The United States moved two points clear at the top of the CONCACAF final World Cup 2014 qualifying group as the competition reached its half way point last night. A 2-0 win for the USA against Panama lifted them clear of both Costa Rica and Mexico, who drew 0-0, whilst Honduras beat Jamaica to stay within three points of top spot.
The United States took on Panama at the CenturyLink Field in Seattle, home of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders, and Jurgen Klinsmann’s team went ahead in the thirty sixth minute when left-back Fabian Johnson of Hoffenheim sent in a low cross for AZ Alkmaar’s Jozy Altidore to convert at the far post. It stayed that way until the fifty third minute when Seattle Sounders’ Eddie Johnson latched on to a ball from Stoke City’s Geoff Cameron and beat Jaime Penedo in the Panama goal to delight his hometown fans with the second goal of the night. The USA hit the woodwork a couple of times as they threatened to build on their lead later in the second half but two nil remained the scoreline despite some late pressure from Panama.
At the Estadio Azteca in the Mexican capital, Mexico played their third qualifier of the week but again struggled to find the net as their run of bad form in front of goal went from worrying to critical. This time Costa Rica were the opponents but for all the attacking talents of Hernandez, De Nigris, Guardado, Barrera and co Keilor Navas’ goal stood firm and Mexico were shut out for the second time in four days. They have now scored only three goals in their six group matches and only one in their last four. At least they’re doing something right at the other end where they have conceded only two goals and kept five clean sheets in their six matches but they desperately need some new ideas going forward in the final third as their regional rivals seem to have well and truly worked out how to stifle their threat and the fans are losing patience with the unproductive football. Club America youngster Raul Jimenez and Giovani dos Santos were both thrown on up front in the second half, but to no avail.
Honduras beat Jamaica 2-0 at the Estadio Tiburcio Carias Andino in Tegucigalpa in the third match of the night with an early goal from Houston Dynamo midfielder Oscar Boniek Garcia Ramirez setting them on their way. Jamaica were reduced to ten men in the seventy sixth minute when Reading’s Adrian Mariappa was dismissed and Honduras capitalised on their numerical advantage two minutes from time when Olimpia’s Roger Fabrizio Rojas Lazo grabbed the second goal of the night to seal the victory.
The United States, with ten points from their five games, are now two points ahead of Costa Rica and Mexico, with the Mexicans at the disadvantage of having played a game more. The top three teams go through automatically to next summer’s World Cup finals in Brazil, and the fourth placed team will face a play off against New Zealand. Honduras currently occupy fourth spot, a point clear of Panama, with winless Jamaica a distant sixth. The group table now stands as follows: