Canada and the United States stayed on course for World Cup qualification with crucial wins on Thursday as Mexico reignited their campaign with victory over Jamaica.
Canada, looking to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986, scored a disciplined 2-0 away victory over Honduras in San Pedro Sula to stay on top of the CONCACAF standings with 19 points from nine games.
A Denil Maldonado own goal after 10 minutes followed by a sublime lobbed finish by Jonathan David in the 73rd minute secured all three points for Canada, who host the USA in Hamilton, Ontario on Sunday.
The USA — desperate to qualify for this year’s finals in Qatar after their shock failure to reach the 2018 World Cup in Russia — boosted their chances of qualification with a 1-0 win over El Salvador in Columbus, Ohio.
England-born defender Antonee Robinson scored the game’s only goal to leave the USA one point behind Canada in the eight-team final round of qualifiers for Central America, North America and the Caribbean
Fulham fullback Robinson rifled home a low finish on 52 minutes at a frigid Lower Field in Columbus, Ohio to secure the three points.
But it was a largely unconvincing victory for US coach Gregg Berhalter’s side, who laboured to break down a dogged El Salvador team who remain near the foot of the eight-team qualification table.
– Mexico bounce back –
In other games on Thursday, Mexico snapped their two-game losing streak with a battling 2-1 win over Jamaica in Kingston.
Mexico are one point behind the US with 17 points from nine games.
Costa Rica edged Panama 1-0 on a goal from Bryan Ruiz, the defeat leaving Panama three points behind Mexico in the standings and Costa Rica a further two points back.
The top three teams qualify automatically for the finals in Qatar, with the fourth place team advancing to a playoff.
The US-El Salvador game in Columbus had kicked off in freezing temperatures of around 30 degrees Fahrenheit (-1 degrees Celsius) but the hosts failed to make the most of the advantage from the cold conditions.
The US controlled possession in the first half but failed to make their dominance of possession and territory count.
FC Dallas striker Jesus Ferreira squandered the best two chances that fell to the home side, who failed to get a shot on target in the opening 45 minutes.
Ferreira missed a promising early opportunity after 16 minutes when he blazed a shot over the bar from eight yards out after being worked into space.
The 21-year-old should have fired the US ahead three minutes later. Barcelona’s Sergino Dest surged down the right flank and whipped in a cross which was flicked on by Timothy Weah.
The ball fell invitingly to Ferreira on the edge of the six-yard area, but instead of tucking it away with his left foot, the youngster attempted to finish awkwardly with the outside of his right boot and his effort flew over.
The US upped the tempo at the start of the second half and the El Salvador resistance finally cracked.
Weah’s shot was blocked and Ferreira headed across goal to Robinson, who drilled in the rebound for 1-0.
In Kingston, meanwhile, Mexico avoided a third straight defeat with their win over the Reggae Boyz.
Jamaica were rocked by a red card for Damion Lowe but took a shock lead through Daniel Johnson in the 50th minute.
But just when it looked as if Mexico were sliding to a third straight loss, Henry Martin’s header made it 1-1 on 82 minutes, and then moments later Alexis Vega swept in the winner after punishing slack marking at the back post.