USA-Mexico rivalry returns for good in Cincinnati

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isyou started with a corner.

If you’re looking for a jumping off point for the United States Men’s National Team’s failure to secure a spot for the 2018 World Cup, there might not be a better time than a kick. arrested for Mexico on November 11, 2016.

After four straight 2-0 World Cup qualifying wins over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the United States suddenly found themselves with an unknown score of 1-1 against their former rivals at Mapfre Stadium.

Then, in the 89th minute, this corner from Miguel Layún found the header of veteran defender Rafael Marquez, who redirected the ball perfectly into the net. The crowd of 24,000 in Columbus was stunned as Mexico not only took a 2-1 lead, but also claimed their first away victory in World Cup qualifying against the Americans since 1972.

The loss to Mexico portended a dismal race against opponents Concacaf and the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.

Today, just one day after the fifth anniversary of that defeat, the USMNT has its chance to redeem itself. In a symbolic change of scenery for a new era, they stymied the trend to play Mexico in Columbus in hopes of re-energizing their efforts in a first-ever World Cup qualifying game at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati. Friday night.

Luckily for American fans, things look slightly rosier this time around. Although they have had a few hiccups, with three wins, two draws and one loss so far, the Americans enter the game second in Concacaf qualifying (the first three teams automatically qualify for Qatar 2022, the fourth one comes in second in Concacaf qualifying). heading towards an intercontinental playoffs).

It’s not the same list that couldn’t do the job a few years ago, either. Since the current call-up, only two players (Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin) were part of the squad that stumbled in November 2016. And through that process and transition, they’ve also beaten Mexico twice this year in the final. of Concacaf. Nations League and Gold Cup.

That said, qualifying for the World Cup remains their most important goal in mind, and neither team was complete for the previous two games which were held in glorified friendly tournaments.

« [The Gold Cup and Nations League] means absolutely nothing, ”Tyler Adams said in an interview on CBS Sports’ Que Golazo podcast earlier this week. “The only good thing about these games is that we keep improving at these times. “

He added: “It’s for a World Cup, the motivation will be completely different. “

USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter also acknowledges the gravity of Friday’s game.

“In the context of qualifying for the World Cup, it’s just another game, right? But in terms of the rivalry and the story and the times you can play them with a pro-American crowd in a big stadium, I mean, that makes it special, ”Berhalter told the Cincinnati Enquirer.

But can Mexico once again steal the show on American soil? Mexico are undefeated in their six qualifying matches, with four wins and two draws, and sit first in the table, three points ahead of the United States.

Despite all this, regional bragging rights have remained out of reach for Mexico after losing the Gold Cup and Nations League finals to the United States.

In the Nations League 3-2 loss to the United States, Mexico suffered two goals from a corner. Months later, in the Gold Cup final, it was a free-kick goal in overtime that secured a narrow 1-0 victory over Mexico.

“It’s true that we lost two finals, but the United States [hurt us] set pieces, ”Mexico coach Tato Martino said after the Gold Cup loss in August. “We had some great moments in the two finals where we defined the game. When we can’t convert the goals of these situations, there is always a risk. “

For Mexico on Friday, capitalizing on these situations will be paramount as they aim to reclaim the crown as the kings of the Concacaf region. Regardless of the two painful losses to the United States in 2021, an away victory in a World Cup qualifier would go a long way to help heal injuries.

As for the young American team, they have the opportunity not only to take a big step towards a return to the World Cup, but also to truly claim their dominance in the region with a third consecutive historic victory over Mexico in just six. month.

Either way, keep an eye out for those set pieces once the game has started.

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