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U.S. Qualifies with 2-0 Victory Over Rivals

The U.S. sealed its place in Brazil next summer with a convincing win over Mexico despite not having a number of players due to injury or suspension.

Jurgen Klinsmann’s side took to the pitch with a defensive intent that saw them keep a clean sheet against the Mexicans for the fourth time running in games played at Crew Stadium. While the victory wasn’t all beautiful passing and brilliant attacks, it was the type of disciplined effort the U.S. needed if they were going to win last night.

Clinching the team’s berth in next summer’s marquee sporting competition two games shy of the final hexagonal game is perhaps the biggest feather in Klinsmann’s cap yet since taking over the team in 2011. This U.S. side has been through a lot over the last year and has come together in a way we’ve never really seen before to create a new style of play and way of thinking about the game for a U.S. squad, but last night’s performance was quintessentially American.

After squandering first half opportunities through a reluctance to make the final pass or take on a shot in a daring moment and relying far too heavily on the diving hands of its goalkeeper, the Americans found their first goal through resourcefulness as has always been typical of them. A corner kick and an Eddie Johnson header created the separation between the two teams and the U.S. took a very workmanlike approach from there.

The early going saw the U.S. concede most of the possession and Mexico create through the midfield and into spaces that saw them take several shots at Tim Howard, the goalkeeper equal to every one of them. But as the game progressed and the halftime interval came, the team had sorted things out and was beginning to impose their own will on the match a bit. Not enough to satisfy the goal hungry American hordes, but Johnson’s goal just four minutes into the second half would take care of that.

Michael Parkhurst coming on for Fabian Johnson seemed like a bit of a blow to our attack at first, but it actually seemed to help as the U.S. was able to rely more heavily on Parkhurst’s defensive presence to help them win the ball back. Klinsmann’s second substitute came in the form of Mix Diskerud, who couldn’t have made a better entrance coming on for Eddie Johnson in the 75th minute. His first touch on the first pass delivered to him at the edge of the Mexican 18-yard box was a deft, beautifully placed tap into space that allowed him to take the defender toward the end line and lay a beautifully placed cross into the box to Landon Donovan waiting on the far side for a tap in.

Diskerud hasn’t earned himself a starting role in Klinsmann’s setup, that is fair to say especially when Michael Bradley is healthy, but he has shown that he belongs on the roster at the very least having shown his playmaking ability both here and in the Gold Cup run over the summer where he was one of the best players on the team.

Speaking of Michael Bradley, his absence that was so harshly felt last Friday was eased last night by two guys playing some of the best soccer they’ve played in U.S. shirts during their national team careers. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones were both defensively solid on the night, Jones giving the ball away far less than usual and interceding defensively in some big moments.

Beckerman started a little rough with some clumsy challenges, but in the end he would earn some whistles of his own in the right direction and was solid defensively all night long in front the center backs. It was a performance that spoke to the depth everyone has been talking about for the last four days and in the case of Beckerman shows that MLS can cultivate players that the U.S. can use on the biggest of occasions, rather than having to send players to Europe.

As for the center backs, well, Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson look pretty comfortable together. Goodson was in the right place at the right time all night long, while Gonzalez was a beast in the air throughout the match. Between the two of them and Howard playing in form, Mexico never stood a chance of scoring. A lot of El Tri’s shots were taken from distance, hopeful balls when competing against a keeper of Howard’s class and he was up to the challenge.

The only let downs in this match for the U.S. came from the wide areas where it seemed Mexico had a bit of an advantage. DaMarcus Beasley looked out of sorts in the early going and had to be a bit more conservative as the game advanced so as to not get caught out. Fabian Johnson was poor during his half of playing time and Alejandro Bedoya seemed to lack some of the needed intensity at times refusing to take on opposition along the sideline rather than cut in toward the middle of the field. But in the end, none of this cost the Americans who come away celebrating on the night.

They are amongst a small group of teams who have captured a place in Brazil next year at such an early juncture. Klinsmann can now tinker with his massive talent pool again to create the best possible squad and begin the process of whittling his team down to a roster of 23 men he feels confident taking to South America next summer.

Undoubtedly, the Americans will want to finish top of the group and get into the best possible pot they can for the World Cup draw this December. But regardless of what happens from here, we’re going to Brazil, that’s all that matters.

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