By Clemente Lisi – NEW YORK, NY (Sep 8, 2012) US Soccer Players – World Cup Qualifying resumed Friday night with six games that were supposed to help dramatically reduce the number of teams that could clinch a spot to the six-team Hexagonal. They didn’t.
As a result of several shocking results, all 12 teams remain in contention for a spot in the final round. Although no team was mathematically eliminated, some are in better position to qualify (such as Mexico and Canada) compared to others (Cuba and Guyana).
With the Semifinal Round at its halfway point, three rounds of matches now remain to determine which teams advance to the final round. The novelty of this cycle’s Qualifying process is that teams will play the same opponent twice consecutively – in essence what amounts to a home and away series – between the third and fourth games.
Following the USA’s 2-1 loss to Jamaica, here is a roundup of the other five games:
Guatemala 3 – Antigua and Barbuda 1
Motivated by the US loss some two hours earlier, Guatemala downed Antigua and Barbuda 3-1 in rain-soaked Guatemala City to move into a tie for second-place with the Americans. For Guatemala (1-1-1), it was its first win of the round, while Antigua and Barbuda (0-2-1) remains at the bottom of the group.
Striker Peter Byers put the twin-island ahead 1-0 in the 38th minute (his 10th goal in 2014 Qualifying overall), a shock lead that they would take with it into the dressing room. In the second half, Guatemala turned on the pressure, tying the game in the 58th minute through Carlos Ruiz.
Although field condition were made worse by heavy rain, Antigua and Barbuda were the ones who could no loner absorb the pressure, especially when they fell to 10 men. With the game tied 1-1, Antigua and Barbuda goalkeeper Molvin James picked up his second yellow card in the 76th minute after delaying a restart.
Three minutes after Molvin’s expulsion, Ruiz scored again to put Guatemala ahead, 2-1. Dwight Pezzarossi, who had come into the game at the start of the second half, clinched the victory with a goal of his own in the 90th minute off a Marco Pappa cross.
Mexico 2 – Costa Rica 0
Despite several key absences, Mexico’s domination of CONCACAF continued with a 2-0 victory over Costa Rica in San Jose thanks to goals from Carlos Salcido and Jesus Zavala. Undefeated Mexico keeps the top spot with Costa Rica in second-place.
Mexico was without midfielder Pablo Barrera and striker Giovanni do Santos, but had the edge throughout the match. With Andres Guardado supplying both assists off corner kicks, the Mexicans were able to power their way to a victory. Mexico is now a win away from clinching a spot in the final round.
El Salvador 2 – Guyana 2
Guyana avoided elimination following a 2-2 draw against El Salvador, rallying twice when Treyon Bobb scored two goals for his side in San Salvador. Under rainy skies, the home side took the lead after four minutes from an Isidro Gutierrez goal. Bobb responded with a 20th minute equalizer, but El Salvador was back in front a minute later when Osael Romero scored. Bobb would equalize again for Guyana in the 54th minute.
For El Salvador (0-1-2), the draw at home was disappointing and could hurt them down the stretch when the round concludes on October 16th, while Guyana (0-2-1) earned its first point of the round.
Honduras 3 – Cuba 0
It took three tries but Honduras finally won a Qualifying game this year, blanking Cuba 3-0 in Havana and keeping alive hope of reaching the Hexagonal.
Honduras got some help from its US-based players with goals from Victor Bernardez, Marvin Chavez and Jerry Bengston. The win put Honduras (1-1-1) at four points, while Cuba (0-0-3) is now on the brink of elimination after failing to earn a single point.
For Honduras, Bengston ended his team’s 239-minute goalless drought when he scored in the 33rd minute. Bengston, who plays for the New England Revolution, had scored three goals for Honduras at the London Olympics. Honduras, who was without star midfielder Roger Espinoza due to suspension, made it 2-0 when Bernardez scored in the 62nd minute. Chavez, who plays with Bernardez on the San Jose Earthquakes, added a third in stoppage time.
Canada 1 – Panama 0
In what was its toughest test to date, Canada passed with flying colors, downing Panama 1-0 at BMO Field in Toronto to take first-place in the group. The game’s lone goal was scored by Dwayne De Rosario in the 77th minute.
Panama’s defense was unable to stop De Rosario from scoring his 20th all-time goal for Canada after a quick restart by Atiba Hutchinson from a free kick. Hutchinson quickly put the ball into play from the right flank and floating it into the box for the DC United striker who was unmarked.
For Canada (2-0-1), the game was its fifth straight shutout in all games and 10th out of its last 11. Panama (2-1-0) had posted two consecutive shutouts before entering the game.
Supported by a crowd of 17,586, Canada squandered several chances to take the lead in the first half, notably two headers from captain Kevin McKenna. The crowd had gotten even louder before the game when Canada’s women’s team, bronze medalists at the London Olympics, were introduced. Canada had lost to the USA, the eventual gold-medal winners, in the semifinals.
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