prevented Panama from celebrating an upset victory in the semifinal stage of qualifying. Just a month later, though, the U.S. showed their might with a 6-0 thrashing of Panama at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Group leaders Mexico, meanwhile, play host to Trinidad & Tobago in what is expected to be only a light workout for the home side. The Tricolor defeated Guatemala 2-0 in Guatemala City on Saturday and, their stumble in Panama aside, appear to be ready to romp into Germany for next summer's World Cup final. Trinidad & Tobago, with new head coach Leo Beenhakker on the sidelines, pulled themselves out of the bottom spot with their victory over Panama at the weekend, but snagging even a single point in Mexico seems to be wishful thinking for the Soca Warriors.
In the middle of the hexagonal standings sit Costa Rica and Guatemala in what could be the match of the day, at least in terms of importance. The sides are tied at four points (along with Trinidad & Tobago), and given the Caribbean side's misfortune at visiting Mexico this time out, the winner in San Jose, Costa Rica should have a leg up on the battle for the third automatic qualifying spot and at least a chance of cracking the top two in the group later this summer. A draw -- coupled with likely wins from the group's top two teams - could leave the bottom four teams in a dogfight for the third and fourth positions.
The Costa Ricans appear to have history in their favor, as they have not lost to the chapines in a World Cup qualifier at home in 25 years.
Jason Halpin is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.