Bora Milutinovic coached the U.S. against Mexico in the 1993 CONCACAF Gold Cup. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
With the United States and Mexico preparing for their World Cup qualifying encounter in Mexico City June 11, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, we look back at a turning-point game from 1991.
MEXICO CITY — If there were any doubts about Mexico’s return to power in soccer, they have been laid to rest.
The Mexicans demonstrated their superiority with a resounding 4-0 victory over the defending champion U.S. in the championship game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup July 25, 1993.
The triumph capped a unique hat-trick for the Mexicans, who also earned the $100,000 first prize. In May, Mexico became the first country to qualify for the 1994 World Cup. Earlier in July, the Mexicans made it all the way to the final of Copa America, before losing to Argentina.
And now the Gold Cup. In group play, he Mexicans crushed Martinique, 9-0, tied Costa Rica, 1-1, before rolling over Canada, 8-0. They romped past Jamaica in the semifinals, 6-1.
“This was a very exciting match and bodes well for the future of our team,” said Mexican president Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who attended the match and waved a huge Mexican flag. “Let’s go out and celebrate. This is a victory worthy of a fiesta.”
Thousands of fans took to the streets shouting, “Viva, Mexico!” and waving flags. Authorities closed off the Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, at the Independence Monument, where hundreds of fans gathered to celebrate.
The Mexican National Team, cheered on by a partisan capacity crowd of 120,000, showed an immense amount of flair and imagination as they won their fifth game of the continent tournament.
In their group play in Dallas, the Americans edged Jamaica, 1-0, Panama, 2-1, and Honduras, 1-0. They also recorded a one-goal win over Costa Rica, 2-1, in the semifinals.
“I’m very sad at this lose, but I have to congratulate the Mexican team,” said U.S. coach Bora Milutinovic, who directed the Mexicans at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. “What they have done is nothing new since they have improved greatly in the past six months.”
The U.S. had to battle more than the Mexicans, which included the thin air, thanks to the 7,347-foot altitude of the city, and smog and pollution.
Milutinovic and the Americans, however, were not going to use them as excuses. “The altitude and the pollution didn’t make a difference,” defender Alexi Lalas told the Washington Post. “The bottom line is that we just didn’t play that well.”
Ignacio Ambriz gave the hosts all the scoring they needed in the 12th minute, sending a 35-yard free kick past the U.S. defensive wall and goalkeeper Tony Meola into the far corner of the net.
U.S. sweeper Desmond Amstrong scored an own goal in the 31st minute under pressure from wing Ramon Ramirez for a 2-0 lead.
“We gave up two lousy goals at the beginning,” Meola told The New York Times. “That’s it in this place.”
Luis Alves Zague made it 3-0 in the 69th minute, chesting down a Ramirez cross and pushing the ball under Meola for his 11th goal of the tournament.
“We’ve had a lot of confidence, a lot of faith in ourselves, and we knew we could do it,” Zaque said.
Guillermo Cantu completed the romp in the 79th minute, latching onto a deft flick from Jose Noriega to score from close range.