The Return of Dos A Cero
In 2016, Mexico finally overcame the ghost of Dos A Cero in Columbus, Ohio. The United States had faced their neighbors to the south 4 times at the old Columbus Crew Stadium and each the scored had finished 2–0. You figured that Mexico would eventually figure out to pull out a win in this venue and that’s exactly what happened 5 years ago when El Tri finally won 2–1 thanks to a late goal by veteran defender Rafael Marquez. With the magic of Columbus seemingly not working anymore, you figured U.S. Soccer would look for another venue that was relatively small and in the northern part of the country for the big matchup vs Mexico. The Federation decided to stay in Ohio and this time chose TQL Stadium in Cincinnati as the location. While the site may have been different, the score line was a familiar one.
Mexico always wants to beat the US, but you knew this was one game El Tri felt they had to win more than ever after losing to the US twice in the summer in both the CONCACAF Nations League and Gold Cup Finals. Both were painful to lose, but the Gold Cup appears to be the one that hurt the most as Mexico created more chances during the majority of the game and was playing an alternate US squad as coach Gregg Berhalter didn’t bring back the A team that won the Nations League a month prior. The US had lady luck on its side in both games, especially in the Gold Cup Final, but the young squad pulled out the win in both games in extra time. These games were pretty reflective at how these games went when the US won: Mexico created chances early on and failed to convert, then the US would take advantage on a counter or set piece to take the lead and eventually win. However, that wouldn’t be the case in Cincinnati.
Mexico did create some chances in the first half forcing Zack Steffen to make a big save on an Edson Alvarez shot. The biggest opportunity El Tri had was when Hirving Lozano found Jesus Corona on a long pass in front of the goal. When Corona is on, he puts these balls away in the back of the net no problem like he did in the Nations League Final. However, Corona’s poor form manifested itself as he whiffed and the ball went wide of the American goal. These two chances were among the very few times Mexico was able to break through the American high press. Mexico surprisingly played out of the back primarily which worked to the US’s advantage as they pressed the whole game and made it an uncomfortable night. The US created some chances in the first half but this part of the game was pretty even as they weren’t too many shots on goal.
The second half was a different story because the US was all over Mexico during this part of the game. This was most evident as Timothy Weah ran up and down his section of the field at will and Mexico’s Jesus Gallardo was simply no match for him. At this point, it was difficult to understand why Mexico coach Tata Martino didn’t address this issue by giving Gallardo some help or making the necessary adjustments. Things calmed down for a bit until a couple of scuffles broke out between players. The second one stood out to me because how Luis “Chaka” Rodriguez wasn’t sent off for almost pulling out Brenden Aaronson’s eyes out is beyond me. In any case, some cautions were handed out and shortly, the Boy Wonder made an appearance.
There were a lot of questions as to why Christian Pulisic didn’t start that night but the overall play of the US and his contributions quickly quieted any critics. Again, Weah received a ball from Yunus Musah and found space to send in a cross that Pulisic, anticipating both defender Julio Cesar Dominguez and goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa, sent into back of the net to give the US a deserving 1–0. Before the game, Ochoa gave the US some bulletin board material by saying “Mexico is the mirror in which the [U.S.] wants to see itself and wants to copy.” Pulisic clapped back in his goal celebration by showing his undershirt which stated the title of the Michael Jackson song, Man in The Mirror. After celebrating with all of his teammates, Pulisic and Weston McKennie celebrated on their own acting like if they were looking in a mirror. The message was very clear that the US knew what Ochoa said and wanted to let him what they thought of it.
Even when the US had won 2–0 in the past, Mexico has some sort of reaction which resulted in an attempt to tie but that wasn’t the case on this night. Even with Raul Jimenez back in the lineup, you rarely saw Mexico’s number 9 with the ball or in action because there simply weren’t any passes coming his way due to Mexico being unable to break the American high press. Ten minutes later, Weah found Weston McKennie right outside the Mexican box. McKennie was trying to pass the ball to Jesus Ferreira but the ball bounced his way as he found at his feet again and shot it past Ochoa to make it 2–0. TUDN’s, the network carrying the game in Spanish, Pablo Ramirez said: “I don’t want to sing the score line, but it’s now Dos A Cero.” This was a nod to the famous American Outlaws chant of Dos A Cero whenever the US beats Mexico by the familiar 2–0 score line.
Now that the game was less than 5 minutes from being over, it was safe to say this win felt like it was a certainty. The one negative moment from the night came when Miles Robinson was sent off after receiving a second yellow card. Robinson along with the back line had a pretty solid night but he found himself in trouble and ended up paying the price. Even with that, Ferreira had a chance to make it 3–0 afterward, but sent his shot wide of the goal. When the final whistle blew, the curtain came down on what was a pretty sound night all around for US Soccer. The sellout crowd in Cincinnati had delivered as it was largely pro-US and was raucous from beginning to end, starting with a stirring sing along of the Star-Spangled Banner.
On the field, the US delivered not only with a win, but an inspiring, and at times dominant performance. The second half consisted of one-way traffic headed towards Ochoa’s goal. That’s not something you see in these matchups, even when the US wins. While the players performed well, credit has to be given to a man who’s taken a lot of heat from myself included, and that’s head coach Gregg Berhalter. He seems to have figured how to get the best out of this young, talented squad and he outcoached Martino all night. The US didn’t suffer much from not having Sergino Dest and Gio Reyna due to the play of everyone, especially Timothy Weah. Plus, Berhalter seemed to know when it was right to put in Pulisic as the US needed another push in the second half. This proved to be the correct move as Pulisic scored only 5 minutes after coming in the game. However the games unfolded, 3 wins vs Mexico in a calendar year is nothing to ignore. Well done, US Soccer. The night of Friday, November 12th was an overall success.