Crew Stadium (pictured) in Columbus, Ohio, has proven to be a very productive venue for the U.S. national team. (Photo: Mexsport)
By Michael Lewis
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Not only did the United States defeat its rival and qualify for the World Cup on Tuesday night, it also demonstrated outstanding depth in the 2-0 win over Mexico at Crew Stadium.
The Americans were missing four key players, but still managed to book an appearance in their tenth World Cup finals.
Midfielder Michael Bradley was sidelined with sprained ankle, while defender Matt Besler, midfielder Geoff Cameron and striker Jozy Altidore, who scored three goals in as many games in three vital qualifies wins in the CONCACAF hexagonal in June, served yellow-card suspensions.
They were more than ably replaced by defender Clarence Goodson, who was only called into the squad on Saturday, midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Alejandro Bedoya and forward Eddie Johnson, who scored the first goal.
Needless to say, the character displayed by those players, as well as the entire team, made the win even more gratifying for U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
“It is important that you see them as a group sticking together and being there for each other," said the 49-year-old. "That’s what they’ve done, so I think it takes it to another level when you have those moments when they really need to stand up.”
The U.S. qualified with two games to spare in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, relieving a great deal of tension and allowing the team to plan for the future.
“We wanted to get this done as quickly as possible," Klinsmann commented. "We were upset with Costa Rica, how it ended. It is important, and it makes a lot of things easier for us on the federation’s side to plan things ahead. We can finalize things for Brazil, we can look at friendly games in November, so it’s definitely important.”
The U.S. endured a 40-year drought of not qualifying for the World Cup from 1950 to 1990. Now, it has accomplished the feat seven consecutive times. No other CONCACAF nation can make the same claim.
“Now it’s expected of us, but it’s never a guarantee," U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said of his team’s success. "World Cup Qualifying is tense. It’s always so tight. We said down in Honduras in February that it’s going to come down to Matchday eight or nine, which it always does. You can never really breathe a sigh of relief, but tonight we’re able to do that.”
In Columbus, the U.S. continued it remarkable streak of beating Mexico by the same 2-0 score in four consecutive qualifying cycles at the same venue. The Americans also won there in 2001, 2005 and 2009.
Veteran left-back DaMarcus Beasley appreciated what the team had accomplished at Crew Stadium, yet again.
"Whenever we play here the atmosphere is unbelievable," he said. "They're our 12th man and we needed them. Words can't describe how we feel right now. Being able to qualify at home, doing it again in Columbus and the freaky score of 2-0. We feel very privileged to be going to another World Cup and we're definitely excited about it."
As is Columbus and the swelling number of soccer fans in the United States.