WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2013 — Start booking that air flight for Brazil. The USA is going to the World Cup.
After a 40-year drought from 1950, the Americans will now be going to their seventh consecutive World Cup after competing in the finals in Italy, USA (host), France, Japan/Korea, Germany and South Africa. Now comes Brazil.
The U.S. team reached the finals in style, downing their archrival Mexico 2-0 before a flag-waving crowd in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday night. Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan got the goals against a dispirited Mexican team, that started well, but then fell flat and lost all confidence. It is the fourth time the U.S. has defeated Mexico with a 2-0 scoreline in Columbus. Granted, it could have been 3-0, but Clint Dempsey sent his stoppage-time penalty kick well wide to preserve the U.S.’s team pattern over the El Tricolor in vital games in America’s heartland.
American coach Jurgen Klinsmann has a deep pool of players, as he now prepares for the big stage next year. The German coach, who won the World Cup as a player in 1990, has used 37 players in World Cup qualifying, and it could be argued that this is one of the strongest U.S. squads since the 2002 World Cup. While there is a group of seasoned veterans - Donovan, Dempsey, Eddie Johnson, Jermaine Jones, etc. - Klinsmann has an up-and-coming group of young talented players to work with such as Mix Diskerud, Joe Corona and Aron Johannsson.
The year did not start well for Klinsmann. There was a loss at Honduras in February and reports of disunity in the locker room. Klinsmann rallied his players, however, earning a 1-0 win in the famous “snow game” against Costa Rica in Colorado, followed by a morale-boosting scoreless tie in Mexico. After a 4-2 loss to Belgium in a friendly, the team then went on a record 12-game winning streak, which included winning the Gold Cup.
“A qualifying campaign is a very difficult road and we knew that,” said Klinsmann in his postgame press conference in Columbus, which appears at ussoccer.com. “I did that myself as a player, as a coach with Germany, and I had difficult moments. When I went through it the first round I almost didn’t go to the World Cup in 1990 and ended up winning. It is a special moment and we coaches enjoy it the same way as the players do and we’re proud of that.”
Eddie Johnson’s opening goal in the 49th minute against Mexico was a stunning header as he converted Donovan’s corner kick.
On ussoccer.com, Johnson said, “It was an unbelievable cross. I got a head on the first one in the first half and this time I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I saw the ball was right there and tried to keep it down.”
It was Johnson’s 19th goal of his career and his 12th goal in World Cup Qualifying in 21 games, which is quite remarkable for the Seattle Sounder striker.
Donovan, now fully back in the U.S. top 11 after his self-imposed hiatus earlier in the year, made it 2-0 when he tapped home a cross from substitute Diskerud in the 78th minute.
The game improved the U.S. team’s record for the year to 14-3-2, with a record 14 wins beating out 13 wins in a year in 2005 and 2009. The match earned a 1.9 TV overnight rating - the highest for a U.S. Men’s National Team match in a non-FIFA World Cup or FIFA Confederations Cup tournament.
John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times for 20 years. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996.
Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon or email firstname.lastname@example.org
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