MEXICO CITY (March 24, 2022) – The U.S. Men’s National Team has traveled to the brink of qualification for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar after a hard-earned and hard-fought 0-0 draw against Mexico at Estadio Azteca in the first match of its final trio of World Cup qualifying matches.
With the result, the USA remains second place in the Octagonal standings with two matches left to play. The top three teams qualify directly to Qatar, while the fourth-place finisher will compete in a two-game intercontinental playoff for a World Cup berth.
The U.S. can clinch a spot in Qatar with a win vs. Panama on Sunday, March 27 in Orlando, Fla. (6:30 p.m. ET; FS1, UniMas, TUDN) as long as Costa Rica draws or loses at El Salvador. The USMNT would also qualify with a draw vs. Panama and a Costa Rica loss at El Salvador.
The result extends the USA’s unbeaten streak in official competition against its archrival to four matches, which is a record. It’s also the fourth-straight match in which the U.S. has earned points against El Tri in Mexico after losing 23 of its first 24 matches in Mexico.
After facing low defensive blocks through much of World Cup qualifying, tonight’s game was end-to-end from the opening kick. Zack Steffen was the first goalkeeper called into action when he swallowed up a strong header from Cesar Montes in the aftermath of a Mexico free kick in the 13th minute.
Midfielder Yunus Musah had the USA’s first real chance of the match one minute later. Defender Antonee Robinson, who played an excellent game at outside back, found Weah near the penalty spot. The forward got a touch on the ball as it rolled past him for an onrushing Musah in the right side of the box, but his shot toward the right post was tipped away by Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Mexico buzzed around the U.S. penalty on numerous occasions, but U.S. center backs Miles Robinson and Walker Zimmerman were always up to the task. As Mexico got moving in transition in the 25th, Robinson got his foot on the ball to slow down an El Tri attack, allowing Steffen to scoop up the ball. The U.S. ‘keeper was called upon again in the 27th as Mexico pounced on a misplayed pass in U.S. territory. Carlos Rodriguez played to Jesus Corona, who took too heavy a touch as he dribbled towards goal, giving Steffen enough time to dive on it and defuse the danger.
The USA’s best chance of the first half came in the 35th minute on a combination from Weah and forward Christian Pulisic, who have served as two of the USMNT’s main attacking mainstays throughout the Octagonal. As Weah drove down the right side, he whipped a cross on the ground into Pulisic near the penalty spot, but his first-time attempt was deflected away on a fantastic reaction save from Ochoa.
The back-and-forth affair continued in the second half as Pulisic had a decent chance in the 49th. An interchange with forward Ricardo Pepi teed up midfielder Kellyn Acosta to shake off one defender with a nifty move before slipping the ball through for Pulisic on the run into the left side of the box. He fired shot from a stiff angle just beyond the six-yard box, but Ochoa leapt to push it out of bounds.
Mexico made a major push down the stretch as forward Chucky Lozano fired few of dangerous shots and midfielder Hector Herrera played in a number of dangerous passes. The U.S. defense was called upon to make some hard-nosed one-on-one defensive plays, including Zimmerman holding off a dribble from Raul Jimenez inside the box in the 70th minute.
Two second-half substitutes created the USA’s most menacing chance of the second half after some lovely build-up. From the sideline, Pulisic played the ball to Acosta, who played a great ball in from 30 yards behind the Mexico defense to forward Gio Reyna on the run towards the six-yard box. Reyna played the ball out of the air back to forward Jordan Pefok in the middle, but his volley attempt deflected out of play. Reyna, making his first USMNT appearance since the first World Cup qualifying match on Sept. 2, impressed with a number of impressive runs.
Lozano continued to create chances late in the game, rocketing a 78th minute shot that Steffen managed to get a finger on and tip over the crossbar, even though a goal kick was awarded. U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter subbed in two central defenders in the 80th minute to secure the shutout, bringing on Aaron Long and Erik Palmer-Brown. Both players made their World Cup qualifying debuts, the record-tying 28th and 29th players to do so this cycle, and Long was called upon to make a few clearances in his 10-minute spell.
- Tonight’s draw was the USA’s third-straight World Cup qualifying result vs. Mexico at the formidable Estadio Azteca, improving its record in qualifying at the venue to 0-5-4. Previously, the U.S. drew 1-1 with Mexico on June 11, 2017, and 0-0 on March 26, 2013, after three straight WCQ losses at the historic venue.
- The USA is now 22-36-16 all-time against Mexico and holds a 17-9-7 advantage since 2000.
- U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter played in a World Cup Qualifier at Azteca in 2005 and tonight became the second person to both play and coach in a World Cup qualifier for the United States in Mexico along with Bob Kehoe, who played in the away qualifier in 1965 and coached the National Team there in 1972. Berhalter is the first to play and coach a qualifier at Azteca.
