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Diary of Dos a Cero

Columbus has become synonymous with “dos a cero,” the almost mystical scoreline from the past three USA-Mexico World Cup Qualifiers on U.S. soil. One fan went even so far as to produce T-shirts that read “It’s more than just a score.” The term represents the pendulum swift when the U.S. rested control of rivalry on U.S. soil and firmly established itself as an equal competitor against the region’s established leader.

The results have meant different things at different times of the cycles. In both 2001 and 2009, the USA-Mexico match kicked off the Final Round of qualifying and set the tone for the rest of the campaign. The 2005 meeting came on MatchDay 7, and wound up being one of the most historic victories in the series.

As we head into Part 4 of the Columbus chapter of the rivalry, here’s a snapshot of the previous three meetings.

Feb. 28, 2001

U.S. head coach Bruce Arena had pushed the Federation to find a venue that would provide the team a home-field advantage, a challenge not previously overcome for USA-Mexico matches. They settled on Columbus Crew Stadium, the first soccer-specific venue built in Major League Soccer and in the heart of Middle America. 

With game-time temperature at 29 degrees, the uncomfortable Mexicans did not leave the locker room for warmups. Brian McBride was riding a four-match scoring run and Ohio native Brad Friedel manned the nets as the USA entered on a 16-match home unbeaten run in qualifying.

The U.S. suffered two big blows in the first half, with McBride going out after banging heads with Rafael Marquez and then Claudio Reyna departed with a hamstring issue. Their replacements, Josh Wolff and Clint Mathis, were about to make history.

Two minutes into the second half, Mathis played a hopeful ball over the top of the Mexico defense. Wolff blew past the markers and won the foot race with goalkeeper Jorge Campos, who had charged off his line. Wolff deposited the ball in the empty net and gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Wolff capped off the performance in the 87th minute with a brazen backheel that split two defenders on the right touchline. Boring down on goal, he laid a pass across the top of the six that Earnie Stewart met at full speed, pounding home the USA’s second goal that gave birth to “dos a cero.”


Sept. 3, 2005

The United States was rolling through the Final Round before this showdown, having posted a 5-1-0 record that included road wins in Trinidad and Panama and three straight shutout wins at home.  Going into the match, the team knew that a victory would mean entrance into the 2006 FIFA World Cup.

Once again, the first half finished without a goal from either side.  That all changed in the 53rd minute when the U.S. broke the scoreless deadlock off a free kick from the right sideline. Eddie Lewis served the ball to the back post where Oguchi Onyewu rose over his defender and headed the ball off the left post. The ball deflected across the goalmouth past Oswaldo Sanchez to the right side and Steve Ralston had an easy header tap-in to push it to the back of the net.

Five minutes later, the U.S. doubled its lead as Beasley started and finished off a perfectly executed corner kick. Beasley played a short corner to Landon Donovan and he pushed the ball back near the corner of the penalty box to Claudio Reyna. With two touches the U.S. captain slipped the ball into the right side of the penalty box for a streaking Beasley, who collected the ball about eight yards out and curled a left-footed shot over the outstretched arm of Sanchez and into the left side netting.

Kasey Keller picked up his 50th international win that day, and the U.S. qualified for the World Cup on MatchDay 7, the earliest in team history and the first time since 1934 that the USA was first from CONCACAF to advance.


Feb. 11, 2009

While there was no snow, Mother Nature once again made her presence felt as heavy winds and rain preceded kickoff.

The U.S. snatched the game by the scruff from the outset, and a young 21-year-old Michael Bradley would put his stamp on the match just before halftime.

The play began after the trademark hustle of Frankie Hejduk earned the U.S. a corner kick. On the ensuing delivery, DaMarcus Beasley hit a high, looping ball that got caught up in the wind before finding the head of Landon Donovan on the far post who headed perfectly back into the area for Oguchi Onyewu before Bradley finished the rebound.

The game was marred by the typical antics of Mexico team captain Rafael Marquez, who was shown a red card for the second time in a USA-Mexico match – the first being in the 2002 FIFA World Cup – for a malicious stab into the right thigh of Tim Howard with his cleats.

Bradley finished the game off with a low, skipping strike from distance past the slow reacting Oswaldo Sanchez. Second-half sub Jozy Altidore helped set up the goal by calmly collecting a ball at midfield, establishing his position against a challenging Mexican defense and then laying off an easy pass into the left flank for a sprinting Donovan to carry toward goal and lay off for Bradley.

The 2-0 triumph also added to the team’s recent slate of significant victories by the same margin, marking the sixth time this decade the team has defeated Mexico by that score (a tally that includes three World Cup qualifiers and a second round victory in the 2002 FIFA World Cup).