US SoccerUS Soccer

Top 10 Games in USA-Mexico History

A monthly column about the State of U.S. Soccer that takes a hard look at everything from the performance of the U.S. National Teams to pro soccer in the good ‘ole U-S-of-A. If you’re looking for a viewpoint that you won’t see in a generic, nuts-and-bolts U.S. Soccer press release, you’ve come to the right place.

Abbott & Costello vs. the Mummy! Ginger vs. Maryann! Brian McBride’s face vs. numerous sharp elbows! There is nothing like a good rivalry! And when it comes to rivalries on our side of the world, one word says it all: USA vs. MEXICO. (OK, that’s two words and an abbreviation, but whatever.)

This is the one, people. It is the one that gets everyone’s attention, even that 75-year-old crabby sports editor who can’t stand “that sissy far-kickin’ game that no one cares about.”

And what better way to prepare for USA-Mexico than with a countdown of the top 10 games in this illustrious 50-game rivalry! A list that by Sept. 4 may include a new member, especially since the winner of the Sept. 3 match at sold-out Crew Stadium will be celebrating a trip to Deutschland!

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Games in USA-Mexico History (with a decidedly red, white and blue, perspective … no green, white and red allowed!).

No. 10
May 24, 1934      4-2 W      Rome, Italy       World Cup Qualifier

This game may have been played 71 years ago, but guess what? It was the first in the series, it was won handily by the USA, and it was for all the marbles: a berth in the 1934 FIFA World Cup in Italy. A pretty good start for the U.S. in the series if you don’t consider they would not win another match against Mexico until 1980 (0-21-3 in that stretch). All four U.S. goals were scored by Aldo “Buff” Donelli, still a U.S. record to this day. Donelli went on to become head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the NFL.

No. 9
June 16, 1996      2-2 T      Pasadena, Calif.      Nike U.S. Cup

A thrilling 2-2 draw in the 1996 Nike U.S. Cup is memorable for what reason? For the one and only time, the U.S. wears their light blue strip against the Mexican National Team in a nationally televised game that left most viewers wondering which team was which on their color screens. Of course, this game isn’t on the list just because of the uniforms. A 90th-minute goal from Thomas Dooley feels good for the U.S. (coming just moments after Cuauhtemoc Blanco had put Mexico ahead), but the Tricolor only needs a draw to claim the 1996 Nike U.S. Cup title. The game also features the USA’s first meeting against their 1994 World Cup miracle worker and former head coach Bora Milutinovic.

No. 8
June 18, 1995      4-0 W      Washington, D.C.      Nike U.S. Cup

Did someone say blowout? That’s what this one was. Against a full Mexican team featuring Jorge Campos, Luis Hernandez and Carlos Hermosillo, the game turns into the “Claudio Reyna International Soccer Coming Out Party,” as the then 22-year-old midfielder scores a goal and two beautiful assists to lead the United States to their first official blowout of Mexico. That the game comes during a championship run, at the 1995 Nike U.S. Cup, is an added bonus.

No. 7
April 20, 1997      2-2 T      Foxboro, Mass.      World Cup Qualifier

In what will be remembered as the first time the United States was able to take the field against Mexico at home without a decidedly pro-Mexican crowd, the USA and Mexico square off in a World Cup qualifier for the first time since the beginning of their modern-era rivalry. Everything is in place for a magical day … and then in the first minute of the game, a standard clearance from Kasey Keller ricochets off the head of Hermosillo and flutters into the U.S. goal. Undaunted, the U.S. trails twice in the game but an Eddie Pope strike and a 74th-minute Mexican own goal give the U.S. a savory 2-2 draw.

No. 6
July 5, 1991     2-0  W      Los Angeles, Calif.      CONCACAF Gold Cup

For all intents and purposes, this match is the start of the USA-Mexico rivalry. For the first time, the USA thumps Mexico in a major event: the semifinals of the inaugural 1991 Gold Cup. John Doyle and Peter Vermes score the goals, and to add a bit of spice to the burgeoning dislike between the two teams, Mexico’s head coach (Manual Lapuente) is fired just days after the match, while the U.S. is taking home CONCACAF bragging rights with their first Gold Cup championship.

No. 5
June 4, 1994      1-0  W      Pasadena, Calif.      Friendly
In front of a sea of Mexican fans, the USA officially announces their arrival on the international soccer scene. The match is the team’s official “send off” in advance of the 1994 World Cup and in an environment never before seen at a soccer match in the United States, Eric Wynalda scores a 52nd-minute goal to enrage the large Mexican turnout. His celebration is one for the ages and sparks the USA to an impressive second round appearance at USA ’94.

No. 4
November 2, 1997      0-0 T      Mexico City, Mexico      World Cup Qualifier

The U.S. gets their first-ever point in Mexico and it is a doozy! Playing 59 minutes of the match with 10 men after a Jeff Agoos red card, Brad Friedel and the U.S. defense battle to the greatest 0-0 draw in the history of world soccer. (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but the fact that the single point puts the U.S on the precipice of qualifying for their third straight World Cup makes it really, really sweet.) Mexico qualifies for the World Cup, too, but it isn’t enough to save Milutinovic’s job, as he is sacked two games later.

No. 3
July 17, 1995      0-0  T (4-1 pk)      Paysandu, Uruguay      Copa America
The USA’s reward for beating Argentina 3-0 in their group play finale at the 1995 Copa America was a quarterfinal date with their arch rival for some serious bragging rights. It’s one thing to win a few friendlies and even a 4-0 match in the U.S. Cup; it is another thing entirely to send your rival home from a major tournament on foreign soil. With Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Paul Caligiuri and Frank Klopas notching penalty kicks against Campos, and Friedel coming up with his biggest triumph to date, the U.S. finishes an impressive fourth at the tournament. (Hmmm, major tournament, knockout round victory over Mexico behind a Friedel shutout … I wonder if we will ever see anything like that again?)

No. 2
February 28, 2001      2-0 W Columbus, Ohio      World Cup Qualifier

Does anyone out there remember this game? Something about 29 degree temperatures and the start of final round World Cup qualifying? A rabid crowd of 24,624 rooting the USA on for the first time at home against Mexico in an atmosphere that could rival Azteca? I think maybe Josh Wolff scored? And Earnie Stewart? Yeah, that was a pretty good day.

No. 1
June 17, 2002      2-0 W Jeonju, Korea Republic      World Cup
It’s official! The Seleccion de Mexico really, really doesn’t like the U.S. National Team. First, it was winning the inaugural 1991 Gold Cup at Mexico’s expense, and then, the U.S. moved into the 1995 Copa America semifinals over Mexico as well. But a second round World Cup meeting for the bitter rivals? We sense a trend in the ol’ USA-Mexico rivalry. The game begins with Mexico having no idea what hits them, with the U.S. coming out in a 3-5-2 and Reyna lining up on the right wing for the first time. The tactical changes made by Bruce Arena leads directly to an early goal from McBride. After Landon Donovan ices the game, Mexican favorites like Rafael Marquez and Alberto Garcia Aspe finish the game using Cobi Jones as a pinata. The beauty of the timeless result is just that. It is timeless. With an authoritative win like this coming in a once-in-a-lifetime World Cup meeting, the U.S. will own bragging rights until “las vacas” come home.