Eddie Johnson added another glittering entry to his resume Wednesday night when he scored three goals in 17 minutes to help power the United States to a 6-0 victory over Panama and clinch the Americans a place in the final round of qualifying for soccer's 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Playing in only his second game for the U.S. -- he scored in his debut against El Salvador in San Salvador on Saturday night -- Johnson beat Panama goalkeeper Donaldo Gonzalez with goals in the 70th, 84th and 87th minutes.
He has thus come off the bench twice and scored four goals in a mere 42 minutes for the U.S., which advanced in the region that covers North and Central America and the Caribbean (CONCACAF).
It was only the eighth hat trick in the 91-year history of the U.S. national team and only the third by an American in World Cup qualifying.
"It's what you dream of -- maybe dream of just getting on the field for a few minutes or maybe scoring a goal. But three," Johnson said. "You don't dream of that."
Johnson's performance stole the limelight from Landon Donovan, who scored two goals in the 21st and 57th minutes -- the first on a fine touch with the outside of his right foot, the second on a somewhat fortunate bounce off his shin or knee.
The final goal on a night in which the U.S. hardly put a foot wrong in front of 19,793 at RFK Stadium in Washington came when a cross from Eddie Lewis on the left wing was accidentally deflected into his own net by Panamanian defender Jose Anthony Torres in injury time.
Johnson, 20, is enjoying the best 12 months of his career, by far.
The 6-foot, 170-pound forward from Daytona Beach, Fla., in December became the first American male to win the golden boot as top scorer at a FIFA tournament when his four goals and one assist helped the U.S. reach the quarterfinals at the FIFA World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates.
Before that, he was the under-20 national team's top goal scorer in 2003 and the under-17 national team's top scorer in 2000 and 2001.
Now, still only 20 and the joint-leading scorer in Major League Soccer this season, he appears ready to establish himself as the heir apparent to Brian McBride as the U.S. target man up front.
In other CONCACAF qualifying games: Jaime Lozano scored two goals as Mexico advanced to the final qualifying round after a 3-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago at Puebla, Mexico.... Kendall Velox scored twice to lead visiting St. Vincent and the Grenadines to a 3-0 victory over St. Kitts and Nevis at Basseterre. St. Vincent (six points) remained in the hunt to advance.... Carlos Ruiz, too injured to play for the Galaxy last Saturday, scored in the 44th minute as Guatemala advanced to the next round with a 1-0 victory over Honduras at Guatemala City.... William Sunsin scored the winner in the 81st minute to lift Costa Rica to a 3-1 victory over Canada, which was eliminated at Burnaby, Canada.... Jamaica managed only a 0-0 tie against visiting El Salvador at Kingston, putting the Reggae Boyz in danger of not advancing. Jamaica (six points) plays the U.S. in its final qualifying game and Panama (five points) plays El Salvador (four points).
In European qualifying games: Francesco Totti scored twice as Italy rebounded from a shocking loss to Slovenia with a 4-3 defeat of visiting Belarus in a Group 5 match at Parma.... Portugal got two goals from Cristiano Ronaldo in a 7-1 rout of visiting Russia in a Group 3 match at Lisbon.... Ruud van Nistelrooy scored two goals and the Netherlands rebounded from a poor start to beat Finland, 3-1, in a Group 1 game at Amsterdam.... Sylvain Wiltord and Thierry Henry scored a goal each to help visiting France to a 2-0 victory over Cyprus in a Group 4 match at Nicosia.... Michael Owen, standing in as England captain for suspended David Beckham, headed in the only goal in a 1-0 road victory over Azerbaijan in a Group 6 game at Baku.... Goalkeeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas thwarted two quality chances in the second half and Lithuania held visiting Spain to a 0-0 tie in a Group 7 game at Vilnius.
In South American qualifying games: Defending World Cup champion Brazil was held to a 0-0 tie by Colombia at Mareio but held onto first place by one point in the 10-team qualifying group.... Argentina remained a point behind Brazil after a 0-0 tie with host Chile at Santiago.... At Asuncion, Nolberto Solano scored the equalizer on a penalty kick in the 73rd minute to lift Peru to a 1-1 tie with host Paraguay, which got a goal from Carlos Paredes.
Associated Press contributed to this report. Jones reported from Los Angeles.