It was a warm night in Columbus, Ohio on September 3, 2005, and the United States were taking on Mexico in a 2006 World Cup qualifier. The match was highly anticipated as the CONCACAF rivals sought to find out who would hold bragging rights over the other as they moved through the rest of the Hexagonal round. In the 9th minute, a long ball by Mexico down the left side found Jared Borgetti, who got tangled up with the USMNT’s Oguchi Onyewu and fell to the ground as he committed a foul against the young American defender. Immediately, Borgetti got up to get in the face of Onyewu as a form of intimidation and to send the message that Mexico was in charge. However, Gooch had a message of his own to send to Borgetti as the Mexican defender approached him, and that message was: I’m not the one to mess with.
The Staredown. It’s a moment that lives forever in the history of this rivalry, even though Borgetti would later claim that he didn’t remember how it started. But, it’s a rallying cry for American fans for playing with intensity, heart and an attitude that we’re the hammer and Mexico is the nail.
The match itself was one that was sluggish in the first half, with both teams failing to score. However, early in the 2nd half, the United States had lightning strike twice in just 5 minutes. In the 53rd minute, it was Steve Ralston that opened the scoring with a goal off a set piece where the initial header hit the post. Ralston was there to clean up the mess and head the ball into the net. 5 minutes later, a quick passing sequence off a short corner went to DaMarcus Beasley, who slotted the ball past Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez to make it 2-0. Dos A Cero. The chant rang through the rest of the night, and while Mexico continued to press, they could not get anything past American keeper Kasey Keller.
The whistle sounded to make the 2-0 score a final, and the United States had clinched a spot in the 2006 World Cup. While the USMNT would go on to have a dismal World Cup, that night is one that will live on. The USMNT finished tied atop the Hexagonal standings with Mexico, and Costa Rica joined the two teams in Germany. Trinidad and Tobago would also make the World Cup after winning the interconfederation playoff against Bahrain.
Recap this magical night in U.S. Soccer history and the staredown that energized a nation.