BY JONATHAN COOK
Watching from his sofa in his family’s living room, Michael Ciquerda, a sophomore from County College of Morris, grew frustrated as the U.S. national team failed to score in the first half. Only four minutes into the second half, Landon Donovan served in a corner kick right into the path of a soaring Eddie Johnson to power in a header. Ciquerda said he jumped out of his seat, fist pumping the air.
“My parents left the room at halftime and missed the goal,” Ciquerda said. “They rushed back in as soon as they heard me yell.”
The moment of joy was caused by the goal and the second one after that, scored by Donovan. The United States Men’s National Team qualify for its seventh consecutive World Cup by defeating its archrival Mexico by two goals to zero in Columbus, Ohio on Sept. 10.
The team joined the first group of 10 national teams from the European, Asian, and South American confederations to qualify for the tournament. The World Cup, which is held every four years, will kick off in Brazil next June.
The qualification is significant for the many Americans, including Ciquerda, to watch their country compete at arguably one of the top two sporting events in the world. The tournament’s prestige and scope is possibly only rivaled by the summer Olympics.
“I’m happy they made it,” Ciquerda said. “They worked hard over the past two years introducing new players and having to deal with a new coach [Jurgen Klinnsman] to make it this far.”
CONCACAF, the North and Central American soccer confederation, is granted three guaranteed spots to the World Cup. These spots are granted to the top three finishers in the region after a process of eliminating all except the six best nations. Then scheduling those six to play each other twice in a home and away format.
The seventh consecutive qualification represents a consistency in the U.S. team that not many other nations from around the world can match. Prior to the 1990 World Cup in Italy, the Americans did not qualify for the tournament for 40 years, according to information obtained on the official website of FIFA, the international governing body for soccer.
After a loss to Costa Rica in San Jose that saw the Americans end a 12-game winning streak, the team responded with its victory against Mexico. With many key players injured or suspended, Ciquerda felt Landon Donovan, the all-time leading goal scorer for the national team, was a significant factor in the win.
“Landon Donovan is class,” Ciquerda said. “He…Dempsey and Howard, are some of the most important players of our team that always get the job done.”