The Norman Transcript

Sports

September 10, 2013

U.S. looks to clinch World Cup berth against Mexico

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Alejandro Bedoya remembered back four years ago, when he walked onto the field with his American teammates to face Mexico at the Rose Bowl and saw the crowd of 93,000-plus.

“A sea of green,” the 26-year-old midfielder said, referring to the Mexican jersey color.

While American soccer fans are outnumbered by visiting supporters at many venues, the U.S. team has found a home at cozy Columbus Crew Stadium.

It’s become the traditional site of the Stars & Stripes’ World Cup qualifier against regional rival Mexico following 2-0 victories in 2001, 2005 and 2009.

And on Tuesday night the Americans hope to emulate their performance of four years ago, when they clinched a World Cup berth by beating El Tri.

“We have history here. And for soccer in our country, that’s not always the case,” said midfielder Michael Bradley, who will miss the match because of a sprained left ankle. “Soccer is still in its growing stages, and so for us to feel like we walk into a stadium and there’s history is a special feeling.”

Coming off a dismal 3-1 loss Friday at Costa Rica on Friday night, the U.S. can assure its seventh straight World Cup appearance with two games to spare if it beats Mexico and Honduras defeats or ties visiting Panama — a game that kicks off about the time the second half gets under way in Columbus.

Costa Rica (4-1-2) leads the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region with 14 points, one ahead of the U.S. (4-2-1), four in front of Honduras (3-3-1) and six in front of Mexico (1-1-5). Panama (1-2-4) has seven points, and Jamaica (0-4-3) is last.

The top three nations qualify for next year’s 32-nation field in Brazil, and the No. 4 finisher winds up in a playoff with New Zealand.

Mexico will be playing its first game since coach Chepo De la Torre was replaced by Luis Fernando Tena following Friday’s 2-1 defeat to Honduras at Azteca Stadium.

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