The U.S. national soccer team swept into the final round of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa on Saturday with a 6-1 demolition of Cuba at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
In sharp contrast, Mexico suffered its first loss under Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson when it was shut out, 1-0, by Jamaica in an ill-tempered game in Kingston. It will have to wait at least until Wednesday to advance.
Also clinching its place in next year's final six-team round was Costa Rica, which routed host Suriname, 4-1, in Paramaribo.
El Salvador moved to the brink of qualifying with a 0-0 tie at Haiti, while Honduras greatly increased its chances of reaching the "hexagonal" when it rolled over Canada, 3-1, in San Pedro Sula, thereby ending Canada's World Cup chances.
Guatemala and Trinidad and Tobago played to a 0-0 tie in Guatemala City, keeping both teams alive.
The Americans' performance was the most dominating of the day, however. They outshot Cuba (18-4 overall and 13-2 in shots on target) and spent the game camped in front of Cuba's net.
Two goals by DaMarcus Beasley and one apiece by Landon Donovan, Brian Ching, Jozy Altidore and Oguchi Onyewu gave the U.S. one of its most lopsided victories in years.
The match also saw Sacha Kljestan stake his claim as the American team's playmaker of the future. The Chivas USA midfielder was dominant, setting up two of the goals and cutting Cuba apart with his passing.
Equally significant was the national team debut of Jose Francisco Torres, who had the option of playing for the U.S. or for Mexico and chose the United States.
Torres replaced Kljestan for the final 22 minutes and looked instantly at ease, a sign of the experience he has gained playing for Pachuca in Mexico.
Not helping Cuba's cause was the defection on Friday by two of its players, midfielder Pedro Faife, 24, and forward Reynier Alcantara, 26. "You can't handcuff them to their rooms," Cuba's German coach, Reinhold Fanz, told the Washington Post.
Mexico, meanwhile, traveled to Kingston knowing that Jamaica would present a strong physical challenge.
Still, Eriksson, who had won his first three games as coach of "El Tri," was confident.
"It may be a tough match and Jamaica may be a tough team, but I don't think we're scared of playing there," the Swede said.
"I'm not going to send a team of battlers. We are going to play football; we're not going for a war."
It was Jamaica that fired the only shot that counted, however, with Ricardo Fuller beating Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez with a first-half effort from 22 yards that took a deflection and looped up and over Sanchez before dipping down into the net.
Mexico next will play Canada in Edmonton on Wednesday, seeking the victory that would secure it a place in the final round.
Jones reported from Los Angeles.
WORLD CUP QUALIFYING
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