The US men’s national team had beaten archrivals Mexico here 2-0 in their World Cup qualifiers in 2001, 2005 and 2009. Every time the same score.
On Tuesday, the US made it a fourth straight win over Mexico in Columbus, their unlikely emotional home, where a record 9,000 had packed into the supporters’ section behind the goal that Eddie Johnson would head the first and Landon Donovan would poke the second of the USA’s goals into.
“Obviously, this is a huge, huge evening for all of us,” said Coach Juergen Klinsmann, who emerged wearing a crisp white T-shirt with “Qualified” across the chest. “And they’re enjoying the moment. It’s a huge milestone when you make it to the World Cup, the biggest event in the sport.”
Noisy American fans stood and sang in Columbus Crew Stadium starting 1½ hours before kickoff, and about 1,000 stayed for an hour after the final whistle.
“The players know when they play in Columbus they have 100 percent support behind them,” Klinsmann said. “It is a psychological game at the end of the day.”
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 outjumped defender Diego Reyes to meet Donovan’s corner kick 8 yards out and head the ball past frozen goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
“When we scored the first goal, you could see it in Mexico’s eyes, that they were defeated,” said defender Omar Gonzalez, who plays for the Galaxy.
With Mexican shifting to an offense-minded 3-4-3 formation, 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, says Inquirer Sports.
“They’re experienced players. They’ve played these games before,” Klinsmann said of the two veterans. “They know what it’s all about. I told them I expected their leadership.”
To make the night even more perfect for the United States, Honduras’ 2-2 draw with Panama an hour later officially clinched the USMNT’s trip to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Hundreds of fans stayed around to watch the final minutes on the stadium’s video scoreboard, and the players came back out of the tunnel once the result was final to celebrate with their supporters, who had been loudly singing “We Are Going To Brazil!” all night.
The U.S. players celebrated on the field, spraying champagne and cheering with the hundreds of fans who stayed for the party.
“We had confidence that (Honduras) would do it,” Howard said. “Once they rolled the champagne in, it got even better.”
Now the Americans can take it easy in the final two qualifiers, against Jamaica on Oct. 11 at Kansas City, Kan., and at Panama four days later. Exhibitions are likely at Scotland and Austria in November.
Klinsmann won the World Cup as a player with Germany in 1990 and coached his native country to the 2006 semifinals. He’s lived in California for 15 years and understands the accomplishment.