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U.S. gets 1st loss in Cup qualifying

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MEXICO CITY — After its worst game of the year, the U.S. soccer team is still in good shape.

Sunday's 1-0 loss to Mexico was the first for Americans in the final round of World Cup qualifying. Still, the U.S. team can pretty much ensure itself a berth in next year's tournament with a win in its next game, against Honduras on Sept. 1 at Washington.

"Who would have thought of the U.S. going to Mexico City with Mexico having to win?" coach Bruce Arena said before the game.

With more than 100,000 cheering and hooting fans at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium, Mexico took advantage of the Americans' disorganization and lack of drive.

"It was just a lack of confidence on the ball," Joe-Max Moore said. "We just seemed to be giving it up every second or third pass."

The United States (4-1-1), seeking its fourth straight World Cup appearance, dropped into second place behind Costa Rica (4-1-1), which has the same goal difference but more total goals following a 3-2 win Sunday at Honduras.

Honduras and Jamaica (both 2-2-2) are five points back. Mexico (2-3-1) is six behind. Only the top three qualify.

At 7,350 feet in Azteca Stadium — where their record is now 0-10-1 — the Americans played a lackluster game, whether they focused on defense in the first half or tried, and failed, to attack in the second.

"We had trouble communicating," said Cobi Jones, who made his U.S.-record 140th appearance when he replaced Moore to start the second half. "Everyone was playing on different pages, and we weren't organized as players on the field."

The Americans never mounted a serious offensive threat, getting outshot 14-4 and committing needless fouls, including one by Moore that led to Jared Borgetti's goal in the 15th minute. Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez needed to make only one save.

"We were the most dangerous Mexican player today," defender Jeff Agoos said. "We were our own worst enemy. We beat ourselves."

Mexico, with a new coach and a new lineup, needed a win to get back into contention for one of the three berths in the North and Central American and Caribbean region. Traditionally a regional soccer powerhouse, Mexico has struggled this year, and a loss Sunday would have made it very tough for its team to make it into the World Cup.

After its previous game, a 3-1 loss to Honduras, the team replaced coach Enrique Meza with Javier Aguirre, who overhauled his roster.

Borgetti, beating what looked to be an offsides trap, was unmarked, with no defenders near, and headed the ball past Keller, ending the U.S. goalkeeper's streak of five straight shutouts in qualifying.

Only a stellar performance by U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who made three great saves, prevented a rout.

The United States, 0-21-1 at Mexico, didn't take a serious shot in the first half. While the Americans had a few breakaways late, none led to serious threats. "If you can't have the ball, you are forced to play defense," Arena said.