COLUMBUS, Ohio — For more than two hours, the red-white-and-blue-clad fans stood and sang “Dos a cero! Dos a cero!” over and over and over.
And 2-0 it was.
The United States clinched its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance, getting second-half goals from Eddie Johnson of the Seattle Sounders and Landon Donovan for the now traditional 2-0 home qualifying win over Mexico.
“It’s become its own monster. People want to come to Columbus and see U.S.-Mexico. It’s almost like the mecca really for us,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “You almost feel like it’s our destiny to win here.”
The U.S. needed a win or a tie from Honduras against Panama to clinch a spot in Brazil with two games to spare, and the American fans watched on the videoboard as Honduras held on for a 2-2 draw.
U.S. players crowded around a television in their locker room, and then sprayed bubbly and came back on the field to celebrate with the fans.
“It’s great to do it sooner than later, but to get it against your rival is even sweeter,” said American captain Clint Dempsey, who joined the Sounders last month.
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 out-leaped defender Diego Reyes to meet Donovan’s corner kick 8 yards out and head the ball past frozen goalkeeper Jesus Corona.
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. Dempsey got the slightest of touches as he slid into the goalmouth, and Donovan poked the ball in from 2 yards.
“Obviously this is a huge, huge evening for all of us,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “It’s a huge milestone whenever you make it to a World Cup.”
The U.S. (5-2-1) moved into first place in the North and Central American and Caribbean (CONCACAF) finals with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica (4-1-3), which was held to a 1-1 tie at Jamaica and also clinched a spot in Brazil.
Honduras (3-3-2) is third with 11 points and on track for the region’s final automatic berth for the 32-nation field for Brazil next June. Panama moved ahead of Mexico (both 1-2-5) on goal difference for fourth place, which advances to a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
“This a team that could and should play better,” said Luis Fernando Tena, who replaced Chepo de la Torre as Mexico’s coach following Friday’s 2-1 home loss to Honduras. “It has to take a step forward if we want to make it to the World Cup.”