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SOCCER

U.S. and Mexico get wins

September 11, 2008|Grahame L. Jones | Times Staff Writer

The United States and Mexico won their matches Wednesday to move a step closer to qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, but the evening was reserved for Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

The veteran Mexican playmaker made his 100th and final appearance for his country in its 2-1 victory over Canada at Tuxtla Gutierrez, coming on with only 15 seconds left in regulation and playing an emotional last four minutes, including stoppage time.

Blanco, 35, has played for "El Tri" since 1995 and scored 34 goals, but he made the surprise announcement earlier in the day that he was retiring from international play.

Meanwhile, at Toyota Park in the Chicago suburb of Bridgeview, Ill. -- where Blanco plays his club soccer for the Chicago Fire of MLS -- the U.S. routed an outmatched Trinidad and Tobago, 3-0, to remain unbeaten in the region's semifinal qualifying round.

Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Brian Ching scored for the U.S. side, which was seldom troubled. Tim Howard earned the shutout.

The U.S., Mexico and Costa Rica, which also has the maximum nine points from three matches after its 3-1 win over Haiti in Port-au-Prince, all are virtually certain of advancing to the final six-team round of qualifying in 2009.

El Salvador is very likely to join them there after its 2-0 victory over Suriname in Paramaribo left it with six points. Honduras also looks likely to advance after it overcame Jamaica, 2-0, in San Pedro Sula. It also has six points.

Guatemala, meanwhile, got its campaign back on track with a 4-1 win over Cuba in Guatemala City. The Guatemalans and Trinidad and Tobago each have four points.

The most poignant moments occurred in the rain at Tuxtla Gutierrez, capital of Chiapas, where the Mexican national team was making a rare appearance.

Blanco waited patiently on the sideline, but Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson left it to the very end to send him on. Rafael Marquez took off the captain's armband and strapped it around Blanco's arm. There was time for Blanco to get one last yellow card and then it was over.

Omar Bravo and Marquez scored Mexico's goals, and Ali Gerba scored for Canada, which is winless.

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Jones reported from Los Angeles.

grahame.jones@latimes.com

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