USMNT defeats rival Mexico for third time in 2021, moving closer to World Cup berth
CINCINNATI — The U.S. and Mexico have a history of fighting over the same territory. Friday that territory was the 115 yards of wet ryegrass and synthetic turf that lines the floor of TQL Stadium.
And the dispute was settled, in part, by a player whose participation was in doubt until he came onto the field, with Christian Pulisic’s goal in the 75th minute sparking the U.S. to a 2-0 victory.
The second goal came from Weston McKennie in the 85th minute, pulling the U.S. (4-1-2) even with Mexico (4-1-2) atop the CONCACAF standings halfway through the 14-game qualifying tournament. After two victories during the summer, it also marked the first time the Americans have defeated El Tri three times in the same year.
Christian Pulisic responds to Memo Ochoa’s jab
Veteran Mexican goalkeeper Memo Ochoa fired up the U.S. ahead of their World Cup qualifier Friday night.
Christian Pulisic erased any doubt Gregg Berhalter was the only one offended by the apparent lack of respect for the USMNT’s growth and two wins over Mexico during the Nation’s League and Gold Cup finals.
“Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself,” Ochoa said, suggesting El Tri was the standard the Americans were still working to reach.
Pulisic celebrated his game-winning goal by flashing his undershirt to the rowdy, pro-U.S. crowd that read “Man in the Mirror.”
Full time, dos a cero
Amid chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A,” the 10-man U.S. side celebrated a 2-0 win over rival Mexico on Friday night in Cincinnati.
After a spirited second-half effort, the USMNT celebrated and danced as fans switched to familiar “Dos a cero” chants.
Score: U.S. 2-0, Final.
Miles Robinson sent off, leaving USMNT with 10 men to seal match
Miles Robinson picked up two yellow cards, leaving the Americans down to 10 men in the 90th minute.
Score: 2-0 U.S., 92nd minute
Weston McKennie extends Americans’ lead
Weston McKennie, who was dismissed during earlier World Cup qualifiers for breaking COVID-19 protocols, showed a renewed focus and determination after he was allowed to return to the USMNT lineup.
He aggressively chased every ball in his range for much of the match and was eventually rewarded. McKennie managed to stay on his feet and retain possession in a crowd near the top of the box before eventually pushing the ball past Mexico goalie Memo Ochoa for an insurance goal in the 85th minute.
Score: U.S. 2-0, 88th minute
Christian Pulisic scores minutes after joining match
Timothy Weah danced along the right side of the box before sending a cross to Christian Pulisic, who twisted in the air and got his head on the ball. It sailed to the left of Memo Ochoa and into the back of the net.
The crowd roared and the USMNT’s Captain America celebrated in front of supporters five minutes after joining the match as a sub recovering from injury.
Score: U.S. 1-0, 74th minute
He’s back! Christian Pulisic subs on during scoreless match
The crowd roared as Christian Pulisic subbed on for Brendan Aaronson in the 69th minute.
It marked Pulisic’s return from injury and came at a moment when Mexico seemed to be gaining momentum after avoiding a red card.
Score: 0-0, 74th minute
Brenden Aaronson takes blow to face and yellow cards fly
Aside from two obvious yellow card calls, the referees let the U.S. and Mexico play through an intense match with contact. The USMNT and El Tri got into a bit of a shoving match in the 64th minute, but it didn’t escalate and no cards were issued.
In the 68th minute, however, the chippy play led to some cards.
Brenden Aaronson’s face appeared to be clawed by Luis Rodríguez after he Rodriguez fouled Aaronson. As the USMNT and El Tri players reacted to the physical contact, Zack Steffen, Weston McKennie and Rodríguez were all hit with yellow cards.
McKennie will miss the next U.S. match due to yellow card accumulation.
Score: 0-0, 68th minute
Miles Robinson picks up yellow card
Mexico had its first potential midfield breakaway chance, but Miles Robinson picked up a yellow card breaking it up.
The midfield transitions haven’t been as smooth for El Tri early in the second half.
Score: 0-0, 59th minute
Memo Ochoa thwarts U.S. goal
The U.S. opened the second half with more consistent possession in Mexico’s half of the field, culminating with Timothy Weah feeding Weston McKennie for a shot from the center of the box.
Goal-killer Memo Ochoa soared to turn away McKennie’s shot, arguably the Americans’ best chance of the match.
Score: 0-0, 52nd minute
Zack Steffen helps U.S. avoid first-half deficit
Two Zack Steffen saves helped offset U.S. turnovers at midfield and keep the game scoreless during the first half.
The American backline was a little sloppy late in the half, but Weston McKennie cleared the ball and dribbled in front of Luis Romo at midfield during stoppage time. Romo pushed McKennie to the ground, triggering a yellow card.
The Americans will likely work to reduce turnovers and sharpen delivery on set pieces, while Mexico will look to use its speed and precious passing to try to burn the U.S. in transition.
Score: 0-0, Halftime
USMNT earns chances, but can’t convert
The Americans put together a stronger stretch of possession and goal build-up, but the U.S. could not convert a series of free kicks, corners and balls into the box.
