CONCACAF qualifying round-up

Panama, Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago grabbed the last three final hexagonal places available on Wednesday as the semifinal round of CONCACAF qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup came to a close.

Coupled with the 1-1 tie between the USA and Jamaica, Panama surprisingly claimed the second spot in Group 1 with a 3-0 victory at home against El Salvador to move within striking distance of a first-ever World Cup berth. In the Group 2 showdown, Central American powers Costa Rica and Honduras played to a scoreless draw as Costa Rica narrowly advanced, while Trinidad & Tobago eased into the final six with a 2-1 win against St. Vincent and Grenadines in Group 3.

In Panama, Roberto Brown ended any suspense with two goals in the first seven minutes as the home side was then sentenced to waiting for updates from Columbus. Brown first opened Panama's account from the penalty spot after just four minutes, adding his second three minutes later, then Jose Garces made it 3-0 after just 21 minutes.

When full time was blown in Panama, they celebrated their farthest-ever advancement in World Cup qualifying while Jamaica was stunningly dumped out of the tournament.

In San Pedro Sula, Honduras needed a victory to move into the final round and eliminate the 2002 finalist from the World Cup. But despite holding more of the ball with a midfield managed by 2004 MLS MVP Amado Guevara, the home side simply couldn't break down the organized Costa Rican back line.

Chicago Fire striker Andy Herron had a glorious chance to end any doubt for Costa Rica just before the break, but had his one-on-one effort stopped by Honduras 'keeper Victor Coello.

In Guatemala in the other Group 2 match, a young Canada side gained a measure of redemption with a 1-0 victory, thanks to a second-half goal from San Jose Earthquakes striker Dwayne De Rosario. The fate of both teams was decided before the match, Guatemala already having booked passage to the final round and Canada already eliminated. Los Angeles Galaxy striker Carlos Ruiz was a starter for Guatemala.

In Port-of-Spain, two goals in the final six minutes sent Trinidad & Tobago through. Needing to avoid only losing by three goals, the Soca Warriors endured a nervy evening as Renson Haynes gave Vincy Heat a lead just after the halftime break.

But they could get no more, Hector Sam (84) and Angus Eve (90) closing out the victory with late goals. New England Revolution defender Avery John was sent off in the final seconds for a second yellow card. D.C. United defender Ezra Hendrickson once again captained the Vincentians.

Also in Group 3, Mexico completed their unbeaten and untied run through the group, defeating St. Kitts and Nevis 8-0 in Monterrey. Luis Ernesto Pérez had a hat trick and Francisco Fonseca scored twice, while Héctor Altamirano (penalty), Daniel Osorno and Sergio Santana also tallied.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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