Former Red Bull Rafa Marquez, battling Michael Bradley for the ball, scored the game-winner in Mexico’s 2-1 WCQ win over the U.S. (Trevor Ruszkowski/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
COLUMBUS, Ohio — Dos a cero is history as Mexico made some history of its own in the CONCACAF hexagonal opener Friday night (Nov. 11, 2016).
Former Red Bulls defender Rafa Marquez, who has tormented the United States with some unwarranted physical play in the past, scored the game-winner in the 89th minute to boost El Tri to a 2-1 triumph before a capacity crowd of 24,650 at MAPFRE Stadium.
It was the first time the Mexican defeat the Americans at the stadium. The previous four results were 2-0 victories by the USA — in 2001, 2005, 2009 and 2013.
It was the first time the Americans dropped a home WC qualifier since a 3-2 loss to Honduras in Washington, D.C. on Sept. 1, 2001, ending a 30-game WCQ home unbeaten streak.
It also was the first time Mexico recorded a qualifying win on U.S. soil since a 2-1 victory in Los Angeles on Sept. 10, 1972.
“It’s disappointing,” U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann said about Friday’s result. “You don’t want to lose this game at all.”
The loss meant the U.S. desperately needs at least a point in Tuesday’s encounter in Costa Rica, a venue in which the Americans have never won a qualifier.
“The message is very simple. We got to go down there and get a result,” Klinsmann said. “I told them we’ll correct it in Costa Rica.
“It gives us a sense of anger, a sense of urgency.”
The USA will have to get that result without starting goalkeeper Tim Howard, who pulled a leg muscle late in the first half. Howard, who will undergo an MRI Saturday, was replaced by Brad Guzan in the 44th minute.
The game was played in the backdrop of Tuesday’s presidential election. President-elect Donald Trump threatened to build a wall along the USA-Mexico border during the campaign, although it did not appear to be any of that rhetoric incited any violence from the supporters.
Marquez, who had tussles with several American players through the years, including Howard and Cobi Jones in qualifiers and World Cup matches and Landon Donovan in the Major League Soccer playoffs, found the range with time running out in regulation. He knocked home a corner kick by Miguel Layun, who had scored earlier in the match.
Defender John Brooks was supposed to cover Marquez.
“We lost him, as simple as that,” Klinsmann said of Marquez, adding that it was an “individual mistake.”
Added midfielder Jermaine Jones: “We were sleeping there.”
For Marquez it was a goal and win of vindication. He had played in three of the four previous losses here.
“Maybe now they have a bad time, a time of intolerance and with this win maybe they can forget now a little bit what happened here in the U.S.,” he said.
“It was a long time that we haven’t had a good game [here]. We are very happy and this is very important for us.”
Both teams played with much intensity as referee Walter Lopez was forced to hand out nine yellow cards, six on Mexico, and a red card to Carlos Salcedo four minutes into second-half stoppage time.
“It kind of confirmed of what we all thought before the game,” Klinsmann said. “It was a nail-biter, very intense, hard-fought game.”
At kickoff, the temperature of 44 degrees was cold enough that Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio, a former Red Bulls coach, kept his team in the warmth of its locker room until a half hour until kickoff.
The strategy seemed to work as El Tri dominated the opening half, forcing Howard to save Layun’s drive to the upper right corner in the 10th minute.
They took a well-deserved lead in the 20th minute when Layun drilled a low, deflected 24-yard shot into the lower right corner, snapping the USA’s 380-minute shutout streak against El Tri here.
Howard suffered that leg injury on a goal kick, forcing Klinsmann to pull him for Guzan in the 44th minute. Guzan stayed out at halftime to warm-up.
The USA equalized in the 49th minute as Jozy Altidore fed an onrushing Bobby Wood, who beat two defenders before slotting the ball past goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera from six yards.
While he was happy with Wood’s score, Klinsmann rued some opportunities that the USA failed to convert.
“We had chances to put it away, but we didn’t,” he said.