Jared Borgetti (right), battling Oguchi Onyewu for the ball, was a headache for the U.S. all game (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 report about a USA loss at Estadio Azteca in 2005.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico exacted a measure of revenge for its second-round elimination by the United States in the 2002 World Cup by recording a hard-fought 2-1 victory at Estadio Azteca Sunday, March 27, 2005.
The Mexicans struck for both their goals within a 90-second span in the opening half before an estimated crowd of 105,000.
Mexico (2-0-0, six points) took the CONCACAF final-round league with six points as the U.S. dropped to 1-1-0 and three points with Guatemala looming in Birmingham, Ala. on Wednesday.
The Americans still can’t beat their rivals in Mexico, dropping to 0-22-1 lifetime south of the Rio Grande. They also had a pair of long unbeaten streak snapped — a 16-game streak against all comers (11-0-5) since a loss in the Netherlands in February, 2004 and a 31-game streak (24-0-7) against CONCACAF foes dating back to a 2-1 home qualifying defeat to Costa Rica in September, 2001.
“Any way you look at it, altitude was a big factor,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. “I believe our players shut down in the last 15 minutes of the first half and it cost us the game. Our goal at halftime was to get a goal back in the first 15 minutes and we did that, and we positioned ourselves to perhaps get a point from the game.
“We were the only team in this competition that had their first two games on the road. If you had asked if I would be happy that we had three points after two games, I would say yes.”
The U.S. had surrendered only one goal in its previous eight matches (6-1-1) against Mexico before the fatal two minutes.
“I was surprised by the U.S. defense, how they played as badly as they did today,” Mexican defender Carlos Salcido told Reuters. “I have seen some of their games and they played so much better before. We had so much more of the ball and were allowed to do so much with it.”
Striker Jared Borgetti, who connected for the lone goal in Mexico’s 1-0 qualifying victory at Azteca in July, 2001, struck in the 31st minute, heading in a header from Jaime Lozano. Jose Fonseca maneuvered past the defense and left the ball for Lozano, who headed the ball into the center, where Borgetti head it home from close range.
“When they got the first one in, I think we just died a little,” U.S. midfielder Landon Donovan told Associated Press.
Borgetti wound up in the middle of things a little more than a minute later, winning a long ball and heading it to Antonio Naelson, who beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller for a two-goal bulge.
“That was a really poor goal, one that I’m sure that we’ll see two or three times in the next couple of days to try to fix that,” Keller said told AP.
Added U.S. midfielder Eddie Lewis, who scored the lone American goal: “We sort of committed our big sin in Mexico City by just dropping off and letting them have the game. We started too tentatively, too conservatively, I think we gave Mexico too much respect.”
The Americans tried to make a game of it early in the second half and their efforts paid off with a Lewis score from 12 yards off a Donovan feed in the 59th minute.
The goal broke a 455-minute scoreless streak at Azteca spanning more than 20 years or since Perry Van Der Beck’s goal in a 2-1 friendly loss on Oct. 17, 1984.
Donovan, who played so well in the U.S.’s 1-0 friendly win over Mexico last April, was relatively ineffective on Sunday.
With the game on the line in the final minutes, U.S. coach Bruce Arena made several substitutions in an attempt to revitalize the attack. He replaced defensive midfielder Pablo Mastroeni with midfielder Steve Ralston in the 69th minute, defender Carlos Bocanegra with forward Pat Noonan in the 76th minute and defender Steve Cherundolo with veteran forward Brian McBride in the 83rd minute.
But they really didn’t make much difference as Mexico held the ball for long periods of time in the final 15 minutes, forcing corner kick after corner kick.
“We were always taking the initiative,” said Mexico coach Ricardo LaVolpe, who received a congratulatory call from Mexican president Vicente Fox. “For 90 minutes, there was only one team on the field.
“We weren’t lucky enough to make it a blowout.”
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley was awarded a yellow card in the 37th minute after fouling Mexican captain Rafael Marquez at midfield. It was Beasley’s second yellow of the final round of qualifying, meaning he will sit out Wednesday’s encounter.
LaVolpe was given his marching orders by referee Rodolfo Sibrian in the 41st minute apparently after criticizing game officials. His assistant coaches, which included former Mexican international and ex-L.A. Galaxy and Chicago Fire goalkeeper Jorge Campos ran the team, apparently communicating with the banished LaVolpe via walkie-talkie.