60 min: The US have appeared badly in need of fresh legs over the past 10 minutes and Berhalter appears to agree. He makes a pair of changes: Jordan Pefok for Pepi and Gio Reyna for Weah.
59 min: The US win a corner but it’s played short and knocked back into the middle third. Substitutions appear to be forthcoming …
57 min: A half-chance then a proper chance for Mexico in quick succession. First, Sanchez is put through on goal but Herrera can’t pick him out with the through ball. Then moments later Lozano has a great look from inside the area but his shot cuts just wide right of the target.
51 min: Blistering start with loads of two-way action to this second half. Another chance for Mexico as Sanchez charges ahead with his defender on the back foot, but his cross from the right flank sails harmlessly out of danger.
48 min: Mexico win a free kick from a dangerous position but noting comes of it. The US counter quickly setting up another promising chance for Pulisic and he’s denied by Ochoa once again!
46 min: And we’re off and running in the second half.
Meanwhile, Panama have drawn with Honduras. That means the United States can clinch a top-four spot in the group (and no worse than an intercontinental playoff) with a win in this match and a Costa Rica draw or loss against Canada. (Though the Ticos are currently leading 1-0.)
The atmosphere has picked up over the past half hour. A chorus of lusty boos just rained down on the Americans as they emerged from the tunnel for the second half. The several hundred USA fans in the upper deck behind the south goal were the loudest presence in the building for much of the first half. No longer.
Half-time: Mexico 0-0 USA
We’re all square at the intermission after a first half that included a pair of highlight-reel saves by Memo Ochoa (on Musah and Pulisic) and, perhaps more consequentially, a pair of yellow cards that will rule DeAndre Yedlin and Tim Weah out for Sunday’s match against Panama.
40 min: A good chance for Mexico but Lozano’s shot from the edge of the box just misses the target. Not the cleanest showing from either side tonight.
38 min: Weah is shown a yellow after a foul that prompts a bit of extracurriculars along the touchline. And now he will miss Sunday’s match against Panama due to an accumulation of yellows along with Yedlin.
35 min: Pulisic with a golden chance outside the six-yard box off a low cross from Weah and it’s saved by Ochoa. Wow! The Hershey kid has simply got to finish that one.
32 min: No real chances for either side here over the past few minutes. The PA announcer is calling out “Me-xi-co! Me-xi-co!” during play in an effort to whip up the crowd. Meanwhile, Honduras have just equalized against Panama.
27 min: The crowd swells as Mexico looks to have an excellent chance, but a terrible first touch by Corona allows Steffen to clean it up quickly before any real danger.
25 min: USA’s DeAndre Yedlin is shown yellow for an overzealous challenge and will miss Sunday’s match against Panama. Berhalter will surely need to dial up reinforcements with Sergiño Dest out and Reggie Cannon having tested positive for Covid.
20 min: Pulisic is yanked down hard by Edson Alvarez while moving across the field with the ball into Mexico’s final third. Doesn’t get the extra 15 yards for the horse-collar tackle. Alvarez is shown yellow and the US have a free kick from about 30 yards, but Acosta’s effort is hit directly at Ochoa.
13 min: First chance for the United States and Weah slides into the area and puts a shot on goal, but it’s turned away by Ochoa and out for a corner. Mishit it a bit, looks like.
10 min: USA’s Miles Robinson is shown a yellow card for obstruction. Moments later Mexico win a corner but nothing comes of it.
6 min: A bit of a sloppy opening for both sides. Meanwhile, Panama have taken a 1-0 lead over Honduras. It sure doesn’t feel like there are 50,000 fans in here. Call it Diet Azteca. A golden chance for the Americans to end their historic south-of-the-border hoodoo: 0-13-3 in away World Cup qualifiers against Mexico and 0-5-3 in qualifiers played at this stadium.
3 min: Already getting a bunch of questions about the sparse attendance for tonight’s match. Only 50,000 fans were permitted to attend, just more than half of the stadium’s 87,000 capacity, as a result of penalties due to an offensive and anti-gay chant that has surfaced repeatedly at Mexico matches.
1 min: And we’re off at the Azteca! Mexico attacking from left to right in red and black away kits, USA from right to left in white shirts and black shorts.
A bit of news as the teams are announced in the stadium. USA defender Reggie Cannon, who was kept out of Wednesday’s training as a precaution following an inconclusive Covid test result, has received a confirmed positive test and will not be available for selection.
And then there were five! El Salvador have officially been eliminated from World Cup qualifying after a 1-1 draw with Jamaica. That leaves Canada, USA, Mexico, Panama and Costa Rica in play for Concacaf’s three and a half spots.
The teams are in! So much for the rumblings that Gregg Berhalter might consider fielding a ‘B team’ to save the legs of key players for Sunday’s match against Panama with five on a yellow card and facing a one-match suspension if they collect another. His team for tonight’s match includes nine of the starters from November’s win over Mexico in Cincinnati (Acosta for McKennie, Pulisic for Aaronson).
XI: Ochoa, Sanchez, Montes, Vasquez, Arteaga, Herrera, Alvarez, Carlos Rodriguez, Lozano, Jimenez, Corona
Subs: Cota, Martin, Moreno, Romo, Reyes, Gutierrez, Vega, Antuna, Julian Araujo, Lainez, Gallardo, Talavera
XI: Steffen, Yedlin, Zimmerman, Miles Robinson, Antonee Robinson, Musah, Adams, Acosta, Weah, Pepi, Pulisic
Subs: Ferreira, Bello, Reyna, Morris, de la Torre, Siebatcheu, Palmer-Brown, Horvath, Long, Roldan, Arriola, Sands
Hello and welcome to Estadio Azteca for tonight’s hotly anticipated World Cup qualifier between Mexico and the United States. There’s a lot at play for these longtime rivals with three matches remaining over the next seven days.
A quick refresher: the top three teams in the Concacaf octagonal qualify automatically for the World Cup in Qatar while the fourth-place team will fall into an intercontinental playoff against the winner of Oceania’s qualifying tournament. Canada are top of the table with 25 points and the only team that can finish no lower than fourth. The USA are in second with 21 and will need to earn five points from their next three matches to ensure automatic qualification regardless of other results.
Mexico are also on 21 points, but in third due to goal difference, ahead of fourth-place Panama (17) and fifth-place Costa Rica (16).
The Americans own a 17-9-6 advantage in the head-to-head rivalry with Mexico since 2000, but have famously never won a competitive match on Mexican soil including 11 matches at Azteca, the smoggy fortress perched a mile and a half above sea level that has proven a house of horrors for generations of US players. Could that hoodoo finally end tonight? There’s reasons for confidence. The US defeated Mexico three times in a calendar year for the first time ever in 2021, including a 2-0 win in World Cup qualifying back in November behind goals from Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie.
Plenty more to come including the team sheets with kickoff roughly an hour away.
Bryan will be here shortly. In the meantime, here’s Tom Dart’s preview:
It’ll be OK in the end. Won’t it?
With three rounds of Concacaf matches remaining, squeezed into only seven days, there is the potential for things to go wrong in a hurry as the US conclude their qualifying campaign for this year’s World Cup.
Of course, they might go right! And they probably will. But there is some negativity bias seared into the American psyche after the shock of 2017, when the US failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament. Bruce Arena’s side needed only a point from their final match against Trinidad and Tobago yet contrived to lose 2-1 as other results went against them.
The most unlikely scenario was the one that transpired. Phrases such as “the odds are very much in the Americans’ favor” no longer contain much comfort value now that, post Trinidad, they can always be answered with: “Yeah, but…”
You can read the full article here: