A visit to Estadio Azteca is a memorable one for any footballer. For the USMNT, matches at the cathedral of Mexican fútbol are a highlight of the team’s qualifying cycle, but goals - just like wins at Azteca - are not all that common.
Just six USMNT players have found the back of the net in the team’s 12 matches at the Coloso de Santa Úrsula, forming a unique club of individuals that share a rare experience.
Meet the USMNT's Azteca Scoring Club:
Willy Roy | Sept. 3, 1972 (1-3 L)
The first to do it! A German-born striker who first represented the USA in 1965, Roy was the lone holdover from the USMNT’s qualifying efforts for the 1966 and 1970 FIFA World Cups and was among a handful of players to appear in three separate qualifying cycles prior to the team’s modern era.
Roy and the USMNT faced a huge task in the side’s first visit to Estadio Azteca, the site of the FIFA World Cup Final two years prior. Taking part in a group which featured Concacaf’s three North American nations, the USA had lost 3-2 away and drawn 2-2 at home with Canada prior to its series of matches with Mexico. Roy scored the USA’s opening goal in both matches.
The results made both matches against El Trí must-wins for the team to have any chance of advancement to the final round of qualification. Those hopes took a severe hit when Mexico went ahead in the 14th minute. By the hour mark, El Trí were up 3-0.
Still pressing for a goal, Roy made history in the 78th minute when he got on the end of a cross from his St. Louis Stars teammate Gene Geimer, outjumping two Mexico defenders before nodding home inside the left post. Along with being the first to score at Azteca, the goal took Roy’s WCQ
Asked recently about the historic nature of his goal, Roy quipped, "I wish somebody else would have scored it and we would have won the game down there."
Read more about Roy’s historic goal and the early standard he set playing for the USMNT.
RICK DAVIS | Nov. 9, 1980 (1-5 L)
Considered the best U.S player in the late 1970s and much of the 1980s, Rick Davis played one college season at Santa Clara before turning pro with the New York Cosmos in 1978.
A fixture in the lineup leading to qualifying to the 1982 FIFA World Cup, Davis and the USMNT faced a similar qualifying scenario as the team had eight years prior, with a 0-0 draw and 2-1 loss to Canada making the team’s matches against Mexico must-win games.
It wasn’t to be.
Mexico legend Hugo Sánchez opened the scoring in the 24th minute, the first of four goals that delighted the crowd of 100,000 before halftime. After El Trí’s Adrian Camacho scored his second of the game in the 55th minute, there was no doubt left about the result. Still, the U.S. earned a penalty with about 15 minutes left and Davis – who was the face of American soccer at the time – slotted a low effort inside the right post to join Roy as the second USMNT player to score at Azteca.
“We were blown out of the field,” frustrated USMNT head coach Walt Chyzowych said following the match. The result eliminated his team and ensured that Mexico and Canada would advance from the three-team group.
Though it was meaningless for qualification, the U.S. restored some pride and made a little more history in the return fixture two weeks later, using a brace from Steve Moyers to earn a 2-1 win in front of 2,126 fans at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. It was the team’s second-ever win against Mexico and first since defeating El Trí in a one-game WCQ playoff held in Rome days prior to the start of the 1934 FIFA World Cup.
EDDIE LEWIS | March 27, 2005 (1-2 L)
It took nearly five visits spanning 25 years before the USMNT scored again at Azteca. With the side looking to qualify for its fourth consecutive World Cup, things were night and day from where they had been in 1980. The USMNT had also finely narrowed the competitive gap with Mexico at Azteca, earning its first point there in a 0-0 draw during 1998 qualification and narrow 1-0 defeats during the 1999 Confederations Cup semifinal and 2002 qualifying.
Eddie Lewis became the third member of the Azteca Scoring Club on Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005. Fresh off scoring the winner in a 2-1 victory at Trinidad and Tobago to open the final round of qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, the veteran winger used his patented left foot to hit home a low blast after Landon Donovan laid off a pass at the top of the box in the 59th minute.
Lewis’ strike was the lone bright spot for Bruce Arena’s team on the day, as the side never fully recovered from conceding goals from Jared Borgetti and Sinha in the span of three minutes during the first half.
