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Get your passports ready. The USA has punched its ticket for the World Cup next year in South Africa after a 3-2 victory over Honduras. Now they can look ahead to both being the overall winner of the CONCACAF and their trip to South Africa in 2010.
The United States had one thing on their mind, “win and you’re in.” After the hype surrounding the United States loss to Mexico at the Azteca, many were questioning if the United States can win consistently. Since then, they survived a 2-1 duel against El Salvador and a hard fought 1-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago. This time, they traveled to Central America for their showdown.
The Hondurans came out swinging and took the lead when Julio Leon knocked in his first goal in the CONCACAF qualifying rounds. By the second half, the USA got things turned around when Conor Casey scored his first two international goals. Four minutes after Casey’s second, Landon Donovan added an insurance goal, which would prove to be needed, when in the 78th minute, Leon added his second goal of the night.
The in the waning minutes, Carlos Pavon was ready for a penalty kick following a handball in the box. However, he shanked the kick and sent it sailing over the crossbar. The USA escaped another scare when Pavon missed on an open header just two minutes later. The American’s escaped with the win and celebrated the USA’s sixth straight World Cup appearance.
The game was said to be one of the most exciting in recent memory, but was missed by many. A company that purchased the television rights from the Honduran federation decided to air the game on closed circuit to several bars and restaurants across the USA. At least the fans of US Soccer will get the chance to see their country play next year.
The United States will make their sixth straight appearance and their ninth overall. Mexico, who also qualified this past weekend, is currently heading to their fifth straight World Cup and 14th overall. Mexico should be going to their seventh straight, but were disqualified in 1990 for violating a previous FIFA tournaments rules. For the United States, they would love to relive the glory in 2002 and forget about what happened during their last go-around.
Many may not remember, but the United States is the only CONCACAF country to place third, or higher. In the 1930 World Cup, the United States finished third, behind only Argentina and eventual champion Uruguay. Since then, both the popularity of the sport, and success for the team diminished. After not making a Cup appearance between 1950 and 1990, the United States returned only to be eliminated in group play When the USA hosted in 1994, they made it to the Round of 16, and succeeded to gain enough attention for soccer to create the MLS. Playing in France in 1998, the USA was again eliminated in the Group Stage and things were only expected to go down from there.
However, something weird happened. During the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by South Korea and Japan, the United States upset the favorite Portugal and tied the host country South Korea, which was enough to earn them a birth in the second round. The United States then blanked out Mexico, before being shut out themselves by eventual runner up Germany in the quarterfinals. It was the furthest the United States has gone in 72 years. With big things expected four years later in Germany in 2006, the USA was eliminated in the Group Stage in a group that consisted of the Czech Republic and eventual qualifiers Italy and Ghana. Now the question remains, can the United States compete, or is another early exit in the works?
It’s too early to tell if the United States will make it out of the first round. They need some good match ups and to play at the top of their game. One thing that will help will be if the United States is the outright winners of the CONCACAF qualifiers. With both countries qualifying, the United States find themselves only one point ahead of Mexico. Both teams play on October 14th, with Mexico playing a meaningless game against Trinidad and Tobago and the United States playing Costa Rica, who is playing for a World Cup birth of their own. A loss or tie for Mexico means the United States wins the CONCACAF and gets a birth in the 2013 Confederations cup.
Speaking of the Confederations Cups, who remembers the United States run in the tournament this past summer? After losing the first two games in the Group against Italy and Brazil, the United States got help from Egypt to escape the first round. Next was the shocking victory over Spain in the knockout stage, before losing a heartbreaker to Brazil in the finals. A second place finish is not a disappointment, but simply showed they can compete, and even beat, the best teams in the world. That was a victory in its own right.
The United States is loaded with talent like Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, Oguchi Onyewu, Carlos Bocanegra and goalkeeper Tim Howard. They have the skill to beat the best and compete on a international level.
New Hampshire’s own Charlie Davies, who scored the only US goal against Mexico this summer, remains a question mark, following being seriously injured in a car accident. Should he be able to play, he is another dangerous weapon that can make the big shot and see the United States make a run for the cup, but his status is looking more and more bleak.
Friday, June 11th 2010: the opening games of the next World Cup in South Africa. This December, the United States will know what group they will be in, and who they will be matched up with. The road to the 2010 World Cup has been a long one and will soon be drawing to an end. Should the USA play to its potential, they have all the talent and ability to make it to the final match on Sunday July 11th in Johannesburg. Soccer in the USA is back and now is the perfect time to get behind the team.