World Cup 2014: Altidore nets to keep US top, Costa Rica stay in touch

AFP, WASHINGTON

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - Page 20

Jozy Altidore matched a US record with a goal for the fourth match in a row as the hosts beat Honduras 1-0 on Tuesday to stay top of the table in North American FIFA World Cup qualifying.

The US kept their two-point lead over Costa Rica in the six-nation group with 13 points off four wins and a draw in five matches since dropping their CONCACAF final-round qualifying opener 2-1 in Honduras in February.

Costa Rica stayed on the heels of the US with a 2-0 home victory over Panama, giving the Ticos three wins and two draws in six matches and setting up a showdown for first place when the US visit Costa Rica when qualifying resumes on Sept. 6.

The region’s top three teams advance to next year’s World Cup finals in Brazil, while the fourth-placed team meets New Zealand to decide another berth.

Altidore, who plays for Dutch side AZ, found the net in the 73rd-minute off a cross from Fabian Johnson.

That gave Altidore, who last year had struggled to score for the US at times, goals in four consecutive matches, including a 4-3 friendly win over Germany, and qualifying triumphs over Jamaica and Panama.

Altidore drew level for the longest US scoring streak, established by William Looby in 1954-1955 and matched by Eric Wynalda, Brian McBride, Eddie Johnson and twice by all-time US leading scorer Landon Donovan.

US fans began chanting “We are going to Brazil” even before the final whistle.

No team with 13 final-round points has ever failed to advance to the World Cup from CONCACAF qualifying.

In a rainy San Jose, Costa Rica struck twice early in the second half to keep Panama in fifth place.

The Ticos took the lead off a left-footed free-kick by Bryan Ruiz in the 49th minute.

He fired around a wall of defenders to fire the ball into the far corner of the goal.

Costa Rica struck again in the 52nd minutes when Celso Borges took a pass from Ruiz in space just outside the penalty area and fired a right-footed strike into the top-right corner.

The results left Mexico third in the group, with eight points earned from a win and five draws, but still vulnerable as Honduras are only a point back and Panama just two adrift of the last guaranteed spot in Brazil. Winless Jamaica trail with two points.

Qualifying resumes on Sept. 6 with the seventh of 10 matches for each team, as Honduras visit Mexico, Jamaica travel to Panama and the Ticos host the US.