A third straight win puts Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA two points clear at the top of the CONCACAF qualifying Hexagonal and a safe bet to reach next year’s FIFA World Cup™ in Brazil. Costa Rica remain in second place after beating Panama with three points more than Mexico, who are away in Brazil hoping to shake off their current run of miserable form at the FIFA Confederations Cup. Join FIFA.com for a rundown of all the Tuesday action from around the CONCACAF zone.
* The big game*
USA 1-0 Honduras
USA made amends for their loss to Honduras in February with a clinical win over the Catrachos in the return leg in Utah. It was a far cry from the scorching performance they put in last week against Panama, but Klinsmann’s Americans kept up their 100 per cent home record in qualifying with some disciplined, patient football. After missing a spate of half-chances in the opening period, the Americans responded by upping the tempo after the break. Clint Dempsey, who wasted two clear opportunities up to that point, played a crucial role in the goal in the 73rd minute. The Tottenham ace and US captain laid on a perfect ball for Fabian Johnson, roaring up the left side. The German-born back fired a low cross for Jozy Altidore, who continued his fine form with a cool finish to consolidate the Americans’ grip on top spot. The result was hard luck on the Hondurans, who put in a sturdy performance but still have yet to pick up even a goal on the road and sit a point behind Mexico in fourth place.
In other action
Costa Rica kept up their sparkling form at home with a 2-0 win over struggling Panama in San Jose. The first half was played at a frenzied – sometimes chaotic – pace, but the hosts settled things after the interval. Captain Brian Ruiz slammed home a free-kick in the 49th minute and set up Celso Borges for the second shortly after.
Player of the day – Brian Ruiz (Costa Rica)
Up against the elements and an increasingly desperate Panama, the Costa Ricans needed a touch of class. Captain Ruiz, of English Premier League outfit Fulham, provided it. The ever-silky midfield creator even showed a bit of grit on a rain-soaked pitch, scoring the opener with a cleverly taken free-kick from distance early in the second-half and then setting up the second just moments later. He was substituted late in the game to a well-deserved standing ovation.
Goal of the day – Celso Borges (CRC)
Costa Rica’s win over Panama wasn’t the prettiest game you’ll ever see, but the second Tico goal was unquestionably a thing of beauty. Borges, a 47-times capped veteran and stalwart of Swedish club side AIK, collected a short pass from Ruiz in midfield after 52 minutes and unleashed a vicious shot from a full 40 yards out that soared and swerved before nestling in the top corner of Jaime Penedo’s goal.
The number 4 – Altidore has scored four times in his last four games for the States, the best consecutive-game goal streak of any player in Stars and Stripes history. For a man who hadn’t scored from open play for nearly two years before he hit the net in a friendly against Germany earlier this month, it represents a welcome development for US coach Klinsmann, who famously dropped Altidore in the previous qualifying round after a string of poor performances. Top scorer for his Dutch club side AZ Alkmaar this term, things are looking up for the suddenly prolific front-man.
What they said
“We had to grind Honduras down tonight. It wasn’t easy, but we raised the tempo in the second half and we got the goal we needed. I want my team to be proud of this moment – we are in a very good position at the top of the Hexagonal and the players should enjoy their beer tonight.” USA coach Klinsmann applauds his side’s third win from three qualifiers in June.
CONCACAF final round Hexagonal, matchday 6*18 June
*USA 1-0 Honduras
Costa Rica 2-0 Panama