October 12, 2013
WEARING THE HEXAGONAL CROWN
USA clinches CONCACAF WCQ title
KANSAS CITY, Kansas -- While the World Cup fate of archrival Mexico still has not been decided, the United States reached yet another milestone in its 2-0 victory over Jamaica in the CONCACAF hexagonal as the Americans won the group on Friday night.
|The United States finished atop the CONCACAF Qualifying Group.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
Coupled with second-place Costa Rica's 1-0 loss at Honduras, the Americans (6-2-1, 19 points) captured the hexagonal for the third time running with one game remaining at Panama on Tuesday. The Ticos, who also qualified for Brazil, fell to 4-2-3 and remained at 15 points.
“It’s important to win the group and this time’s a little different than in the past," U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan said. "It takes a lot more points generally to win the group but this time it has been more closely contested. So for us it’s important again as far as FIFA rankings go. It’s important and there is an outside chance we can get seeded and we want to take that in to Panama.”
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann certainly liked what he saw, especially in the second half.
"We are extremely happy to finish the [hexagonal] in first position, leading the CONCACAF group and being number one in CONCACAF right now," he said. "Everybody’s excited about that. It has been a lot of work tonight. Obviously the first half didn’t go the way we hoped and we struggled to get a rhythm, a pace in the game. We adjusted a few things then and picked it up really well in the second half.
On the flip side, the Americans did not play well in the opening half at Sporting Park. They were sluggish and play some of the sloppiest soccer they have displayed during their qualifying run.
“It definitely wasn’t our best half. It certainly wasn’t my best half," Donovan said. "I think it was frustrating for all of us, but in the end it’s about finding a way to win games. A lot of the time you play poorly and lose and we still found a way to win even though we didn’t play great. So it was still important to win that game.
Donovan was replaced by Sporting Kansas City Graham Zusi for the start of the second half. Zusi, along with second-half substitutes Sacha Kljestan and Edgar Castillo gave the U.S. some much-needed spark over the final 45 minutes.
Zusi broke the ice with the first goal in the 77th minute. Castillo set up Jozy Altidore's goal four minutes later and Kljestan almost scored later on.
“They were impactful which is what you want from your substitutes," U.S. captain and goalkeeper Tim Howard said. "Sacha was very calm and composed on the ball which he is. Zusi coming in off the wing and was classy. He’s a really good player.”