By Ronald Blum
COLUMBUS: The United States clinched its seventh consecutive World Cup appearance, beating regional rival Mexico 2-0 Tuesday night on second-half goals by Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan before a raucous red-white-and-blue-clad crowd that stood and chanted from start to finish.
After withstanding Mexican pressure for the first 20 minutes, the United States settled into the match and got the breakthrough in the 49th minute when Johnson outjumped 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 United States scored in the 78th following a throw in when Mix Diskerud threaded the ball across the goalmouth. Clint Dempsey touched it as it went by to Donovan, who poked it in from 2 yards.
The United States (5-2-1) moved into first place in the North and Central American and Caribbean finals with 16 points, one ahead of Costa Rica (4-1-3), which was held to a 1-1 tie at last-place Jamaica.
The top three teams qualify and third-place Honduras tied Panama 2-2 to clinch the berth for the United States.
Mexico (1-2-5) is fourth and likely headed to a playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand.
Johnson nearly scored off Donovan’s cross in the third minute of the second half, but the pass was just ahead of him.
A minute later, the U.S. took just its second corner kick of the match.
Jermaine Jones and Johnson both broke in from behind the penalty spot, and Mexico was slow to react as Johnson scored in 12th goal in 21 qualifying appearances.