U.S. victory keeps Mexico alive in hunt for World Cup berth 

click to enlarge Graham Zusi
  • AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco
  • Graham Zusi of the U.S, left, and teammate Brad Davis embrace after Zusi scored the goal to tie with Panama, in a 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match in Panama City, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013. The United States rallied for a 3-2 win at Panama on Tuesday night that left Mexico's World Cup hopes alive and knocked out the Panamanians.
Graham Zusi and Aron Johannsson scored in second-half stoppage time, and the United States rallied for a 3-2 win at Panama on Tuesday night that left Mexico’s World Cup hopes alive and knocked out the Panamanians.

The U.S., which clinched a World Cup berth last month, didn’t use most of its starters, and Gabriel Torres put Panama ahead in the 18th minute in a downpour at Panama City. Michael Orozco tied it the 64th minute, just as Costa Rica took a 2-1 lead at home against Mexico.

Luis Tejada scored in the 83rd, putting Panama within minutes of a fourth-place finish and a berth in next month’s playoff against Oceania champion New Zealand. Mexico, which last missed the World Cup in 1990, would have been eliminated, but now will play New Zealand with a spot in the World Cup on the line.

But Zusi scored 1:24 into three minutes of stoppage time, and Johannsson added his first international goal at the 2:40 mark to seal the U.S. win and Panama’s elimination. The Americans, who have lost just once in their last 16 games, finished with a record-tying 22 points in the hexagonal, the final round of the North and Central American and Caribbean region.

The U.S. (7-2-1) and Costa Rica (5-2-3) already had clinched berths last month, and Honduras (4-3-3) earned the region’s final automatic spot with a 2-2 tie at last-place Jamaica (0-5-5).

Mexico (2-3-5) finished fourth with 11 points, three ahead of Panama (1-4-5), which has never played in soccer’s top event.

Elsewhere, England and defending champion Spain qualified for the World Cup along with Russia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Chile and Ecuador earned the final two automatic spots from South America.

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