The United States Mens National Soccer Team (USMNT) hoped to win their fourth straight match against their arch rival Mexico, but came away tied 0–0, missing two golden opportunities at goals that would have given them their first victory in the CONCACAF (Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Assoc. Football) World Cup qualifying at the famed Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, on March 24th.
The United States remains second in qualifying, edging Mexico by goal differential, plus nine over plus six, as both teams have 22 points, trailing Canada’s 25. The top three teams automatically qualify in this year’s World Cup competition with two games remaining through next Wednesday.
Costa Rica propelled itself to fourth following the three points gained from their victory over Canada 1–0; they currently sit in fourth, while Panama is in fifth at 18 points.
Four more points would ensure U.S. qualification for the World Cup—a win over Panama this Sunday in Orlando, or over Honduras on Wednesday, coupled with a draw or loss by Costa Rica at El Salvador.
If the United States draws against Panama or Honduras, Costa Rica would need to lose one of their last two games.
The fourth team could still qualify for the World Cup in Qatar, through an intercontinental play-off game versus most likely New Zealand.
At 7,200 feet above sea level, the Americans handled the altitude well and did not concentrate on possession as Mexico held the ball for 62 percent of the time, especially in the final 15 minutes of play. The United States had beaten Mexico in all three meetings in 2021 at two different competitions.
Both teams transitioned well in counterattacks, forcing turnovers by the opposing defenders, but the advantage was evident as the United States had four corner kicks, while Mexico had one. Mexico committed 14 fouls to hold off the American attack, while the United States had 12 fouls.
Though Mexico took 11 shots, only two were on goal, necessitating saves, while the United States forced four saves from nine shots.
Three yellow cards were obtained by the United States, over Mexico’s two. U.S. forward Timothy Weah and defender DeAndre Yedlin, will be sorely missed in the next match against Panama due to accumulated yellow cards.
Yedlin is the most experienced player on this young American squad having 23 more caps than any other teammates.
The first good opportunity for the United States came in the 14th minute as Anthony Robinson dribbled through his defender and crossed a ball from the left flank through the box, finding Yunus Musah in the right-center of the box for a low, left-footed shot that was deflected by the defender, forcing Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa into a diving save that pushed the shot wide.
The 35th minute saw a combination of wall passes down the right sideline as Ricardo Pepi pushed the ball out to Weah, who made a great cross to Christian Pulisic for a first-time shot from about eight yards in the center of the box. Ochoa made an excellent diving save to his right, blocking the shot off of his shoulder.
Pulisic, “Captain America,” would usually have scored on that opportunity, but his shot was not solidly struck off of the boot. He had another shot from the left side of the box, from a Kellyn Acosta through-pass, that was chipped high toward the right corner that forced another save by Ochoa.
In the 72nd minute, Pulisic fought to maintain possession from the left sideline passing centrally to Acosta, who placed a beautiful lofted pass to Giovanni Reyna at the right side of the box.
Reyna jumped to touch the ball to the center of the box seven yards away from goal, but Jordan Pefok was unable to get good contact pushing the shot far right from goal. As of late, Pefok has been scoring consistently in the Swiss league.
A great upside for the U.S. team was the return from injury of 19 year-old Reyna substituting in for Weah. His ability to penetrate with attacking runs, taking pressure away, and holding possession was exemplified late on a run that had 14 touches beat five defenders.
Reyna and Pulisic resisted bursting out in laughter at the post-match interview as he was asked his thoughts on Berhalter’s comment that the run reminded him of Diego Maradona’s long dribble for goal defeating England in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico.
“I don’t know about that, it was a nice run,” said Reyna. “Hopefully, I can find a way to score one of those next time.”
He is the son of former U.S. national team great, midfielder Claudio Reyna, who also played high school soccer with current coach Gregg Berhalter at Saint Benedict’s Prep. School in Newark, New Jersey.
Throughout the match, giveaways by the American defense gave Mexico a few opportunities that they were not able to capitalize on.
Mexico’s best chance came in the 78th minute, with a shot from Hirving Lozano, having received a pass from center, inside the right corner of the box, nearly 18 yards away from goal that forced American goalkeeper, Zack Steffen, to make a fingertip save touching the shot over the crossbar.
Both teams have two crucial matches remaining, beginning Sunday, as the U.S. hosts Panama and Mexico travels to Honduras.