CARSON, Calif. -- Landon Donovan watched intently as his US teammates rallied to beat Panama in their final World Cup qualifier and saved Mexico from elimination, but he doesn't believe El Tri would have done the same for the Yanks in same circumstances.
“It was a miracle for them, and it says a lot about the American spirit,” said Donovan, who was released from the US camp before Tuesday's game with an ailing left ankle. “I can't imagine that if the roles were reversed, that they would have done the same.
“And I can't imagine many teams around the world doing that for their rival, but our guys play hard always, and it was professional and it was with integrity. I'm proud to be part of that team.”
Mexico dropped its final qualifier Tuesday at Costa Rica, a 2-1 decision that left them needing help from their bitter rivals to the north. Panama were set to vault into fourth place in CONCACAF's Hexagonal -- on goals scored, the second tiebreaker -- and into a playoff for a berth in Brazil when Luis Tejada scored in the 83rd minute for a 2-1 advantage over the US in Panama City.
But Graham Zusi struck in the second minute of stoppage and Aron Johannsson matched it a minute later to give the Americans a 3-2 victory and send Mexico to the home-and-home series against against Oceania winner New Zealand.
“It was wild. It was fun to watch,” said Donovan, a central figure in the US-Mexico rivalry who has been widely despised south of the border. “I was sitting at home, trying to switch back and forth between the games and trying to keep updated.”
There's been an outpouring of appreciation from Mexican media and fans, and it has Donovan “hopeful” that he and his teammates will be treated more warmly when they play in Mexico. He's already getting positive feedback.
“I've had quite a bit of love on Twitter,” he said, “and I wasn't even there.”