USMNT & Christian Pulisic sends clear message to Mexico: Who is the CONCACAF top dog now?

CINCINNATI – After 69 minutes, Christian Pulisic came in from the right, feinted, then sped past the off-balance defender to make the score 1 – 0, giving Tim Weah the lead. , and after the ball sat in the net and gave the USA men’s national team a lead that it would not give up, the player wearing the USA No. 10 jersey, strutted against fans in the corner at TQL Stadium and tried to lift that jersey to show a message.

The words “MAN IN THE MIRROR” were written on his undershirt. It was difficult for most of the crowd to see – but it was impossible for those who could read it to escape the message.

He was ready for this moment, no doubt.

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Pulisic and all those in the USMNT program had seen the comments from an interview that Ochoa gave earlier this week, in which he stated, “Mexico has been the mirror in which they want to see themselves and reflect on what they want to copy.” It was a strange time to make such a statement, as El Tri had lost two previous matches this year to the Americans.

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Now, for the first time ever, after a 2-0 victory on Friday night, the United States has beaten its arch-rival three times in a calendar year: the first in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June, the second in the region’s Gold Cup in August, and now in the World Cup qualifiers. There is no such thing as “friendship” when the United States and Mexico play football against each other, but all three of these were in serious competitions.

“It says a lot that we’ve come a long way in the last couple of years,” Pulisic told Sporting News. “Mexico has always been a tough opponent for us and it is obviously great to win three in a row now. But that does not mean it’s time to be complacent, time to think, ‘Oh, we’re the best.’

The USMNT have another qualifying match on Tuesday, away in Jamaica, and although they now stand first in the qualifiers at halfway through the “Octagonal”, they can not afford to consider their superiority over El Tri.

However, we can.

And the evidence proclaims that the United States is now the king of CONCACAF: three consecutive victories for the first time in nine decades of their series; two trophies for their championships in the region’s two biggest competitions; a serious advantage since the United States seriously began to compete in 1990, with the United States owning 20 wins to 14 defeats and 12 matches ending in a draw.

“We talked about this; this was yesterday’s news, ”coach Gregg Berhalter told reporters. “We talked about that we thought they were not giving us enough respect and we had to go out and make ourselves deserving of it. And I think we went out and deserved it tonight.”

This result was especially important for Berhalter, as his appointment as USMNT head coach in 2019 had been so much criticized, and that many of those who led the ongoing “Berhalter out” campaign had preferred US Soccer to hire Tata Martino away from Atlanta United instead. Martino finished as head coach of El Tri, and now he has dropped three in a row to Berhalter.

Berhalter installed high pressure against Mexico in this game, insisting that his players hold on to it, expecting the energy and spirit of the Americans to eventually wear down a more veteran Mexico team. It worked early, but the American midfield – especially Tyler Adams – sent the ball sluggishly through for much of the first 45 minutes.

Out of the break, however, the Americans quickly overwhelmed their opponents. After Pulisic scored the goal to break a 0-0 equalizer in the 74th minute, as El Tri should have been desperate to create an equalizer, they were unable to lead the ball past the center line for almost four minutes. The possession statistics showed that Mexico had the ball 51 percent of the time, but what it does not reveal is that so much of that time was spent on their own end.

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“I thought about it a little bit and I thought about how well we played,” Berhalter said. “It would have been a shame if we did not win the match.

“But I think when we brought Christian in, it gave the team a boost. And it also put some fear in Mexico because they know his quality. “

Weston McKennie scored the second goal for the United States and exchanged passes with reserve striker Jesus Ferreira at the top of the field before checking the last pass after a lucky jump and firing a low shot past Ochoa inside the right post.

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Ferreira had a huge chance to add another late in the match, but just like when Clint Dempsey missed a penalty eight years ago on the road in Columbus, Ferreira blew the shot far to the left and kept the 2-0 score – fans shouted “dos a cero “for a while – it’s been the winning result for USMNT now five of the last six times they’ve played a qualifying match on american soil.

“It’s a little new to all of us,” Weah said, though he seemed at home in this rivalry. He delivered an overwhelming performance and was consistently dangerous down the right sideline, putting pressure on Mexico’s backline. While it might not have been better for central defender Walker Zimmerman, it was probably bigger. The American coaches have been looking for the ideal partner for young defender Miles Robinson, and Zimmerman played this game as if he would consume every single ball Mexico hoped would create danger and answer any questions that might linger about his ability to perform at this level.

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“One of our concerns was the air duels, and with Miles and Walker back there, we feel pretty safe,” Berhalter said. “We won a number of headers on crosses, a number of headers on long balls, and it makes a big difference when you have guys who are sure they can win the ball.”

The United States and Mexico have been playing football against each other for 87 years, but to be precise, the Americans only played for almost half of that time. Winning three major tournament wins in a row at this stage of USMNT’s development, with two teens and seven players under the age of 23 in a row against Mexico, is an early sign of what can be expected from this rivalry.

“I think it’s a new era now,” Weah said. “Before the match, Mexico spoke a lot of smell. And beating them closes them. “