MEXICO QUALIFIES

Mexico’s goal keeper Moises Munoz saves a penalty in the World Cup Football qualifier against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
AP Photo/SNPA, John Cowpland

Viva Mexico! The final CONCACAF berth to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil was settled and Mexico has completed the four-team CONCACAF representation to next summer’s tournament. El Tri will join the USA, Costa Rica and Honduras in Brazil next June after it defeated Oceania champion New Zealand by an aggregate score of 9-3 in the home-and-away series.

It took a struggling Mexico team four coaches and a Panama debacle against the U. S. to capture the fourth spot for the chance to play New Zealand and qualify; and despite current coach Miguel Herrera’s effort in qualifying the team, the Mexican coaching carousel may still be spinning, because the Mexican Soccer Federation has not confirmed Herrera’s fate. There is still a possibility that Herrera may be replaced by someone else to lead the team in Brazil.

Mexico won the first leg at home, 5-1, on Wednesday, Nov. 13, and then headed for Wellington, New Zealand with the intentions of going for a win in the return match on Wednesday, Nov. 20. “We are going to go for the game there,” said Herrera. “We are going to take it as if we are starting this like it’s zero to zero and we are going to go looking to score a goal. Herrera continued, “I see myself returning on the 21st with the World Cup ticket.”

Herrera and his players did return with their World Cup ticket punched and dressed in World Cup T-shirts, courtesy of FIFA. In the showdown at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, forward Oribe Peralta scored a hat trick (14th, 29th, 33rd) to lead the visitors. The All Whites, who started with the huge task of overcoming a four-goal deficit, made a good showing for their fans.

Trailing 3-0 at halftime, the local team played with much heart and grit and never stalled on their efforts. Late in the contest, the All Whites scored twice to narrow the deficit, 3-2, but as it pushed forward near the end to draw the match and finish with a respectable result for their fans, Mexico countered one last time with less than 10 minutes to play and scored a fourth goal to settle the issue, 4-2; by this time, players on the Mexican bench were already wearing their shirts that pronounced their return to the World Cup finals for the sixth consecutive tournament… In the African Confederation, the five nations, which qualified for the World Cup are Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Tunisia.

USA LOSES

The USA men’s national team lost, 1-0, to Austria in Vienna Tuesday in its last friendly international of the year. Marc Janko’s goal in the 33rd minute from a wonderful build of combination plays to win the game for Austria, which did not qualify for the World Cup.

The World Cup-bound U. S. looked an average team in its last two friendlies, including a goalless stalemate versus Scotland just days earlier; the lack of cohesion in the games was caused by the many changes made by Coach Jurgen Klinsmann.

Despite these results, the U. S. had it best year as it qualified for its seventh consecutive World Cup finals, won its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup title and finished with the most wins in a calendar year with a record of 16-4-3.

MLS

The road to the MLS Cup continues this weekend when Sporting Kansas City hosts the Houston Dynamo on Saturday night in the second leg of the Eastern Conference finals. The first match ended in a goalless draw, which means Saturday night’s match is an all-or-nothing affair with both teams starting from zero.

Meanwhile, Real Salt Lake beat the Portland Timbers, 4-2, in the first leg of the Western Conference finals as the series moves to Portland for the second leg on Sunday night. Portland has to overcome a two-goal deficit. The series is won by most aggregate goals…..Also, MLS announced that the Orlando City Soccer Club will be the league’s 21st club in 2015. The Orlando-based expansion club is owned by Flávio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins, who with MLS commissioner Don Garber, made the announcement on Monday.

TRINIDAD TOPS JAMAICA

The Trinidad and Tobago Soca Warriors beat the Jamaica Reggae Boyz twice in as many games in an arranged home-and-away series to close out the year for both teams. In the first game at Catherine Hall Stadium in Montego Bay, Jamaica, on Friday, Nov. 15, forward Ataullah Guerra scored off a rebounded shot by his captain Kenwyn Jones to give Trinidad and Tobago the 1-0 win. The victory was Trinidad’s first over Jamaica since May, 2001.

In the return match at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port-of-Spain on Tuesday, the home side came up with a resounding 2-0 defeat for a fitting farewell to Soca Warrior and midfielder Chris Birchall, who retired from the national team. It was Birchall’s tying goal that made Trinidad and Tobago’s only World Cup appearance in 2006 possible.

Mexico’s Zinha eyes the ball during his team’s World Cup qualifying soccer match against New Zealand at Westpac Stadium, in Wellington, New Zealand, Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2013.
AP Photo/SNPA, Ross Setford

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