U.S.’ U-23 team defeats Mexico, 3-0, at StubHub Center
Five days after Mexico won its first Olympic gold medal in soccer at the 2012 London Games, 14 scouts met to begin evaluating some of the teenagers they hoped would make up the core of the 2016 team in Rio de Janeiro.
The message of that gathering was simple: Having clawed its way to a position of dominance in youth soccer, Mexico intended to stay there.
Besides the Olympic title, Mexico has won a U-17 World Cup, a Pan American Games title and two other prestigious youth competitions, the Northern Ireland Milk Cup and France’s Toulon Espoirs, since 2011.
Over that same span, the U.S. hasn’t medaled in any of those tournaments.
In his role as technical director of U.S. Soccer, Juergen Klinsmann has promised to close that gap. And the Americans may have taken a big step down that path Wednesday when their under-23 team rode second-half goals from Mario Rodriguez, Christian Dean and Jordan Morris to a 3-0 win over Mexico at the StubHub Center.
The Olympics is a U-23 competition and with the CONCACAF qualifying tournament scheduled for October, Mexico and the U.S. figure to meet again before long. But regardless of what happens on the field this summer and fall, recruiting is one area in which Klinsmann and the U.S. can already claim success.
Remember that post-Olympics scouting session from 2012? That was held in San Francisco and featured U.S. teenagers with dual nationality.
Now many dual-nationality players are casting their lots with the U.S. In the last eight months Mexican-born goalkeeper William Yarbrough and defenders Greg Garza and Ventura Alvarado, who play in the Mexican league and have Mexican parents, made their debuts with the U.S. senior national team. And seven players on the U.S. roster for Wednesday’s U-23 game could have played for the other side.
Two of them — Rodriguez, of North Hollywood, and Luis Gil of Garden Grove — combined for the game’s first goal in the 48th minute, with Gil bending a low left-footed cross toward the edge of the six-yard box, where a sliding Rodriguez got enough of his boot on the ball to redirect it past Mexican goalkeeper Luis Cardenas.
Dean doubled the advantage 10 minutes later, heading home a free kick from Dillon Serna. Morris, who scored his first goal for the senior national team against Mexico last week, then closed the scoring by deflecting in a centering pass from Shane O’Neill in the 68th minute.
Despite their differences in tournament play over the last several years, the U.S. has dominated Mexico in head-to-head play since 1992, when Olympic soccer was designated a U-23 tournament. Wednesday’s win was the Americans’ sixth in eight games with Mexico.
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