Eddie Pope made the most out of a rare scoring opportunity against Mexico in 2004. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
With the United States and Mexico looking ahead to for their international friendly in Nashville, Tenn. Sept. 11, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, we look back at a game in Dallas in 2002.
DALLAS — MetroStars defender and captain Eddie Pope doesn’t score many goals, so he makes the most of the few opportunities he gets.
Pope, who connected for the winning goal in the first very MLS Cup in 1996, struck for yet another dramatic score April 28, 2004, this time at the international level.
The 30-year-old defender put in a rebound of a Bobby Convey shot three minutes into stoppage time to lift the Americans to a well-deserved 1-0 victory over archrival Mexico.
U.S. national coach Bruce Arena was happy with the win, but reminded the media that the “real confrontations” with Mexico and other countries lie ahead.
“At the end of the day, all it is a little bit of bragging rights,” he said. “We know that the most important thing for both teams is to qualify for the World Cup.”
The U.S. dominated the match, but had nothing to show for its efforts until Pope recorded his sixth international goal in his 60th appearance before a crowd of 45,048 at the Cotton Bowl.
As time was running out in the 93rd minute Convey, a defender, sent a free kick into the penalty area and headed on frame by Taylor Twellman. Goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez knocked the ball away — his sixth save of the match — but couldn’t keep the rebound from falling to Pope, who tapped it home from close range.
“Taylor Twellman did a great job to get up and beat everyone to head it on goal,” Pope said. “I was surprised the keeper got a hand to it. He made a good save, but he wasn’t able to hold onto it and I was there to finish it. It’s always good to score against Mexico.”
Added Convey: “Everybody crashed the goal, and Eddie put it in there. I think it was good for him to get that goal since he had chances throughout the game.”
After playing the role of doormats for so many decades, the U.S. has evened the playing field and then some in recent years. The Americans bested Mexico, 2-0, in a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, Ohio in February, 2001, before losing at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in July of that year.
The Americans, however, registered the best triumph in the series, sending Mexico to a humiliating 2-0 loss at a neutral site in South Korea in the second round of the 2002 World Cup.
Mexico is still smarting from that one and Wednesday night’s result certainly didn’t help.
Stunned by the late goal, the Mexican team did not shake hands with their American counterparts afterwards.
“That’s just part of it,” Pope said. “We don’t expect them to shake our hands. Before the game we do it and that’s great. After the game, whatever As long as we can get off the field with a win we don’t care.”
MetroStars goalkeeper Jonny Walker, who made his third international appearance, played the entire game en route to his first shutout. He did not have to make a save as the Mexicans failed to place a shot on goal.
“I know how happy he is to do that,” Pope said. “I know this is a big win for him, coming into the National Team and getting his first shutout. He should thank the back line for not having a shot on goal.”
Mexican assistant coach Jorge Campos’ post-game comments sounded like sour grapes from a coaching staff that is expected to take a lot of heat in the Mexican media for the loss.
“The United States had that luck at the last minute because I don’t really think there was a lot of soccer played on the field,” he said. “When a team has that luck they can win in any minute. It was a penalty kick but it was not called, but that’s in the past.”