Five Things To Know About Mexico

Watch Mexico-USA on Thursday, March 24 at 10 pm ET on Univision, TUDN, CBS Sports Network, and Paramount+
Michael Lewis

The U.S. Men’s National Team begins the final window of 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifying, visiting archrival Mexico at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on Thursday, March 24 at 10 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network, Paramount+, TUDN, Univision).

 

The USMNT (6-2-3, 21 points) enter the March window in second place in the 2022 Concacaf Octagonal, just ahead of third-place Mexico (6-2-3, 21) by goal differential (+9 to +6).

 

Here are five things to know about Thursday’s opponent.

 

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING HISTORY

 

Historically, Mexico has been one of the strongest teams in the region, qualifying for the past seven FIFA World Cups and 16 overall. El Trí participated in the first World Cup in Uruguay in 1930, in which there was no qualifying. The finished 13th and last with a 0-3-0 record.

 

 

After losing to the USA in a one-game qualifier in Rome, 4-2, only days prior to the kickoff of the 1934 FIFA World Cup, Mexico started a run of reaching six consecutive FIFA World Cups in 1950. The host side finished unbeaten (3-0-0) against Cuba and the USA during a qualifying tourney in 1949.

 

Since then, Mexico has failed to reach the FIFA World Cup only three times, missing out in 1974 and 1982 and being banned from the 1990 competition. It has hosted the tournament twice - in 1970 and 1986 - as it was eliminated in the quarterfinals both times.

 

WORLD CUP QUALIFYING VS. THE USA

 

The first time these two rivals met, the USMNT prevailed in a one-match, winner-takes-all qualifier in Rome, Italy only days prior to the start of the 1934 World Cup. Aldo “Buff” Donelli scored four times for the USA en route to a 4-2 win. In the first qualifying tournament for Brazil 1950, Mexico won both games in Mexico City, 6-0 and 6-2. That started a 31-year run in Mexico WCQ dominance over the USA in which their rivals to the south forged a 12-0-3 record.

 

The string was broken in 1980, when the USA earned a 2-1 win in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Including that result, the Americans have more than held their own at home against El Trí since, registering an impressive 5-1-1 mark.

The USA has not fared well in Mexico, recording an 0-12-3 mark in qualifying there since 1949, though those three draws have come in recent visits. The USMNT has maanged scoreless draws at Estadio Azteca in 1997 and 2013 and a 1-1 result last time around in 2017.

 

Michael Bradley, then the captain of the squad, scored the lone USA goal on a line-drive chip shot from 35 yards over the head of goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa in the sixth minute before El Tri equalized on Carlos Vela’s 23rd-minute tally.

 

RECENT MATCHES

 

After dropping consecutive losses at the USA (2-0 on Nov. 12) and at Canada (2-1 on Nov. 16), Mexico rebounded with an unbeaten showing (2-0-1) during the winter window.

 

El Tri overcame a one-goal deficit at Jamaica with a late surge as Henry Martin and Alexis Vega found the net in the 82nd and 83rd minutes, respectively, to record a 2-1 victory on Jan. 27.

 

Three days later, they played Costa Rica to a scoreless draw at home.

 

Mexico returned to its winning ways at home on Feb. 2 in a 1-0 win against Panama. Raul Jimenez converted an 80th-minute penalty kick to give the team three points.

 

After Thursday's match, Mexico will play at Honduras on March 27 and finish the Octagonal at home against El Salvador on March 30.

 

MEXICO MANAGER

 

The Federación Mexicana de Fútbol unveiled Gerardo “Tata” Martino as its newest head coach on Jan. 7, 2019, replacing interim manager Ricardo “Tuca” Ferreti. Since taking over Mexico, Martino has led El Trí to a 31-4-7 record, which includes guiding the team to the 2019 Concacaf Gold Cup title, this year's Nations League Final and the 2021 Gold Cup Final.

 

Martino, 59, has been largely successful throughout his coaching career which includes stops at the helm of the Paraguay and Argentina national teams on the international stage as well as Newell’s Old Boys in his native Argentina and Barcelona at the club level. Martino has guided his teams to second place finishes in many of the sport’s most prestigious competitions, including the Copa Libertadores and La Liga at club level and the Copa America and World Cup on the international stage.

 

Martino’s latest stint before joining Mexico ended in success as he guided Atlanta United to the 2018 MLS Cup title in the team’s second season of existence. The Argentine managed current USMNT players George Bello and Miles Robinson for two seasons in Atlanta.

 

MEXICO ROSTER

 

Mexico named a 29-man roster for their qualifying run, but will play without several important players who are injured. That included long-time captain and midfielder Andres Guardado, forward Rogeli Funes Morio and defenders Julio Dominguez and Osvaldo Rodriguez.

 

El Trí will miss the leadership and experience of Guardado who is the country’s second all-time cap winner with 173 appearances.

 

Still, six key players from European clubs are expected to play vital roles – defender Edson Alvarez, midfielder Héctor Herrera (Atletico Madrid) and forwards Raul Jimenez (Wolves), Jesús Corona (Porto), Hirving Lozano (Napoli) and Nestor Araujo (Celta Vigo).

 

Jimenez leads the squad with 29 goals in 92 appearances. He is tied with Henry Martin and Alexis Vega in pacing El Trí with two goals apiece through qualifying. Sebastian Cordova, Jesus Corona, Héctor Moreno, Mori, Herrera and Lozano have each found the back of the net once.

 

Eighteen players compete in Liga MX, with another 11 performing in Spain (four), Italy (two), the Netherlands (two), Belgium (one), England (one) and the USA (one).

 

Monterrey boasts a club-high six players on the squad - defenders Jesús Gallardo, Cesar Montes and Moreno and midfielders Rodolfo Pizarro, Luis Romo and Erick Aguirre.

 

Liga MX powerhouses Club America and Cruz Azul are next with three players apiece.

  

Herrera signed with the Houston Dynamo earlier this month but will finish out the La Liga season with Atletico Madrid.

 

MEXICO ROSTER BY POSITION:

 

Goalkeepers: Guillermo Ochoa (Club America; 125/0), Rodolfo Cota (Leon; 6/0), Alfredo Talavera (Pumas, 38/0), Jonathan Orozco (Club Tijuana; 10/0)

 

Defenders: Julián Araujo (LA Galaxy/USA; 2/0), Néstor Araujo (Celta Vigo/ESP; 57/3), Gerardo Arteaga (Genk/BEL; 13/0), Jesus Gallardo (Monterrey; 70/0), César Montes (Monterrey; 21/1), Hector Moreno (Monterrey; 121/5), Jorge Sánchez (Club America; 20/1), Johan Vásquez (Genoa/ITA; 4/0), Jesús Alberto Angulo (Tigres; 6/0), Israel Reyes (Puebla; 1/0)

 

Midfielders: Edson Álvarez (Ajax/NED; 53/2), Érick Gutiérrez (PSV/NED; 28/1), Héctor Herrera (Atletico Madrid/SPA; 96/10), Carlos Rodríguez (Cruz Azul; 29/0), Luis Romo (Monterrey; 19/0), Érick Aguirre (Monterrey; 10/0)

 

Forwards: Diego Lainez (Real Betis/ESP; 16/3), Uriel Antuna (Cruz Azul; 28/8), Jesus Corona (Sevilla/ESP; 66/10), Santiago Gimenez (Cruz Azul; 2/1), Raul Jimenez (Wolverhampton/ENG; 92/29), Hirving Lozano (Napoli/ITA; 55/15), Henry Martin (Club America; 18/5), Alexis Vega (Chivas; 15/3), Rodolfo Pizarro (Monterrey; 35/5)