Christian Pulisic scored just minutes after entering the match and midfielder Weston McKennie netted a late goal in the 85th minute to boost the USMNT to a 2-0 win over archrival Mexico before a sellout crowd of 26,000 in Cincinnati. The win wrote another chapter in the storied history of Dos a Cero victories for the United States over Mexico in home World Cup qualifiers.
USMNT Closer To World Cup 2022 After Win Over Rivals Mexico
With the win, the USMNT moved to the top of the Octagonal standings. While the USA and Mexico are now tied on points with 14 each halfway through the World Cup qualifying slate, the Americans hold a slight edge in goal differential. The USMNT will finish this World Cup qualifying window on Tuesday, Nov. 16 at Jamaica.
The victory was the USA’s third against El Tri in official Concacaf competitions in 2021, marking the first time the USMNT has beaten Mexico three times in a calendar year. The U.S. is now 5-1-1 in home World Cup qualifying matches against Mexico since the 1998 World Cup cycle, with all five wins coming in the state of Ohio by 2-0 scores.
After a back-and-forth first half, the USMNT came out firmly on the front foot in the second, outshooting Mexico 11-3 and dictating play in front of a raucous sellout crowd at TQL Stadium. It looked as if the USA would be the team to get the first goal, and it did courtesy of Pulisic who put the USA ahead just five minutes after entering the game in the 69th minute to replace Brendan Aaronson.
The goal, which may turn out to be one of the most important goals of the Octagonal, came in Pulisic’s first action for the USMNT since suffering an injury at Honduras in September.
The goal sequence started when right back DeAndre Yedlin won a header at midfield. The ball bounced to center forward Ricardo Pepi, who headed it back to midfielder Yunas Munah and he played Tim Weah on the right side.
Weah squared up on Mexico defender Jesús Gallardo and then made enough space with a darting dribble towards the end line to send a driven cross into the six-yard box. Pulisic timed his run perfectly, outmuscling his defender to get a head on the ball and redirect it into the left side of the goal as he was bundled to the ground.
Pulisic’s goal, on one of his first touches of the evening, marked his 17th all-time for the USMNT, moving him into a tie for ninth all-time with DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley and Earnie Stewart.
The U.S. continued to generate the better of attacking chances down the stretch, and the dynamic Weah was once again involved in setting up the insurance goal, playing a pass from the right wing to McKennie in the middle. McKennie let the ball run to substitute forward Jesús Ferreira, who played a short pass back to McKennie.
The midfielder attempted to return the favor, but his effort bounced off a Mexico defender and straight back into his path, giving him a one-on-one chance with Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. McKennie calmly slotted the ball into the left side of the net from eight yards out to clinch the important three points and the now famous score line.
Ferreira, making his World Cup qualifying debut, nearly added a goal of his own in stoppage time, but his hard-hit effort off a pass from left back Antonee Robinson flew just wide. With Ferreira’s appearance, 26 players have made World Cup qualifying debuts this cycle, tied for second-most all-time with the complete 2006 and 2010 qualifying cycles.
After facing low defensive blocks in almost every World Cup qualifier thus far, this game was wide open from the opening whistle and featured end-to-end action. While a hard-hit shot from forward Weah marked the first shot of the night, Mexico had the better scoring chances in the early going, forcing U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen to make two stellar saves and the U.S. center backs to defend gamely in the box. Walker Zimmerman, in particular, played a superb game in the center of the defense.
Steffen’s most important save came in the 18th minute after Yedlin chased down forward Hirving Lozano to provide some defensive pressure before Steffen made a great kick-save and then gobbled up the ball to keep the game scoreless.
Musah was a force in the middle from the get-go, winning tackles, keeping possession under duress, and driving the ball forward into the attack. He combined well with Weah, who created plenty of danger of his own with some skillful play on the right wing. In the 35th minute, Musah created one of the USA’s best first-half chances, combining with Aaronson before weaving through several Mexico defenders inside the penalty area on the left side before crossing dangerously into the middle.
The game turned after the halftime break as the U.S. came out of the locker room with renewed energy and dominated the opening 10 minutes. The USA knocked on the door with a number of dangerous scoring chances, highlighted by a hard-hit shot by McKennie in the 49th that Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was able to deflect over the crossbar for a corner kick.
As the USA took control of the game, Mexico slowed things down with some physical, chippy play that sparked a flurry of scuffles and yellow cards. After a dispute on a throw-in in the 65th minute stoked tempers, defender Luis Rodriguez took Aaronson down hard in the 67th and the ensuing fracas saw him shown a yellow while Steffen, who had run out of his goal to join the fray, and McKennie also received a caution.
The only negatives on the night were of the disciplinary sort, as McKennie’s second caution in qualifying means he will be suspended for the match against Jamaica on Tuesday, as will central defender Miles Robinson, who received yellow cards in the 59th and 90th minutes and was sent off. The USA played the four minutes of stoppage time with 10 players.
USA: 1-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Walker Zimmerman, 12-Miles Robinson, 5-Antonee Robinson; 4-Tyler Adams (Capt.), 6-Yunus Musah (23-Kellyn Acosta, 82), 8-Weston McKennie; 20-Tim Weah (15-Chris Richards, 90+1), 9-Ricardo Pepi (19-Jesús Ferreira, 82), 11-Brenden Aaronson (10-Christian Pulisic, 69)
Substitutes not used: 13-Matt Turner, 7-Paul Arriola, 14-Cristian Roldan, 16-Gianluca Busio, 17-Sebastian Lletget, 18-Mark McKenzie, 21-Sam Vines, 22-Reggie Cannon
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter
MEX: 13-Guillermo Ochoa (Capt.); 23-Jesús Gallardo, 5-Johan Vásquez, 3-Julio César Domínguez, 21-Luis Rodríguez; 16-Héctor Herrera, 4-Edson Álvarez (11-Rogelio Funes Mori, 83), 7-Luis Romo (15-Héctor Moreno, 79); 22-Hirving Lozano, 9-Raúl Jimenez, 17-Jesús Corona (14-Roberto Alvarado, 79)
Substitutes not used: 1-Alfredo Talavera, 12-Rodolfo Cota, 2-Osvaldo Rodriguez, 6-Jorge Sánchez, 8-Carlos Rodriguez, 10-Orbelín Pineda, 18-Andrés Guardado, 19-Henry Martin, 20-Gilberto Sepúlveda
Head coach: Gerardo Martino