The U.S. held host Mexico to a 0-0 tie in qualifying for next year’s soccer World Cup after Panama beat Honduras 2-0 and Costa Rica defeated Jamaica by the same score in other group games in the region.
Panama leads the final round of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean, or Concacaf, with six points from three games. The U.S., Costa Rica and Honduras are tied on four points, one more than Mexico, while Jamaica is in last place with two points.
“We showed a tremendous attitude, a willingness to sacrifice for one another on the field,” U.S. midfielder Herculez Gomez said in a televised interview. “It’s something else. It’s really impressive.”
The top three teams advance to the World Cup, with the fourth-place finisher entering a two-game playoff against New Zealand, the winner of the Oceania group.
In an exhibition match on Aug. 15, the U.S. earned its first victory on Mexican soil, 1-0 at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. The U.S. had lost 23 of the other 24 games it had played in Mexico before last night. The only other time the U.S. avoided defeat in 15 World Cup qualifying games in Mexico was when it earned a scoreless draw in 1997.
Mexico was denied two penalty claims last night at the Estadio Azteca, when Javier Hernandez was bundled over by Michael Bradley in the first half, and when Javier Aquino was tackled from behind by Maurice Edu with 15 minutes to play.
Mexico pressed hard for a goal in the closing minutes, with Giovani dos Santos firing just wide in the 82nd minute and Hernandez failing to find the net from about two yards (1.8 meters) five minutes later.
The host’s last chance came in the third minute of added time, when Diego Reyes forced a diving save from U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan.
Before last night, Mexico was 68-1-6 in World Cup qualifying at home.
The U.S. prepared for the game at the Azteca, which is 7,200 feet (2,194 meters) above sea level, with a 1-0 win against Costa Rica four days earlier in Commerce City, Colorado. World Cup organizer FIFA yesterday dismissed a protest by Costa Rica over playing conditions at snow-covered Dick’s Sporting Goods Park, which is at an elevation of about 5,200 feet, or about a mile.
The next World Cup qualifier for the U.S. is in Jamaica on June 7, followed four and 11 days later by home ties against Panama and Honduras.
Also last night, Michael Umana and Diego Calva scored at the Estadio Nacional in San Jose as Costa Rica earned its first win against the visiting Jamaicans.
Panama won at home against Honduras, which led the standings going into last night’s games, with goals after two minutes by Luis Tejada and in the 75th minute from Blas Perez.
After failing to qualify for the World Cup from 1954 through 1986, the U.S. has played at every edition since 1990, making the quarterfinals in 2002 and the round of 16 in 1994 and 2010. In nine appearances, the U.S. has a 7-5-17 record at the quadrennial tournament.
Soccer’s global championship is scheduled from June 12 to July 13, 2014, in Brazil.
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