It seems the fifth time was the charm for Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, as they defeated the US national team 2-1 on Friday in the opening match of the hexagonal round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying at MAPFRE Stadium.
Prior to Friday's match, the US had beaten Mexico four consecutive times in Columbus by a 2-0 scoreline, but a late goal from Rafa Marquez made the difference on the night, and broke the "Dos a Cero" run for the Americans.
The first chance of the night came 10 minutes in for Mexico, as Jesus Corona's dribble and shot got a touch from US goalkeeper Tim Howard before bouncing off the far post, and Javier Hernandez could not react quickly enough to make a rebound attempt on the play.
Mexico then found the long-awaited breakthrough in Columbus 10 minutes later, as Miguel Layun stripped the ball from Michael Bradley and hit a sharp, low shot to beat Howard and make it 1-0 for the visitors.
While the US nearly equalized on a goalmouth scramble immediately after Layun's goal, Carlos Vela knocked a header off the crossbar at the other end a few minutes later, but the score remained 1-0.
Each team was forced to make an unanticipated first-half substitution, with Mexican captain Andres Guardado exiting due to injury in the 28th minute, and Howard departing for Brad Guzan in the 40th minute.
The Americans returned from the halftime break energized, and their renewed effort paid off courtesy of striker Bobby Wood in the 49th minute. He received a throughball from Jozy Altidore and slotted a one-time shot past Mexico goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera to make it 1-1.
The rest of the half was frantic, breathless soccer on both ends, and it looked like it would end in a tie, until Rafa Marquez scored on a near-post header from a corner kick in the 89th minute. While the USMNT pushed for another equalizer, Mexico defender Carlos Salcedo was sent off late in stoppage time for a second yellow card, and there was a short scuffle between the teams. But El Tri hung on to record a historic win.
- 20' – MEX – Miguel Layun
- 49' – USA – Bobby Wood (Jozy Altidore)
- 89' – MEX – Rafa Marquez (Miguel Layun)
- Full Box Score
- Watch Highlights
- ONE STREAK SNAPPED...: The immediate talking point coming out of the game is obviously the reversal of the "Dos a Cero" result in favor of the Americans, a scoreline in Columbus that had reached nearly mythical proportions over 15 years. While the law of averages of two good teams meeting up would indicate the run was not going to go on forever, the streak being snapped will be a sore point for the USMNT and will surely be a point of pride for El Tri, even if the teams themselves downplay the series history.
- ...AND ANOTHER STREAK SNAPPED: But "Dos a Cero" was not the only streak to be stopped on the night. Of possibly greater significance, the US broke a 30-game home unbeaten run in World Cup qualifying with the loss. Much like the four-game "Dos a Cero" run, that 30-game streak lasted 15 years, dating back to 2001 and a loss to Honduras at RFK Stadium.
- SKY IS FALLING, OR NO WORRIES? As you would expect, a win on the road to open the Hex against their biggest competition leaves Mexico in terrific position. But from a US perspective, the loss is not a killer, at least not yet. They've got 9 more games in the round to get into a qualifying position for Russia 2018. But their next test, on Tuesday against Costa Rica on the road, is not going to be easy, especially considering the Americans have never won in Costa Rica. Will they be in a big hole after the first two matches of the hex? Or will they find a way to make history -- this time in a positive way? Stay tuned.
- USA: World Cup qualifying, at Costa Rica (Tuesday, 11/15, 9 pm ET, beIN Sports, NBC Universo)
- MEX: World Cup qualifying, at Panama (Tuesday, 11/15)