On Tuesday at Columbus Crew Stadium in Ohio, the United States men’s national team gave U.S. fans the best gift possible—a 2-0 win in a match over their foil Mexico and a berth in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil following Panama's 2-2 draw with Honduras.
It was a sketchy first 15 minutes for the Yanks, who conceded possession and territory for a vast majority of the early goings.
Shortly after the half, a headed goal from the aerially dominant Eddie Johnson gave the U.S. the lead for good in the 49th minute:
Just as significant, it helped relieve pressure and space, allowing Jurgen Klinmann’s side to better maintain possession and create shots on goal. Substitute Mix Diskerud capitalized with a magnificent play to set up an insurance goal from Landon Donovan:
Overall, a fine job and high marks for all the players for the home side, as a banged-up American squad bounced back in emphatic fashion after last week's loss to Costa Rica.
U.S. Player Grades
Tim Howard (8): After a performance Timmy would likely want to forget against the Ticos on Friday, the Everton man was back to his regular ways of putting out fires when the U.S. backs were penetrated. Some great saves from Howard, particularly in the early goings when the Yanks were having trouble getting a hold of the game.
Fabian Johnson (6): Johnson’s evening was cut short due to an unfortunate injury after 45 minutes of fine work. He deserves credit for playing out of position as a right-back. As a result, he had some unsavory touches with his weak peg early on. The 25-year-old Johnson settled in once the U.S. started moving the ball, and Johnson did well to join the attack on the flank.
Omar Gonzalez (7.5): The L.A. Galaxy center-back showed why has been a regular fixture in Klinsmann's lineups for some time now—his ability to impact the game in both boxes. Gonzalez nodded down a headed pass on a set piece to tee up Jermaine Jones in the first half for a brilliant chance, and was timely in cutting out Mexican attacks under tons of pressure.
Clarence Goodson (7.5): This was a cool performance from Goodson, who was called in to camp just a scant few days ago. The defender answered the call whenever necessary and was positioned expertly to clear away dangerous service from "El Tri" on numerous occasions.
DaMarcus Beasley (6.5): DMB was steady and energetic throughout, with the exception of an early mis-touch that Howard bailed him out on. He galloped valiantly on the left side and competently played his defensive role when necessary.
Alejandro Bedoya (6.5): Bedoya served an appetizing ball across the face of the Mexican goal that could have well led to the Yanks’ first goal. He was tireless on the right flank and formidable in attack and defense.
Kyle Beckerman (7): The Real Salt Lake midfield general’s touch was jittery at the start, but the dreadlocked time-keeper was precise once settled in. His simple one-touch passing and tactical awareness to strictly stick in front of Goodson and Gonzalez allowed the U.S. to send their attacking players forward in waves.
Jermaine Jones (7.5): Jones made up for the missing work rate of Michael Bradley by making an impact in all thirds of the field, intelligently covering for backs when they got beat. His passing was effective and dangerous at times, too. This was truly an all-around performance from Jones, who played with intelligence and physicality.
Landon Donovan (8): What more to say about Donovan, who bagged yet another goal against his longtime foes of Mexico? Simply put, he is a special, special player and caused fits for the Mexicans throughout the second half.
Clint Dempsey (6.5): Deuce frequently got his nose around the ball, per usual, and could have nabbed a first-half goal that was snuffed out by a Mexican block. The Texan combined nicely with his fellow Seattle Sounder Eddie Johnson and was a good source of possession for the Yanks in the final third.
Eddie Johnson (8.5): Johnson used his most dangerous weapon—his head—to give the U.S. the 1-0 lead. It was a display of his greatest footballing gift: his pure athleticism. In addition, E.J. showed off his flair with the ball at his feet, with his ability to ping the ball around the field with one touch and his solid holdup play. Here’s hoping that sparkling noggin is okay after taking a knock in the second half.
Michael Parkhurst (6.5): Truth be told, Parkhurst did not have too much to do in relief at right-back. Still, Parkhurst was solid, made nearly no mistakes, and continues to insert himself in the conversation for a roster spot in Brazil.
Mix Diskerud (7): Diskerud’s magical first touch in the box and vision led to Donovan's insurance goal. The play was a microcosm of why he has so many U.S. fans excited: heady composure, technique and sense of the game.
Graham Zusi (N/A): An 84th-minute substitute for Bedoya, the Sporting Kansas City man did not see the ball enough to warrant a grade.