DaMarcus Beasley helped the U.S. to its second dos a cero win over Mexico in 2005. (Courtesy of MLS)
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.
By Michael Lewis
COLUMBUS, Ohio — When it’s not playing Mexico at Azteca Stadium, the U.S. National Team has discovered it has the Mexicans’ number.
Actually, it’s two numbers — two and zero as in 2-0.
That was the score of the U.S. qualifying victory over Mexicans in the cold here in 2001.
That also was the final of the Americans’ stunning triumph at the 2002 World Cup.
And not surprisingly, it also was the result of Saturday night’s qualifier that boosted the U.S. into its unprecedented fifth World Cup.
It certainly was sweet revenge for the Americans, who lost to their archrivals in Mexico City, 2-1, in March.
Goals by Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley early in the second half lifted the U.S. to victory in front of a packed house of 24,685 at Columbus Crew Stadium on Sept. 3, 2005.
“They suck,” forward Landon Donovan said after a champagne party in the U.S. locker room. “I’m so happy, man. They made it a little bit easier on us. I expected more. After we got the first one, they were never in the game.
“The only thing sweeter would have been to score. At least for three or four more years they will shut up and can’t say anything and I love it.”
The U.S. became the seventh country to book one of 32 spots in soccer’s promised land in Germany, joining the hosts, Argentina, Japan, Korea, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the Ukraine.
For the first time since 1934, when it defeated Mexico, 4-2, for the lone spot in the region, the U.S. became the first team from CONCACAF to book a spot in the Cup.
“That’s fantastic,” U.S. coach Bruce Arena said.
The U.S. (6-1-0, 18 points) hasn’t lost to Mexico (5-1-1, 16) in a home qualifier since 1972 and raised its record at the stadium to 4-0-3. Moreover, the U.S. is unbeaten in seven straight home games vs. the Mexicans since 2000, outscoring their foes, 11-0.
As it turned out, the U.S. ended their qualifying quest at the same stadium where they began it in June 2004, when they defeated Grenada, 3-0.
This time it took them seven out of 10 games to clinch, as opposed to nine games in 2001.
“It’s difficult,” said Arena, who directed the U.S. to the 2002 Cup as well. “You look at it and you’ll say it’s a breeze and it wasn’t a breeze.
“Every game has been difficult, but I think our experiences over the last four years has positioned us to be successful. Our guys know how to win in big games.”
So, by dispatching Mexico while qualifying for the World Cup, can the U.S. win the whole thing?
“I mean, let’s not get carried away,” Donovan said. “We beat Mexico.
“Sure, why not? Why can’t we? Of course we could. Bruce made a good comment: We qualified and that’s great. But let’s get better over the next seven months.”
After a scoreless first half, the U.S. found a way to break the Mexican defense.
“The first half was sluggish,” Donovan said. “We didn’t play so great. After the halftime, we got a little momentum and we started to get some free kicks in good areas. You knew that if we got a goal, that they would be dead.”
The U.S. broke a scoreless tie in the 53rd minute on Ralston’s fourth international goal.
Defender Eddie Lewis sent a 35-yard free kick into the penalty area that defender Oguchi Onyewu headed off the left post. The ball came to Ralston, who headed it home from point-blank range for his second goal of the qualifying campaign.
“It was probably the easiest goal I’ve ever scored,” he said.
DaMarcus Beasley gave the Americans a two-goal advantage in the 58th minute as the PSV Eindhoven midfielder scored from 10 yards off a pass. Beasley started it with a short corner kick to Donovan, who played it to Reyna. Reyna then fed Beasley for his 12th international goal.
“We’ve done that six games in a row,” Donovan said. “I don’t know if they were sleeping or if their coach wasn’t paying attention. They didn’t mark Claudio. He said yesterday in training if he makes that pass and goes, they might not follow him. And sure enough they didn’t great goal. It makes them look stupid, which is good.”
At the other end of the field, Onyweu held Jared Borgetti in check. Borgetti, a thorn in the Americans’ side with two qualifying goals in as many victories, was rendered virtually useless by the 23-year-old defender.
“Gooch is a great young player,” Arena said. “Obviously his physical presence is fantastic. You see a player like Borgetti today and he’s bouncing off Gooch for 90 minutes.”
Kasey Keller, who recorded his fifth consecutive qualifying shutout as his scoreless streak reached 507 minutes, was called on to make one difficult save a minute into first-half stoppage time after defender Gregg Berhalter fouled Francisco Fonseca 27 yards out. Ramon Morales powered the ensuing free kick toward the left post, but goalkeeper Keller dived to knock it out of bounds for a corner kick.
“We limited them to zero chances, which is great,” U.S. captain and midfielder Claudio Reyna said. “They’re a great attacking team. Probably the bigger plus was how well we defended more so than how we attacked.”