3 for Thursday: Memorable USA-Mexico clashes

Mexico vs. US in 2009

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It’s a rubber match four years in the making.

After splitting the last two title games, the United States will face Mexico in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final for the third consecutive time on Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. (9 pm ET, FOX Soccer)

The United States enter on the heels of a 1-0 win over a Panama side who handed the Yanks their first-ever loss in the Gold Cup group stages last week. Landon Donovan, who received a brilliant through ball from second-half substitute Freddy Adu, threaded a pinpoint pass across the box to Clint Dempsey for the 77th-minute game-winner.

Mexico, whose dominating performance in the group stages had them looking like clear tournament favorites, needed to grind out a 2-0 win over a feisty Honduran squad. Two extra-time goals from Aldo de Nigris and Javier “Chicharito” Hernández sealed the semifinal victory for El Tri, who have outscored their opponents 18-2 in their five tournament games.

Ahead of the match on Saturday, we highlight the top three United States vs. Mexico matches.

1. November 2, 1997: In a 1998 World Cup qualifier, the United States headed down to Mexico City to play El Tri at El Estadio Azteca, a venue where they had lost in all 15 previous attempts. At an altitude nearing 8,000 feet, rampant with smog and more than 100,000 fans, Azteca is hard enough to play in with 11 guys.

Imagine playing with just 10.

That’s just what the US had to deal with, having played a man down for almost an hour after a Jeff Agoos red card left the Americans shorthanded.

A valiant US effort, however, managed to keep Mexico off the score sheet and earn them their first, and only, result in the rivalry away from United States soil. The Mexicans still hold an all-time record of 23-0-1 against the Yanks at home. 

2. June 17, 2002: In the only World Cup match ever played between the United States and Mexico, the US came away with a 2-0 round of 16 win in the Republic of Korea.

This marked the first time in US soccer history that they had won a single-elimination game in the World Cup, and it was also their first World Cup shutout since the 1-0 upset of England at the 1950 tournament in Brazil.

It took the Americans just eight minutes to take the lead, as Brian McBride took a feed in the box from Josh Wolff and sent it past three defenders and a diving Óscar Pérez into the back of the net.

After surviving a Mexican onslaught of chances after the second-half kickoff, a patented US counterattack doubled their lead in the 65th minute.

Midfielder Eddie Lewis made a deep run down the left flank before finding Donovan on the far post. Donovan headed home the cross between two defenders and sealed the victory for the United States. 

3. June 24, 2007: In the 2007 Gold Cup final, the United States managed a 2-1, come-from-behind win over Mexico at Soldier Field in Chicago that not only earned them their fourth title, but also granted them a spot in 2009 Confederations Cup in South Africa.

After heading into halftime with a 1-0 deficit, the United States took over in the second half.

A beautiful turn in the box by Brian Ching forced Mexican defender Jonny Magallón to clip his legs from behind and gave the US a chance to equalize in the 60th minute. 

Donovan calmly stepped up and buried the PK, tying him with Eric Wynalda for the USA’s all-time goal-scoring lead at 34 as well as tying Mexico’s Luis Robert Alves’ Gold Cup scoring record with 12.

The United States found the game-winner just 12 minutes later in what will surely be remembered as one of the greatest goals in US soccer history.

After a dangerous corner from Donovan was headed out by the Mexican defense in the 73rd minute, a Benny Feilhaber wonder-volley from the top of the area sailed into the top left corner of the net and gave the US both the lead and the title.


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