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Home is Where the Points Are

Five home games. Five victories. Five shutouts.  That, quite simply, is how you qualify for the World Cup (and finish in first place in your group, to boot.)

Back in November, we outlined the importance of winning games at home in the qualifying campaign. It this region, it takes an average of 15.75 points to guarantee a spot in the World Cup, and the United States picked up 15 just at home, and has 19 total with one match to play.

There are plenty of stats to offer up about the USA’s home run, but here’s one that stands out in particular: four of the five games were sold-out – and more than 40,000 came to CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Most importantly, the crowds were overwhelming in support of the U.S. team. From the Snowclasico in Commerce City, to the tifo extravaganza in Seattle, and the fourth-straight “dos a cero” at the home of the USA-Mexico rivalry, Columbus Crew Stadium, the supporters have been the story of this cycle. 

But back to the field. The U.S. outscored its opponents 8-0 through the five games, with Tim Howard (4) and Brad Guzan (1) collecting the clean sheets.

At the attacking end, five different goalscorers contributed. Jozy Altidore had the most with three goals total, including two game-winners back-to-back against Panama and Honduras. Eddie Johnson put in a pair, sealing the win in front of his home crowd in Seattle and then heading home the goal against Mexico that sealed the USA’s trip to Brazil. 

Landon Donovan had the insurance goal in that game, increasing his U.S. record to 13 total. Sporting KC midfielder Graham Zusi also took care of business in front of the home faithful, slotting in the first goal in the 2-0 win against Jamaica at Sporting Park that ensured the USA’s first-place finish in the Hexagonal for the third consecutive cycle.

Overall, the depth of the U.S. squad shone through. A total of 28 players saw action on U.S. soil, while not a single player got minutes in all five games. Eight players appeared in four home matches (Altidore, Beasley, Dempsey, Gonzalez, Howard, E. Johnson, Jones,  Zusi).

Throw in the Semifinal Round, and you finish with a perfect 8-0-0 record throughout the campaign and a 26-match unbeaten overall (24-0-2) in home World Cup Qualifiers. For the United States, home is definitely where the heart is.