COLUMBUS, Ohio - After taking a victory lap at Columbus Crew Stadium on Tuesday night, the United States came out for a curtain call an hour later.
Only minutes after dispatching archrival Mexico by a familiar 2-0 scoreline in a World Cup qualifier, they took a short parade around the stadium, reveling in the moment, applauding and thanking the loud and enthusiastic fans from the crowd of 24,584 for their support.
About an hour later, after the Americans were assured they had secured their seventh consecutive appearance in the World Cup, the players emerged from a triumphant locker room again wearing shirts that said, QUALIFIED, to thank their most ardent supporters.
Landon Donovan, who scored one goal and set up another, said he was "most of all proud, I guess that this team keeps doing it over and over. I've only been a part of it for a small time now. Obviously, the bulk of the credit goes to the guys who have put in so much work. But it's real fun to be a part of it. It certainly doesn't get old."
The team watched the final half hour of Honduras' 2-2 home tie with Panama on TV, which put Team USA over the top.
"A little nervy," Donovan said. "The assumption was that regardless what happens, we're going to qualify, but you want to be finalized. We saw Panama score at the end, got a little nervous. Once they blew the final whistle, then everyone was excited about going to Brazil."
Eddie Johnson and Donovan supplied the second-half goals and goalkeeper Tim Howard provided the defense with two vital saves at the end of the first half as Team USA (5-2-1, 16 points) moved atop the CONCACAF hexagonal. Beleaguered Mexico fell to 1-2-5 with two qualifiers remaining.
While fans chanted "dos e cero," Spanish for 2-0, after the game had ended an ecstatic coach Jurgen Klinsmann urged on the crowd.
Team USA has beaten the Mexicans four times here by the same score, also in 2001, 2005 and 2009.
"When we came in the stadium, it was a real atmosphere, that is what we face when we go away," Donovan said. "It's nice other teams have to face it when they come here. They certainly boosted us on."
Johnson gave the U.S. team all the scoring it needed in the 49th minute as he headed in a Donovan corner kick from 8 yards past keeper Jose Coruna. Donovan, who had missed the first six hexagonal qualifiers because of his self-imposed exile, provided the clincher by slotting home Mix Diskerud's right-wing cross at the far post in the 78th minute.
"It's been really fun to be part of this team," Donovan said. "We're so deep now. There's so many guys who can step in and do a good job. We were missing a handful of guys and we didn't miss a beat."