COLUMBUS, Ohio (AFP) - Michael Bradley scored twice as the United States kicked off the final phase of CONCACAF regional qualifying for the 2010 World Cup on Wednesday with a 2-0 triumph over Mexico.
Bradley opened the scoring in the 43rd minute and added another goal in the 90th - after Mexico had been reduced to 10 men with the sending off of Rafael Marquez in the 65th minute.
Bradley gave the hosts the lead late in the first half after a corner kick by DaMarcus Beasley found Landon Donovan at the far post.
Donovan headed the ball back acoss the goal mouth, and while Oguchi Onyewu's header was denied by Oswaldo Sanchez the rebound fell at the feet of Bradley.
"These are special games, they?re fun games to play in," Bradley said. "As a player, these are the games we want to play in. In the locker room before the game, we looked at every guy and knew we were ready to play."
Pushing for an equalizer, Mexico's aggressive play resulted in a red card in the 65th when Marquez was sent off after kicking US goalkeeper Tim Howard in the right thigh during a rough challenge.
The expulsion came in the aftermath of Mexico's best scoring chance of the match.
Pavel Pardo sent a free kick from the center of the field into the penalty area where a touch from Giovani Dos Santos set up Fausto Pinto on the left side of the box.
Pinto slid a dangerous shot past an open goal that was somehow missed at the far post for an easy tap-in by Dos Santos, and as the ball was played back into the area Howard jumped to collect it before he was spiked by Marquez.
"It was a 50-50 ball and he came in a little bit late and, you know, those kind of things happen in these type of games," Howard said of Marquez. "I respect him a lot as a player and there are no hard feelings, that's for sure."
With the extra man and the lead, the US played conservatively the rest of the way.
Bradley punctuated the victory with a goal in injury time, collecting a pass from Donovan and firing a low shot from the top of the area past Sanchez.
The United States claimed their first three points in the six-nation final phase of qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean, which will send three teams directly to the World Cup finals in South Africa.
The fourth-place team will play off for a berth against a team from South America.
"It's great to start the final round with a win against Mexico," said US coach Bob Bradley. "The all around team effort was good. It's a good starting point and something to build on."
In other CONCACAF matches Wednesday, Costa Rica defeated Honduras 2-0, while El Salvador and Trinidad and Tobago played to a 2-2 draw.
The Americans next face El Salvador on March 28 before taking on Trinidad and Tobago on April 1 in Nashville, Tennessee.
The anticipated "Cold War" clash between the regional rivals - so dubbed because of the Ohio's often frigid February weather - could have been called the "Water War" after storms drenched Columbus on Tuesday.
After some concern that the match might even have to be rescheduled, it got underway before a sold-out crowd of 22,778 at Columbus Crew Stadium, in temperatures of 53 F (11 C).
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