With a 3-2 victory over Honduras in San Pedro Sula, the US National Team secured its spot in the 2010 World Cup finals in South Africa. This is the sixth straight World Cup qualification for the US, following a 40 year absence from the biggest sporting event in the world.
While the first half in Honduras remained scoreless, Julio De Leon put Honduras on the board in the 47th minute. Once again, the US gave up a goal early in the second half. Being down a goal only seemed to energize the US side, with Conor Casey stepping up and getting a brace of beautiful goals in the 55th and 66th minutes. A near perfect free kick from Landon Donovan in the 71st minute gave the US a 3-1 lead with 19 minutes plus stoppage time left.
The remaining minutes of the match got tense when De Leon picked up his second goal in the 78th minute. Then, in the 85th minute, an inadvertent handball by Stuart Holden resulted in a penalty kick for Honduras. Carlos Pavon took the shot for Honduras, sending the ball over the crossbar, a common flight path for most of Pavon’s shots on what was a rough night of missed chances for him.
The US managed to maintain their one goal lead, being the first team to win at Honduras in this portion of the qualifying cycle. With 19 points, the US sits atop of the CONCACAF World Cup qualification table, with Mexico, who also qualified yesterday with a 4-1 victory over El Salvador, sitting at second place with 18 points.
The only question left in CONCACAF is whether Honduras or Costa Rica will get stuck in the 4th spot on the table, the playoff spot. Costa Rica is currently in the safe third spot with 15 points, but Honduras has 13 points and can overtake Costa Rica if everything goes their way. Costa Rica plays the US in Washington, DC on Wednesday, but they should not expect an easy match. Even though the US has secured its World Cup berth, the pride involved in not losing any matches on your soil is still in play. Meanwhile, Honduras travels to El Salvador to play a tough team, looking to end this cycle on a high note.
Meanwhile, there were still some matches with playoff implications in Major League Soccer this weekend. Columbus Crew continued its efforts to win the Supporters Shield for the second season in a row by picking up a 1-0 victory at New England on Saturday. Chivas USA secured its spot in the playoffs with a 2-0 victory over Kansas City in Los Angeles last night. Meanwhile, San Jose managed to a secure a point at Toronto in a 1-1 draw.
While the Houston Dynamo, Los Angeles Galaxy, and Chivas USA have all secured spots in the 2009 playoffs, all three teams have 44 points, meaning that they will all be fighting for seeding over the next couple of weeks. Houston hosts the Galaxy next Sunday, and then closes its season at the Home Depot Center against Chivas on Sunday October 25th. Both Chivas and Galaxy have to face an improved San Jose over the next couple of weeks, but Chivas also has one extra match, against the Chicago Fire on Thursday October 22nd.
With matches at Kansas City and then at home against Dallas, the Seattle Sounders (41 points) could pick up enough points to make the playoffs in this, their inaugural season. The other Western team with the strongest shot of making it to the playoffs, at the moment, is the Colorado Rapids (40 points) who head to Dallas next weekend and then close the season against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium.
While the Crew are the only Eastern side to secure a playoff berth, the Chicago Fire have 41 points and have a good grasp of the second spot in the East. Next weekend, the Fire take on New England (38 points) and then close at home with Chivas on Thursday the 22nd. New England, meanwhile, closes its season at Columbus on Sunday October 25th. D.C. United and Toronto FC both have 36 points, with Toronto possibly having the easiest route to playoff spot. Toronto hosts Real Salt Lake next Saturday and then closes the season at New York, the last match to occur at the Meadowlands. D.C. plays host to Columbus next Saturday and then finishes their regular season at Kansas City.
With two weeks left to go in the regular season and 4 playoff spots unclaimed, the next couple weeks will provide some crucial MLS matches.