COLUMBUS, Ohio — If anyone was going to end the hex that the United States had over Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, it was only fitting that it was Rafa Marquez. So when the El Tri captain found himself unmarked at the near post on an 89th minute corner kick and nodded the ball into the back of the net to earn Mexico a 2-1 win, it just felt right. At least if you were a Mexico fan.
If you support the United States, it was a nightmare. Marquez is the Americans' nemesis. The 37-year-old has played in countless of these matches and has made a habit of crossing the line. He was sent off against the U.S. twice — in the 2002 World Cup and in a 2010 World Cup qualifier — for late and dirty challenges to go along with being the captain of the Americans' most hated rival.
Whichever side of the rivalry you fell on, that Marquez scored the goal elicited extreme emotion.
It's astounding that Marquez was even on the field to score the goal. It's not just that he's 37 years old — he's played a ton of matches for club and country, putting incredible wear and tear on his body. When he left Barcelona for the New York Red Bulls in 2010, it looked like his career was winding down. And a year earlier, when he was sent off in Columbus for his red card against the U.S., Mexican fans called for him to be dropped from the team for his penchant for crossing the line. This is a player whose international career looked set to end nearly a half-dozen times.
And yet Marquez is always there, 20 years after making his Mexico debut. In fact, the United States' young star Christian Pulisic wasn't even born when Marquez first put on the Mexico shirt.
But for all Marquez had been through, he had never won in Columbus, Ohio. He played in all four of the Mexicans' losses at the Americans' fortress and left a 2-0 loser each time.
So when the match was tied 1-1 on Friday and Mexico had an 89th minute corner kick, Marquez had to be the one to get free. And he had to be the one the ball came to. And he had to be the one to flick the header into the back of the net.
Nobody has been as involved in this rivalry as Marquez. And no one knows Mexico's Columbus heartbreak like Marquez. And now Dos a Cero is dead because of Marquez.