met started with a corner kick.
If you are looking for a starting point for the failure of the US men’s national team to reserve a place at the 2018 World Cup, there may not be a better time than an arrangement for Mexico on November 11, 2016.
After four consecutive 2-0 World Cup qualifying victories over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the United States suddenly found itself with an unknown 1-1 scoreline against its old rivals at the Mapfre Stadium.
Then, in the 89th minute, Miguel Layún’s corner found the head of veteran defender Rafael Márquez, who perfectly redirected the ball into the back of the net. The crowd of 24,000 in Columbus was stunned when Mexico not only took a 2-1 lead, but also secured their first World Cup qualifying away win against the Americans since 1972.
The loss to Mexico foreshadowed a dismal run against CONCACAF opponents and the United States failed to make the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Now, just one day after the five-year anniversary of that defeat, the USMNT has its chance at redemption. In a symbolic change of scenery for a new era, they opposed the trend of playing Mexico in Columbus with the hope of reviving their efforts in a first-time World Cup qualifier at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium on Friday night.
Fortunately for American fans, this time around things look a little more rosy. Although they have had a few hiccups, with three wins, two draws and a loss so far, the Americans enter the match second in CONCACAF qualifying (the first three teams pass to Qatar 2022 automatically with the fourth title in intercontinental). final).
This isn’t the same roster that couldn’t do the job a few years ago either. From 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 also defeated Mexico twice this year in the CONCACAF final. Nations League and Golden Cup.
That said, World Cup qualification remains their most significant goal in mind, and no team has been full force for the previous two games that have taken place in what amount to glorified friendly tournaments.
“[The Gold Cup and Nations League] means absolutely nothing, ”said Tyler Adams in an interview on CBS Sports’ Que Golazo podcast earlier this week. “The only good thing about those games is that we keep progressing at those points in time.”
He added: “This is for a World Cup, the incentive will be completely different.”
USMNT manager Gregg Berhalter also recognizes the importance of Friday’s game.
“In the context of a World Cup qualifier, it’s just another game, isn’t it? But in terms of the rivalry and the history and the times when you can play them with a pro-American crowd in a great stadium, I mean, it makes it special, ”Berhalter told the Cincinnati Enquirer.
But can Mexico steal the show on American soil again? Mexico is undefeated in its six qualifying games, with four wins and two draws, and sits at the top of the table, three points ahead of the United States.
Despite all this, regional bragging remained outside of Mexico’s reach after losing the Gold Cup and Nations League final against the United States.
During the 3-2 Nations League final loss to the United States, Mexico fell victim to two goals from corners. Months later in the Gold Cup final, it was a configuration goal in extra time that ensured a narrow 1-0 win over Mexico.
“It’s true that we lost two finals, but the United States [hurt us] of blows, ”said Mexico coach Tato Martino after the Gold Cup defeat in August. “We had great moments in the two finals where we defined the game. When we can’t convert goals from these situations, there’s always a risk.”
For Mexico on Friday, capitalizing on those situations will be paramount as they aim to steal back the crown as the kings of the CONCACAF region. Regardless of the two painful losses against the United States in 2021, an away win in a World Cup qualifier would do much to help heal the wounds.
As for the young American team, they have a chance to not only make a huge step towards a return to the World Cup, but also really claim their dominance in the region with a historic third consecutive win over Mexico within just six months.
Anyway, pay attention to those arrangements after the game starts.