“Dos a Cero” rang around TQL Stadium by the end as the United States Men’s National Team beat Mexico by the historic scoreline in Ohio once again. After an alternatingly nervy and energetic first half, the Americans scored two second half goals to take the three points and vault to the top of the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying standings.
The game opened like so many U.S.-Mexico tilts, at full speed. The Americans pressed from the opening whistle and put Mexico on the back foot. The United States forced several turnovers as the visitors struggled with the intensity in the first 15 minutes.
Mexico nearly struck with a chance against the run of play in the 12th minute as Edson Alvarez had a second chance strike after a spell of possession. American goalkeeper Zack Steffen got down quickly to parry the shot past the left post.
El Tri had a second quality chance in the 17th minute. Breaking the U.S. press, Jesus Corona played in Hirving Lozano. The Italy-based attacker pushed in on goal, but under pressure, he put in a shot low that Steffen blocked.
With the game slowing down, the Americans still found it difficult to create chances, but the Mexicans struggled without the chance to counter. Both sides had issues as the game lacked flow and bogged down.
In the 35th minute, midfielder Yunus Musah got free after a give-and-go with winger Brendan Aaronson. He dribbled through traffic and into the penalty box. Musah’s centering pass missed Aaronson and was cleared by the Mexico defense.
The American attack sprang to life again in the 38th minute when Antonee Robinson cut down the left side and sent in a pass that Ricardo Pepi corralled. After settling, Pepi sent a pass back to the onrushing Musah, but his shot blazed over the bar.
The game eased into halftime as both sides appeared spent from the early intensity.
Just after halftime, Weston McKennie sent a ball across the 18-yard box and Antonee Robinson hit a one-time shot on the volley that was blocked then cleared. Minutes later, winger Timothy Weah pushed into the penalty box from the right and cut a cross back to McKennie. The well-struck shot forced a parry over the bar by goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa to keep the game scoreless in the 48th minute.
The game then transitioned into one of attrition. The United States struggled to get into the final third and test the Mexico backline. El Tri wasn’t able to build anything in the attack either. The most action occured when Aaronson and Luis Rodriguez came together and tempers flared. Rodriguez, Steffen and McKennie got yellow cards in the aftermath.
Finally, a breakthrough came in another moment of transition. Weah found space on the right and pushed to the touchline. The winger whipped in a cross into the six-yard box. Substitute Christian Pulisic cut hard into the space and beat center back Julio Cesar Dominguez to the ball and put the Americans up 1-0 in the 73rd minute with a powerful header.
The Americans put the game beyond all doubt in the 86th minute. McKennie finished an outstanding team goal. Weah again made the difference on the right, sending in a crisp cross along the ground. McKennie redirected the ball to substitute Jesus Ferreira. The FC Dallas forward sent the ball back to McKennie. After corralling the ball, the dynamic midfielder slotted the ball far post to make it 2-0.
There was a moment of doubt in the 90th minute as Miles Robinson earned a second yellow and the U.S. were reduced to 10 men. However, the Americans saw out the game, earning another win against their rivals.
A Pressing Matter
These U.S.-Mexico games are high-intensity affairs with emotions often running very high. The United States brought the energy from the opening, but it was controlled. The Americans pressed relentlessly in the first 15 minutes and it unsettled the Mexicans. The visitors struggled to keep possession as the coordinated pressure that started from the front as Aaronson, Pepi and Weah applied the first line of pressure. Mexico often resorted to playing long balls over the top.
The pressure didn’t turn into chances for the U.S., as the Americans only had a Weah chance and an Aaronson header to show for it. Neither chance challenged Ochoa and the visitors weathered an unexpected storm and came out without giving up a goal.
Man of the Match
There were plenty of options from the U.S. Antonee Robinson played well at left back, pushing forward into the attack and playing strong defense. McKennie scored an outstanding goal and was ever present in the middle of the field. However, Weah was unstoppable on the right wing.
The Lille attacker created both goals with his strong service on the right side. With precious little space, he whipped the ball across goal in a spot that only Pulisic was able to get to. The second goal also came from another ball served in from the right. Playing the early ball, he found McKennie in space to set up the series for Ferriera and McKennie to link up.
Beyond the goals, the winger linked up well with Deandre Yedlin on the right or found Tyler Adams, Musah or McKennie in the midfield. Defensively, his pressing was part of a team effort to unsettle Mexico. He played a complete, man of the match game.
A 4-1-2, the United States has 14 points and tops the qualifying group by goal differential over Mexico. They one more game this international window as they head to Kingston, Jamaica to face off against the Reggae Boyz. Jamaica are sixth in the qualifying group after struggling with a 1-3-3 record and six points.