By: Brendan Burris ~Staff Writer~
For their respective nations, as well as soccer fans around the globe, any matchup between the United States and Mexican national soccer teams is must-see competition.
Whether facing each other in “friendly” matches or going head-to-head in a competitive Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) World Cup Qualifier like the one last Friday night in Columbus, the games are always rough, physical matchups that test the resolve of both players and fans alike. This game was no different, even if the final score did not end the way the U.S. would have liked.
This tilt between the two sides marked the opening game in World Cup Qualifying for both teams and displayed the importance of getting a solid start and getting ahead early in a competitive CONCACAF division that includes familiar foes like Costa Rica, Honduras and Panama.
Mexico nearly started the game perfectly, but a Tim Howard diving save stopped the visitors from taking an early lead on the road. Mexico did, however, open the scoring in the 20th minute on a goal from midfielder Miguel Layún. It took the United States almost 30 minutes to tie up the score, with a 49th minute goal by upstart forward Bobby Wood putting the two squads level. A back and forth final 40 minutes followed, and in a game with 36 fouls called, it was looking as if we were headed toward another draw in this fierce rivalry.
However, in the 89th minute, in Mexico’s only corner kick of the game, defender and Mexican national team stalwart Rafael Márquez gave the visitors the lead and the eventual victory. Márquez has consistently been a thorn in the side of the U.S. national team, a player who made his debut almost 18 months before U.S. upstart Christian Pulisic was born.
Questions, of course, will follow for the United States and coach Jurgen Klinsmann at the helm for the United States’ first home loss in 15 years. A coach whose decision-making and player selection has at times been questioned, the seat is definitely warm for the German-born coach who has led the Americans since 2011. With a tough matchup against Costa Rica in their second World Cup qualifying match around the corner, U.S. fans will have to see how the team shapes up and where Klinsmann and the Americans will go from here.