- Berhalter improves to 33-8-7 as U.S. head coach.
- Today’s Starting XI had an average age of 24 years, 136 days.
- The USMNT starting lineup averaged 29 caps and 16 appearances in official competition.
- Nine of 11 starters also began the USMNT’s 2-0 win against Mexico on Nov. 12, 2021, in Cincinnati. The other two starters, Kellyn Acosta and Christian Pulisic, were both substitutes in that match.
- Six players started the 3-0 win against Honduras on Feb. 2 in St. Paul, Minn.: Kellyn Acosta, Ricardo Pepi, Antonee Robinson, Miles Robinson, Tim Weah and Walker Zimmerman.
- Tyler Adams and Antonee Robinson earned their 11th WCQ appearances tonight, moving into a tie with the injured Brenden Aaronson for the team lead during the 2022 qualifying cycle.
- Kellyn Acosta, Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin each started their second World Cup Qualifying match at Azteca. The trio were part of the lineup in the USMNT’s last visit to Mexico City, a 1-1 draw with El Trí in 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifying on June 11, 2017. Paul Arriola also appeared in that match.
- Tyler Adams captained the USMNT for the eighth time tonight. The team is 4-1-3 when Adams wears the armband.
- Pulisic made his 21st WCQ appearance, moving into a tie with John Harkes, Eddie Lewis and Oguchi Onyewu for 17th on the USMNT’s qualifying appearances list.
- The son of Mexican parents, striker Ricardo Pepi earned his 10th international cap.
- At 19 years, 74 days, Pepi is the fourth youngest player to reach double-digit appearances for the USMNT, following Christian Pulisic (18 years, 54 days; Nov. 11, 2016 vs. Mexico), Juan Agudelo (18 years, 214 days; June 25, 2011 vs. Mexico) and Yunus Musah (18 years, 348 days; Nov. 12, 2021 vs. Mexico).
- Goalkeeper Sean Johnson, defender Reggie Cannon and midfielder Gianluca Busio did not dress for tonight’s match. Teams are allowed five substitutions in three different moments during World Cup qualifying matches.
-U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report-
Match: United States Men’s National Team vs. Mexico
Date: March 24, 2022
Competition: Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying
Venue: Estadio Azteca; Mexico City, Mexico
Kickoff: 10 p.m. ET / 8 p.m. local
Weather: 68 degrees, Fair
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
MEX 0 0 0
USA: 1-Zack Steffen; 2-DeAndre Yedlin (22-Erik Palmer-Brown, 80), 3-Walker Zimmerman, 12-Miles Robinson, 5-Antonee Robinson; 4-Tyler Adams (Capt.) (15-Aaron Long, 80), 6-Yunus Musah, 23-Kellyn Acosta; 21-Tim Weah (11-Gio Reyna, 60), 9-Ricardo Pepi (17-Jordan Pefok, 60), 10-Christian Pulisic (13-Jordan Morris, 84)
Substitutes: 18-Ethan Horvath, 7-Paul Arriola, 8-Cristian Roldan, 14-Luca de la Torre, 16-George Bello, 19-James Sands, 20-Jesús Ferreira
Head coach: Gregg Berhalter
MEX: 13-Guillermo Ochoa (Capt.); 3-Jorge Sanchez, 19-Cesar Montes, 5-Johan Vazquez, 18-Gerardo Arteaga; 16-Hector Herrera, 4-Edson Alvarez, 8-Carlos Rodriguez (14-Erick Gutierrez, 79); 22-Hirving Lozano, 9-Raul Jimenez, 17-Jesus Corona (10-Alexis Vega, 79)
Substitutes not used: 1-Alfredo Talavera, 12-Rodolfo Cota, 2-Israel Reyes, 6-Julian Araujo, 7-Luis Romo, 11-Diego Lainez, 15-Hector Moreno, 20-Uriel Antuna, 21-Henry Martin, 23-Jesus Gallardo
Head coach: Gerardo “Tata” Martino
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 9 / 11
Shots on Goal: 4 / 2
Saves: 2 / 4
Corner Kicks: 4 / 1
Fouls: 12 / 14
Offside: 0 / 1
USA – Miles Robinson (Caution) 9th minute
MEX -- Edson Alvarez (Caution) 21
USA -- DeAndre Yedlin (Caution) 26
USA – Tim Weah (Caution) 39MEX -- Gerardo Martino (Caution) 39
MEX -- Alexis Vega (Caution) 90
Referee: Mario Escobar (Guatemala)
Assistant Referee 1: Caleb Wales (Trinidad and Tobago)
Assistant Referee 2: Henri Pupiro (Nicaragua)
4th Official: Bryan Lopez (Guatemala)
VAR: Carol Anne Chenard (Canada)
U.S. Soccer Insiders Man of the Match: Yunus Musah