Ricardo Pepi pushed the ball from the center of the box to Yunus Musah, who couldn’t convert. A few minutes later, Brenden Aaronson helped set up Miles Robinson, but he couldn’t push the ball on target.
Score: 0-0, 41st minute
Mexico generates another transition chance
Mexico has displayed superior midfield passing that has generated more scoring chances for El Tri.
Chuck Lozano lofted a ball from Mexico’s half through the middle of the field, but Jesús Corona’s shot from the middle of the box was off target.
Score: 0-0, 33rd minute
Zack Steffen delivers big save
Edson Álvarez delivered a deft pass at midfield to Chucky Lozano, who streaked up the middle of the pitch and fired a shot that Zack Steffen scrambled to deflect in the 18th minute. It was a huge stop for the Americans and missed opportunity for El Tri.
Score: 0-0, 21st minute
No score off early set pieces
Mexico earned a corner in the sixth minute and couldn’t put a shot on goal, while the U.S. earned a chance from the left side of the box in the eighth and it was easily cleared by El Tri.
From the 10th through 12th minutes, Mexico put pressure on the American defense and forced goalkeeper Zack Steffen to turn away a shot near goal.
Score: 0-0, 14th minute
And we’re off!
U.S. versus Mexico is under way, with a thunderous pro-American crowd chanting and cheering on a chilly night that could feature some snow flurries before we reach full time.
The U.S. attackers are full energy early. While they have not created any strong build-up, they are charging defenders and Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa in search of turnovers in dangerous territory for El Tri.
First hint of a U.S. scoring chance in the third minute — Timothy Weah pushed the ball across the box and Ricardo Pepi got a touch on it, but it sailed to the other side of the box and to Mexican defenders.
Score: 0-0, 6th minute
No really, when does this start?
Cincinnati is on ESPN2, but not TQL Stadium.
The English broadcast of the U.S. vs. Mexico match is slated to start at 6:09 p.m. PST on ESPN2.
Right now, the network is wrapping the broadcast of the Cincinnati versus USF college football game.
Lineups set for USMNT vs. Mexico, with Christian Pulisic on the bench
The starting lineups are set for U.S. versus Mexico.
Christian Pulisic is on the bench as expected as he continues to ease back into action following injury. Rising star Ricardo Pepi, who had the choice between Mexico and the U.S., is expected to help offset Pulisic’s absence.
Mexico fields a veteran lineup accustomed to difficult qualifiers. Guillermo Ochoa, who has delivered some heroic moments in past World Cup matches, starts in goal and could be a key factor if the cold weather slows down El Tri’s attack.
Experts project winner of U.S. vs. Mexico qualifier
The Los Angeles Times asked the following experts to project the outcome of the U.S. versus Mexico World Cup qualifier:
The U.S. has yet to put its best lineup on the field in qualifying and with Sergiño Dest and Gio Reyna missing with injuries and Christian Pulisic likely limited to a cameo appearance, that won’t change here. But inclement weather is Mexico’s kryptonite and the forecast Friday calls for a wind chill of 39 degrees and a chance of rain at kickoff. With neither team likely to dominate, look for a physical, well-played if conservative game that ends in a 1-1 draw.
Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times
After witnessing two very intense and close finals at Nations League and Gold Cup this past summer, we can say Mexico and USMNT have different strengths and weaknesses, but their level is very similar. Mexico’s team is more mature in age but USMNT’s youth and resilience, as well as talent, have been important in defeating Mexico in the previous two tournaments. Mexico has lacked a lethal striker that would put away all those missed opportunities in both finals, but now they have Raúl Jiménez, the best Mexican player today who is already causing damage in the qualifiers. On the other hand, USMNT will have Christian Pulisic and a raucous crowd on its side. Since both previous finals went to overtime, I’ll say this one ends up in a 1-1 tie after 90 minutes.
Eduard Cauich, LA Times en Español Sports Editor
Halfway thru the octogonal, an ascending USMNT will look to even things out at top of the qualifier standings against Mexico, its biggest rival in the area, and it will not be easy. The U.S. depends on their individual skills to achieve their mission of acquiring three points and eventually qualifying for Qatar in 2022, but by not having superstar Christian Pullisic available at the beginning of Friday’s game will make things easier for Mexico. Team USA has shown a lot of progress, discipline and growth on the pitch as the qualifier have progressed, but not even Ohio’s TQL Stadium hostile environment will be enough to pressure their Mexican counterparts. El Tri is a team that has a solid base and played together for many years, so the losses in the Nations League and Gold Cup to the U.S. should not be taken as references for this match. Don’t get me wrong, the USMNT can beat Mexico, but I see this ending in favor of the most seasoned squad: USA 1-2 Mexico.
