USMNT climbs into automatic World Cup qualifying spot after other results post

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El Tri beat Honduras 3-0 to move to a Hex-leading 13 points. (AP Photo)
El Tri beat Honduras 3-0 to move to a Hex-leading 13 points. (AP Photo)

Just hours after the United States picked up three crucial points at home in a 2-0 win against Trinidad and Tobago to keep its campaign to reach an eighth straight World Cup in Russia next year on track, results elsewhere in CONCACAF went the Americans’ way as well.

Mexico easily rolled over Honduras 3-0, while Costa Rica and Panama tied 0-0.

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That meant the USA’s new total of seven points – on a 2-2-1 record – lifted it past Panama into third place. And the Americans now trail the Costa Ricans by just a point at the halfway stage of the final round of qualifiers. Undefeated Mexico already seems out of reach with a five-point lead over everybody else at the top.

Picking up a spot was important because only the top three of the six teams reach Russia automatically. The fourth-place team is entered into a playoff with Asia’s fifth-placed finisher. So the Americans are now in a position to avoid such a showdown with the highest possible stakes.

In Mexico City, at the Estadio Azteca where the U.S. faces Mexico on Sunday, El Tri made quick work of a rudderless Honduran team, which had lost 6-0 to the Yanks two games ago in San Jose, Calif.

In the 35th minute, Oswaldo Alanis beat Maynor Figueroa to a corner and placed his header perfectly to make it 1-0.

In the second half, Chucky Lozano beat the offside trap, rounded Donis Escober and scored.

Three minutes later, in the 66th, Raul Jimenez got the third. Mexico played through the line again and Jimenez scored with the delicate chip.

No matter how chippy Honduras got, the Mexicans would not be knocked off their game.

Meanwhile, in San Jose, Costa Rica, nothing more exciting happened than Giancarlo Gonzalez’s sending-off for the home team for elbowing an opponent in the face.

The stalemate meant that Panama stayed on the USA’s tail, thanks to a crucial away point. But thanks to the Americans’ reversal in form, Bruce Arena’s team can now look up in the standings. To Costa Rica, which hasn’t won in three, after back-to-back victories to open the round – including the 4-0 shellacking of the U.S. that induced Jurgen Klinsmann’s November firing and Arena’s hiring.

On the whole, the USA did good business on Thursday. But if the U.S. leaves Mexico City without any points – and it has never won there in World Cup qualifying, and tied just twice – and Costa Rica beats last-place Trinidad and Tobago at home and Panama does the same to Honduras, things could turn dicey again.

As usual, things remain ever so tight in the Hexagonal round.


Leander Schaerlaeckens is a Yahoo Sports soccer columnist. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.

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