As the United States and Mexico prepare for yet another confrontation in a World Cup qualifier on Tuesday night, let us relive some of the most memorable matches between the countries throughout the years.
1. U.S. 2, Mexico 0 — June 17, 2002
In a rare CONCACAF confrontation in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, the United States stunned Mexico 2-0 in the most important match of the 68-year rivalry between the two countries. Brian McBride and Landon Donovan scored goals to propel the Americans into the quarterfinals against Germany. The win also was significant in that it was the first time the U.S. won a single-elimination game in World Cup history. It also was the U.S.’s first World Cup shutout since a 1-0 upset of England at the 1950 World Cup in Brazil.
2. Mexico 4, U.S. 2 — June 25, 2011
Mexico put to rest any doubts as to which team is best in the 2011 CONCACAF — spectacularly. Overcoming a two-goal deficit in the first half, El Tri struck for four unanswered goals — two in each half — to roll past the United States and capture the CONCACAF Gold Cup behind a rousing 4-2 triumph at the Rose Bowl. In 2009, the Mexicans rolled over the Americans, 5-0, to capture the Gold Cup crown, although many critics and observers dismissed that result and felt that the game was not a true indication of the strength of both teams since the U.S. used essentially a B team. Midfielder Pablo Barrera struck for two goals, including the game-winner in the 50th minute. Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos, the man of the match, also scored for the winners, while Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan found the back of the net for the Americans.
3. Mexico 0, U.S. 0 — Nov. 2, 1997
A little more than half hour into its qualifier against Mexico, the U.S. National Team was facing its ultimate nightmare and worst-case scenario. Not only did the Americans start the match without four starters, they found themselves facing playing a man down in the final 58 minutes after an ill-timed red card by Jeff Agoos. Instead of collapsing, the determined Americans pulled off an historic upset of Mexico, leaving Azteca Stadium with a well-deserved scoreless tie before 114,000 partisan fans. The U.S. turned the crowd on the hosts as they chanted "Ole!" every time it put together passes in the second half. The crowd also chante "Fuera Bora!" meaning fire Mexico coach Bora Milutinovic, who was canned after the game, despite qualifying El Tri for the World Cup.
4. U.S. 2, Mexico 0 — Feb. 28, 2001
A half hour into the match, the U.S. was living yet another World Cup nightmare. The Americans already had lost their most dangerous scoring threat, Brian McBride, to a swollen eye, and their best playmaker, Claudio Reyna, was hobbling around with a strained groin muscle. In McBride's place came an energetic and swift, 24-year-old forward who had all of four international games under his belt. But Josh Wolff wound up as the unlikely hero in a dream performance in a stunning 2-0 triumph. Wolff scored the first goal and set up the second — a late tally by Earnie Stewart — in a result that put Mexican coach Enrique Meza on the hot seat as Mexico’s winless streak hit six games (0-5-1).
5. U.S. 2, Mexico 2 — April 20, 1997
Did anyone want to win this World Cup qualifier? More to the point, did anyone deserve to win? The match at times turned into a farce. At times, the game, televised by ABC, did not seem like a soccer game, but rather soccer's version of Bloopers, Blunders and Practical Jokes. In fact, the U.S.'s 2-2 draw with its archrival had all the elements of a black comedy: goalkeeper gaffes, inopportune red cards and own goals. The tone of the match was set with the game barely 39 seconds old when defender Alexi Lalas sent a back pass to U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller into the six-yard box. Keller, not noticing that Mexican striker Carlos Hermosillo was lurking some eight yards to his right, tried to clear the ball, which bounded off the Mexican's head and into the goal. After Mexico had taken a 2-1 lead, the U.S. got an unexpected gift from an unexpected source in the 74th minute. Eric Wynalda crossed the ball from the left side into the middle, which glanced off the head of midfielder Thomas Dooley to sub Nicolas Ramirez, who headed it into his own net.
6. U.S. 2, Mexico 0 — July 5, 1991
After registering only two other wins in 28 previous encounters, the U.S. stunned El tri behind a 2-0 victory in the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal. Defender John Doyle and forward Peter Vermes scored 16 minutes apart in the second half to secure the win before a crowd of 41,103 at the L.A. Coliseum. How earth-shattering was the victory? The Mexicans fired their coach, Manuel Lapuente, two days later. The U.S. went on to win the first Gold Cup, surviving a penalty-kick shootout with Honduras, 4-3, after a scoreless draw.
7. U.S. 0, Mexico 0 (U.S. wins shootout) — July 17, 1995
In yet another neutral venue, the U.S. bested Mexico in the quarterfinals of Copa America in Uruguay. Goalkeeper Brad Friedel made two big saves in the shootout after the teams played to a scoreless draw. Jorge Campos, who went on to play for the LA Galaxy and Chicago Fire in Major League Soccer, did not far as well, failing to stop any of the Americans penalty-kick attempts. Frank Klopas converted the game-winner.
8. U.S. 2, Mexico 0 — Feb. 11, 2009
A recurring theme during recent World Cup qualifying has been 2-0 U.S. victories in Columbus. This time midfielder Michael Bradley had the first and last words with a goal in each half in the opening game of the hexagonal round for both teams. Bradley became only the fourth U.S. player to score twice in a match in 55 games against Mexico and the first since former Cosmos forward Steve Moyers did the trick in a 2-1 win on Nov. 23, 1980 (after the Americans had been eliminated for the 1982 WC).
9. Mexico 6, U.S. 0 — April 7, 1957
Twice El Tri defeated the Americans by a six-goal margin, the biggest wins in the series. This was the second time, in a 1958 World Cup qualifier at Olympic Stadium in Mexico City. It was no contest. The U.S. reportedly arrived in Mexico City disorganized for their first competitive match in three years and it showed on the field. Fello Hernandez scored the first two goals in 14th and 27th minute before Salvatore Reyes struck for a hat-trick to close out the rout. Mellone Gutierrez also scored for the hosts.
10. U.S. 4, Mexico 2 — 1934
Similar to the the 2002 World Cup match, the very first meeting between the two sides was played in a neutral venue — Rome, Italy. It was a qualifier for the lone North American spot only days prior to the 1934 World Cup. Aldo "Buff" Donelli was the American hero that day, scoring all four goals. The Americans' gift for besting Mexico? A quarterfinal-round encounter with eventual world champion Italy, which was the opening game of the tournament. The Italians vanquished the U.S. in a 7-1 rout. Donelli played in only one other international for the U.S. — that Italian affair and he scored the lone goal. It was the last time the U.S. defeated the Mexicans until a relatively meaningless World Cup qualifier, a 2-1 win in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Nov. 23, 1980.
Michael Lewis, who has written about soccer for four decades, is the only journalist who has covered every MLS Cup. He can be reached at SoccerWriter516@aol.com or via Twitter at @soccerwriter.
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