Though a small setback on the road to Germany, the loss was the only one the U.S. suffered before clinching qualification five months later, exacting revenge with a 2-0 win against Mexico on Sept. 3, 2005 in Columbus.
CHARLIE DAVIES | August 12, 2009 (1-2 L)
Rare is the moment that one can bring quiet a capacity crowd of 100,000 people, but that’s exactly what Charlie Davies did when he opened the scoring in the USMNT’s visit to Azteca in 2009.
A nice build-up out of midfield led to Landon Donovan springing the 23-year-old in down the left. The striker turned on his jets, cut inside and curled a right-footed effort past Guillermo Ochoa to open the scoring in the ninth minute.
“It went from the loudest environment you could ever be in as a professional footballer, to silence,” Davies said recently. “I remember just looking up and I could hear the maybe 400 American fans that traveled on that day in the farthest corner of the stadium.”
Not one to miss his moment, the exuberant striker ran to the corner flag and used it as a microphone stand, playing a song in his own head as he danced in celebration.
It was a magical moment for Davies and the USMNT, but the lead was short-lived.
Ten minutes later, Israel Castro used the thin Azteca air to launch a rocked from 25 yards that beat Tim Howard and careened in off the underside of the crossbar. The U.S. hung tough through much of the match, but carried by the home crowd, Mexico broke through as Miguel Sabah fired home a close-range winner in the 82nd minute.
Despite the defeat, Davies’ ninth minute goal marked the first time the U.S. struck first at Azteca, providing a building block for future visits to Mexico City. For Davies, nothing in his career comes close to the time he scored at Azteca.
“That’s the moment that sticks out to me,” he added. “That’s the pinnacle of my career.”
MICHAEL OROZCO | August 15, 2012 (1-0 W)
As unlikely heroes go, Michael Orozco could be considered at the top of the list for the USMNT in 2012. First capped four years earlier, the defender did not earn another international appearance until the beginning of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure in 2011. Almost another year passed before Orozco represented the U.S. again, the Mexican-American center back sitting in reserve on the U.S. bench for an atypical friendly visit to Azteca.
Through much of the game, both sides saw decent opportunities go begging, making it seem as though the encounter would end scoreless. A member of Liga MX side San Luis at the time, Orozco entered in the 77th and made history three minutes later.
Brek Shea broke into the box on the left and centered a pass for Terrence Boyd at the top of the six-yard-box. The striker settled the ball before back healing towards the right post, where like clockwork, Orozco popped up to scrape home the game-winner with his left.
“The goal was for the U.S. fans and the whole of the U.S.," Orozco said following the game. “We made history tonight."
Facing their first-ever defeat to the U.S. on home soil, the goal galvanized Mexico who were put off by Tim Howard’s acrobatics on two occasions before the final whistle. Howard’s late heroics held up the result, but Orozco’s goal continues to resonate for those U.S. fans as well as all who know him personally.
“To this day, everybody talks about that goal -- friends, family members, coaches, teammates,” he said. “They call me "El Histórico". It's a good feeling. I think everybody remembers that goal."
MICHAEL BRADLEY | June 11, 2017 (1-1 D)
An exceptional talent combines equal parts preparation, recognition and execution. Michael Bradley masterfully mixed all three when he opened the scoring just six minutes into the USA’s 1-1 draw against Mexico during the team’s last visit to Azteca in 2017.
Having watched endless video on Mexico’s pattern of play, Bradley anticipated a back pass from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and pounced to intercept. Seeing goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa well off his line, he expertly launched a measured 35-yard chip that floated through the thin Azteca air that eluded the keeper’s desperate dive and billowed the back of the net.
“As I was able to intercept the pass from Chicharito, I took the first touch and saw that he was a good ways out,” Bradley recalled. “And here, you know that if you catch a ball right, with the thin air the ball's going to really fly. I wanted to make sure I caught it right. And I did.”
Though Mexico grabbed an equalizer from Carlos Vela in the 23rd minute, Bradley nearly bagged another from long distance late in the match, seeing his half volley cling off the right post in the 74th minute.
In the end, the teams settled for a 1-1 draw. Bradley’s well-studied strike was the earliest scored by the U.S. at Azteca and led to the first score-draw by the USMNT in Mexico.