Jad El Reda, LA Times en Español Sports Editor
The U.S. has lacked a consistent attack throughout qualifying, but the young and talent-rich roster has shown grit and toughness required to keep pace with Mexico. El Tri, meanwhile, has far more experience but has faced criticism for lacking a consistent killer instinct that has long been a key part of its identity. The home-field advantage is a real asset, but Mexico should still be able to score. U.S. 2, Mexico 2
Iliana Limón Romero, Los Angeles Times deputy sports editor
While I think both teams are in good positions within the standings to be slightly satisfied with a draw, Mexico has unfinished business given the last two crucial matchups they’ve had against the US. It’ll be interesting to see how these two respond with their shakiness defense and impressive attacking options but I think Mexico comes out on top. Mexico 2, U.S. 1
Amelia Lopez, FutMexNation content creator
I’m expecting a tight game, which it should be when the top two teams in the standings come together. The best and worst of Mexico may be on display. The Chucky Lozano-powered attack will do enough to get the goal but the absences at center back and cracks showing in the midfield will mean the Americans find the back of the net as well.
Give me United States 1-1 Mexico
Jon Arnold, Getting CONCACAFed newsletter
The injuries that plague the Mexican National Team’s defense could prove to be the vital difference in their match versus the United States. Unless, their attacking TRIdente of Tecatito Corona, Raul Jimenez and Chucky Lozano get an early goal, it’s doubtful that the Mexicans repeat the achievement from 5 years ago. A Pepi goal in the 1st half will put El Tri in trouble and the Stars and Stripes will go on to win 2-1.
Joe Rodriguez, El Tri Online head of content
The U.S. beat Mexico twice in the final of two summer tournaments. Mexico is atop the World Cup Qualifier CONCACAF table. Christian Pulisic will play. So will Raul Jimenez. 1 - 1 draw.
Roberto José Andrade Franco, Texas Highways writer at large and freelance sportswriter
The U.S. soccer federation will have gone out of its way to keep Mexican fans out—staging the game in Ohio, pricing tickets too high— all so it can watch only Mexicans score goals. Pepi gets one. So will Raúl Jiménez and Chucky Lozano. Mexico 2-1 U.S.
Fidel Martinez, Los Angeles Times Latinx Files writer
Mexico expects hostile World Cup qualifier after USMNT worked to keep El Tri fans out
CINCINNATI — Oswaldo Sánchez played 15 years for the Mexican national team, making 99 appearances in goal and participating in three World Cups. Yet two of the most challenging games he played during that time were the qualifiers he started in the U.S.
“The United States makes good use of its home sites,” he said in Spanish. “They normally take you to play in very cold places, places where it rains. Those conditions do not exist in Mexico.”
That will be the case again Friday when the U.S. hosts Mexico in a World Cup qualifier in Cincinnati, where the forecast calls for a wind chill of 39 degrees and a chance of rain at kickoff. And weather won’t be the extent of the home-field advantage. Mexico, which typically draws huge numbers of passionate supporters in the U.S., will be facing a hostile crowd as well.
“There will not be a lot of Mexicans,” Mexican midfielder Jonathan dos Santos said. “The stands are going to be full of Americans.”
Since 2011, Mexico has played 97 games in the U.S., nearly three times as many as it played in Mexico and almost as many as the U.S. national team has played here. Most of those matches were organized by CONCACAF or New York-based Soccer United Marketing and were played in hulking NFL stadiums before pro-Mexican crowds of up to 93,000.
Compare that with Friday’s game, the sixth straight qualifier the U.S. has played with Mexico in the state of Ohio. Organized by U.S. Soccer, the game will be played in a 26,000-seat MLS stadium before fans who had priority to tickets as members of U.S. Soccer’s Insiders program or affiliated supporters’ groups.
“When we play against the USA in the Gold Cup or friendly games, we feel that we are at home,” said Dos Santos, the Galaxy captain who dressed for four of Mexico’s first six qualifiers this year but was not called up for Friday’s match. “It’s very different from playing the qualifiers.”
Mexico (4-0-2) goes into the game leading the U.S. (3-1-2) by three points atop the CONCACAF qualifying table, but the Americans can move in front halfway through the 14-game tournament if they win by two or more goals.
Christian Pulisic returns to USMNT roster for World Cup qualifier vs. Mexico
Christian Pulisic is returning to the U.S. national team for next week’s World Cup qualifier with Mexico after missing last month’s three qualifiers with an ankle injury.
Pulisic proved his fitness in Tuesday’s Champions League match, going 16 minutes in Chelsea’s 1-0 win over Malmö.
“It’s about progressing him in a safe way,” coach Gregg Berhalter said of his captain, who has played in just two of the Americans’ first six qualifiers. “We know he’s valuable to the team. We know we want him on the field. But we’re also not willing to risk anything. It’s about how he feels and depending on that will dictate what role he plays in these two games.”
Among those missing from the 25-man roster are defenders John Brooks and Sergiño Dest and attackers Gio Reyna and Gyasi Zardes. Brooks, who is healthy, did not play well in the September qualifiers, then withdrew from the October games with a back problem. Dest, who was a late scratch from Barcelona’s Champions League game this week, is out indefinitely with a back issue, the club said.
Join our U.S. vs. Mexico bilingual Twitter spaces pregame chat