The USA and Mexico face off in Columbus for a fifth straight World Cup qualifying cycle on Friday (7pm ET, FS1) to open The Hex. What have been the most memorable games of this great rivalry? We look back at the 10 best.
Dos A Cero in Columbus, Pt. 4 – 2014 World Cup qualifying
The USMNT beat Mexico in Columbus, 2-0, for a fourth straight time, punching their ticket to Brazil with two games to spare and setting a new record for wins in a calendar year with 14. Landon Donovan scored his final international goal to provide the signature scoreline, which Clint Dempsey later preserved by missing a penalty kick in stoppage time. We like to think Deuce missed on purpose.
El Tri come back at the Azteca – 2010 World Cup qualifying
Charlie Davies scored just four minutes into the game to give the U.S. their first ever lead at the Estadio Azteca, but it lasted just ten minutes thanks to a gorgeous, long-range blast from Israel Castro. The hard-fought game remained tied until the 82nd minute, when substitute Miguel Sabah completed the comeback for the hosts. The winner dropped the USA’s record in Mexico to 0-23-1, including 0-9-1 a the Azteca.
The Azteca drought continues – 2006 World Cup qualifying
This was the year the U.S. were supposed to finally get a result in Mexico. A team many considered to be the USA’s best to date, riding a 15-game unbeaten streak, came up against an equally strong Mexico team, and the game lived up to the hype. Two goals from Jared Borgetti and Antonio Naelson in four first-half minutes had El Tri in control, but Eddie Lewis’ goal at the hour mark set up a thrilling back-and-forth finish. Kasey Keller kept the U.S. in it with three outstanding saves, but Mexico held on their end as well to seal the three points and extend the USA’s misery at the Azteca.
Feilhaber's volley – 2007 Gold Cup Final
The USMNT had won eight of eleven meetings and was undefeated on U.S. soil with no goals conceded since the turn of the millennium against Mexico going into the rivalry's third Gold Cup final. Andres Guardado scored the opener in Chicago just before halftime, but two goals in 11 minutes from Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber gave the U.S. their first come-from-behind victory over El Tri. Feilhaber’s 25-yard volley winner counts among the team’s best goals of all time, and Tim Howard made an exceptional save in the 89th minute to preserve the victory.
A message to the world – 1995 Copa America quarterfinals
Coming off a solid showing at the 1994 World Cup on home soil, the U.S. continued to earn global respect by sensationally topping their Copa America group with a win against Argentina. That set up a quarterfinal date against their archrivals, who they had embarrassed 4-0 in the U.S. Cup just a month earlier. Mexico were out for revenge, but neither side could score in a typically physical game, sending it into penalty kicks for the first and still only time in the rivalry. Eric Wynalda, Joe-Max Moore, Paul Caligiuri and Frank Klopas scored, while Brad Friedel made two excellent saves to help the U.S. advance and make a big statement. After decades of Mexican dominance, the tide had finally started to turn.
Mexico strikes back – 2011 Gold Cup Final
The U.S. and Mexico had spent a couple years going back and forth, and were coming off of solid 2010 World Cups. With more than 90,000 in attendance at the Rose Bowl, the stage was set for a huge clash. Michael Bradley and Landon Donovan staked the U.S. a 2-0 lead after just 23 minutes, but Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado tied it up before halftime. Barrera struck again shortly after the break, and what followed was an up-and-down affair until Giovani dos Santos killed it off with an outrageous chip shot into the upper 90, Mexico’s fourth unanswered goal. It was only the second time in the past 12 years that Mexico were able to beat their rivals on American soil.
A draw that's like a win – 1998 World Cup qualifying
The U.S. had lost 21 straight games on Mexican soil going into this ’98 World Cup qualifier, and it looked like they were headed for No. 22 after Jeff Agoos was sent off just 32 minutes in. But the U.S. showed incredible poise and battled to a goalless draw that felt much more like a victory, playing so well that the sold-out crowd at the Azteca began to turn on El Tri and applaud their biggest rivals. The draw was the USMNT’s first ever result in Mexico.
Extra time madness – 2015 CONCACAF Cup
The last meeting between the two foes was also one of its most entertaining. In front of a mostly pro-Mexico crowd at the Rose Bowl, the last two Gold Cup winners squared off with a place in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the line. Javier Hernandez and Geoff Cameron traded goals in the first 15 minutes, and the game remained tied after 90 minutes. In extra time, Oribe Peralta fired Mexico ahead, only for Bobby Wood to answer with 12 minutes to go. But a beautiful volley from Paul Aguilar in the 118th minute sent El Tri to a thrilling victory, Mexico’s third straight over the U.S. in Pasadena.
"The Cold War" – 2002 World Cup qualifying
The U.S. wanted to create some extra homefield advantage by having the home World Cup qualifier against their big rivals played in Columbus for the first time. It worked. El Tri never even went out for warm-ups to avoid the blistering Midwest cold, and fell 2-0 in what the Mexican press would dub “La Guerra Fria”, on goals by Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart. It was just the third time ever the U.S. beat Mexico by more than a goal in a competitive match.
The Biggest Stage – 2002 World Cup Round of 16
The USA’s 2-0 win in Jeonju, South Korea remains the biggest win of the USMNT’s history and arguably Mexico’s most crushing defeat. Brian McBride and Donovan scored the goals to send the U.S. to their first World Cup quarterfinal since the inaugural version in 1930, when there were only 13 participants. Mexico didn’t take the loss too well. Rafa Marquez was sent off late for a studs-up tackle on Cobi Jones, and after the match Luis Hernandez told Donovan that he was going to find and kill his mother. Nothing beats squaring off on the biggest of stages, and the World Cup was that as the Americans triumphed over their rivals.