The United States Men’s National Team travelled to Mexico City on Thursday night for a match with huge consequences in terms of both qualifying for the World Cup and confirming fans’ biases. The Americans would be once again trying to find an illusive victory in the Mexican capital, while El Tri would be hoping to make the most of two home games remaining in qualifying as Panama and Costa Rica hoped either would falter.
There was much discussion in the days and weeks prior to the match about the best options for lining up the team. This included whether or not it was better to treat the game like a mid-week MLS match and hope that playing a weakened lineup and focus on getting the win against Panama was best or if the team should try and win at Mexico since winning is the point of sports. Gregg Berhalter went with the approach that mid-week games are also worth three points and put out an aggressive lineup.
There wasn’t much doubt that Tata Martino would put forward his best XI in the match as El Tri looked to climb to second in the Octo standings with a win. The inclusion of Chucky Lozano meant that Jedi Robinson would have a clear task ahead of him defensively on the night.
In the end, would the stellar American defense hold once again? Could Mexico find some kind of form having scored just 14 goals in 11 games? Would some fan in Nebraska be satisfied with Walker Zimmerman’s performance? Apparently, the answer to these questions is yes, no, and presumably yes. The USA had two brilliant chances go wanting while they largely kept Mexico from finding the final ball, though El Tri did have their moments. As a result, the game ended 0-0 with the USA taking a point back home before facing Panama in Orlando.
Gifs of the worst USMNT miss since... well, you know
If there was something that would characterize the first 30 minutes of the game, it would be fouls. Just 9 minutes in Miles Robinson earned a yellow card in what would hopefully not be a continuation of his shaky form as of late with Atlanta United. Minutes later, Zack Steffen would make a save on a strong header from the top of the six yard box. More cards would be shown as Edson Alvarez committed a hard foul on Christian Pulisic leading to a Kellyn Acosta free kick that went on target in the 21st minute, followed a yellow shown to DeAndre Yedlin in the 26th.
Mexico would have decent chances from winning the ball in transition, El Tri almost found the first goal on a bad give away as Steffen tried to play out of the back. But a poor touch from Tecatito gave the American netminder a chance to dive on the ball. Meanwhile, the Stars and Stripes either tried to exploit Tim Weah’s speed on the right or Pulisic’s creativity on the left.
In the 35th minute Weah sent a low cross into the zone of uncertainty where it found a charging Pulisic, but the Man in the Mirror sent his shot directly into the center mass of Memo Ochoa.
The next highlight was a fight leading to yellows shown to Weah and Tata Martino in the 39th minute. Pulisic would find Weah on the break and while it looked like he had an option to pass to Ricardo Pepi, the winger opted to shoot over the bar - the ball is presumably still flying out of the stadium, past a bunch of volcanos and is on its way to Merida at this moment.
And that would be the last notable event of the half as an evenly matched if not cagey first 45 came to a close. While the teams would go in at nil-nil, the USA could take solace in knowing they’d won the moral victory of the half of having the best chance of the game.
The second half started with another big save from Ochoa on a shot from Pulisic.
As the half progressed, Mexico found more success going forward. El Tri played fast and direct and created three good chances in the first 15 minutes of the half, but were just a beat off in turning them into goals.
The 60th minute would see a pair of subs for the USA as Jordan Pefok and Gio Reyna entered for Pepi and Weah. For Pepi, it was a quiet night as the forward failed to have much of an impact on the match while Weah was his typical field stretching self in a decent showing for the forward.
10 minutes after coming on, Gio Reyna received the ball on the right and put it ever so delicately on a platter for Pefok only for the striker to leave his teammates looking on in disbelief as he pushed his shot wide.
After that, Gio decided to try to put the whole team on his back.
We see you Gio Reyna pic.twitter.com/F49wJUzd07— Watch Mexico vs. USA on Paramount+ (@CBSSportsGolazo) March 25, 2022
The USA made two more subs in the 81st minute as Yedlin made way for Eric Palmer-Brown and Aaron Long entered for Tyler Adams. The switch signaled a formation change for the USA as the team shifted to a... well, a formation where there were four center backs on the field. A few minutes later Jordan Morris came in for Christian Pulisic.
Morris would make his presence felt as Alexis Vega was shown a yellow for simulation after he and the Sounders winger contested a ball in the 18 yard box in the 91st minute. That would be the last noteworthy event of the match as the final whistle blew after five minutes of stoppage time and the teams spilt the points in a nervy 0-0 game.