clint Dempsey got the slightest of touches as he slid into the goalmouth, and Donovan poked the ball in from 2 yards.
The U. S. moved into first place in the CONCACAF standings with 16 points from eight of 10 scheduled games, one ahead of Costa Rica which drew 1-1 at last-placed Jamaica and also clinched a World Cup berth.
"This is a huge, huge evening for all of us," U. S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "It's a huge milestone whenever you make it to a World Cup."
The U. S. had to wait an hour after the final whistle to learn it was assured of a spot in the 32-nation field for Brazil next June. But when Honduras held on for a 2-2 home draw against Panama, the Americans had grabbed a berth with two games to spare.
"We're continuing the growth of the game here in the sport, we're improving, getting better and we've got to make sure we do well in Brazil to keep it going," Dempsey said.
With the top three qualifying directly and the fourth-placed team going into a further playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand, Mexico dropped into fifth on goal difference and its World Cup hopes are hanging by a thread.
"This a team that could and should play better," said Luis Fernando Tena, who replaced 'Chepo' de la Torre as Mexico's coach following Friday's home loss to Honduras. "It has to take a step forward if we want to make it to the World Cup."