COLUMBUS, Ohio — Mexico exorcised 15 years of Dos A Cero agony in Columbus and beat the U.S. 2-1 in Friday’s World Cup qualifier at Mapfre Stadium. The winning goal came in the 89th minute from 37-year-old Mexico captain Rafa Márquez, a longtime goat in this series who became the hero with a wide-open header off a corner kick.
The loss in the first game of the Hexagonal was the last thing the U.S. needed as it now heads to Costa Rica on Tuesday to face an opponent it has never beaten on the road.
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Miguel Layún gave Mexico the lead with his 20th-minute goal. Bobby Wood equalized early in the second half for the U.S., which started creating more chances. But the Yanks fell asleep on the decisive corner kick, with John Brooks appearing to lose Márquez before he scored a cathartic winner.
Here are three thoughts on the game:
Mexico deserved this
Playing a surprisingly attacking lineup, Mexico outplayed the U.S. by a large margin in the first half, taking advantage of open space and some swashbuckling play to create numerous chances and hit the woodwork twice in addition to Layún’s adventurous goal. The game tightened up after the U.S. changed out of its 3-5-2 midway through the first half, and Mexico allowed Jozy Altidore and Wood to combine on the equalizer.
In the past, Mexican players would crumble in Columbus after the U.S. scored, but that didn’t happen this time and perhaps reflected the mental-conditioning work that has been done lately under manager Juan Carlos Osorio.
This time it was the Mexicans pushing to get not just a tie but a famous victory in a stadium that has been a graveyard for them. Mexico was not cowed this time in Cow Town, and El Tri will be proud to finally get a win here after four straight losses.
Jurgen Klinsmann got too cute with his lineup
One of the keys to the U.S.’s surge this year was finding consistency at last under Klinsmann in lineups and personnel, so that the core group got larger and more unified. So why did Klinsmann change everything up and go with a 3-5-2 lineup in the biggest World Cup qualifier of the year? The U.S. was disjointed in the first half due to the new formation and deserved to be down 1-0 at halftime.
Timmy Chandler, despite his form with Eintracht Frankfurt, also seemed an odd choice ahead of DeAndre Yedlin and had a rough game, while Jermaine Jones over Sacha Kljestan was another head-scratcher. Jones has played one close-to-full game in months, and while his energy level was high, his passing sharpness was as off as you would expect in a creative role.
Give Klinsmann some credit for switching back to a 4-4-2 28 minutes in, though—it gave the U.S. a chance to get back into the game.
The Columbus mystique is gone
It always seemed like a long-odds anomaly that the U.S. had beaten Mexico here by a 2-0 score every time, and the constant “Dos A Cero” reminders have struck many for awhile to be the U.S. pressing its luck. This is Osorio’s signature victory, and it’s a gut punch for a U.S. team that had been playing well in recent months but deviated from its plan on Friday.
During the afternoon, U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati noted that the U.S. hadn’t fired a coach during World Cup qualifying since 1989 and was unlikely to do that with Klinsmann. But let’s be honest: If the U.S. emerges from Costa Rica on Tuesday with zero points from its first two Hexagonal games, Klinsmann will be firmly on the hot seat.