A self-admitted fan of the U.S. Men’s National Team long before he ever wore the red, white and blue, Michael Bradley fondly recalls the feeling he had ahead of his first World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus in 2009.
“I remember sitting on the bus, driving to the stadium and letting it all sink in,” said Bradley. “Obviously, games against Mexico need no introduction, especially the qualifier in Columbus and what that has become.”
A match that has occurred every four years since 2001 has become a rite of passage of sorts for U.S. players, balancing the very pro-American atmosphere in the intimate venue with the chance of challenging weather and the common, “Dos A Cero” score line.
As a heavy down pour gave way to strong winds and cool temperatures, Bradley broke the tension of a back and forth first half in the 43rd minute.
“A corner kick got headed back across the goal by Landon Donovan and then on goal by Gooch (Onyewu),” Bradley said. “The keeper made a save and I think I had run early and drifted back towards the goal. When the goalkeeper saved it, it sat up perfectly for me and I was able to smash it in.”
Having gone into halftime up 1-0, the U.S. gained a man advantage midway through the second half when Mexico defender Rafa Marquez was sent off for a vicious aerial challenge on Tim Howard.
The ejection put the U.S. in the driver’s seat for the rest of the match, but the elusive second goal didn’t come until second half stoppage time.
“They were obviously pushing to see if they could get it to 1-1 and we won a ball and played it forward,” said Bradley. “Jozy did really well to move with it and he ended up getting fouled pretty good. The play kind of kept going because I think the ball rolled to Landon’s path. Without running too hard I was able to move myself forward with the play, he played a pass back to me, I took a good first touch and on a wet night I thought if I could hit a good shot on target it might have a chance. I caught it well, got it moving a bit and that was it.”
Shortly thereafter, the final whistle blew and the third “Dos A Cero” result in Columbus was complete, building the psychological advantage the U.S. holds over Mexico in that special fixture.
“These games against Mexico in Columbus – the way things have played out on certain types of nights – 2001 when it was real cold, 2009 when it was cold, windy and rainy – it adds to it all in a special way,” said Bradley. “By now, when that schedule comes out for the Hex and they know they have to come to Columbus, mentally there’s an edge for us already.”