A cagey soccer match in Azteca Stadium between Mexico’s national team and that of the United States resulted in a 0-0 draw, one that oddly enough, likely left both teams simultaneously dissatisfied, yet also a bit contented.
As much as Mexico is expected to win as the home team, the Azteca isn’t the fortress it once was. The shocking 0-0 result the Americans earned in 1997 marked the first time they’d ever gained even a single qualifying point from that venue. But in the last three qualifying games in Mexico, (2014, 2017, 2022) the U.S. team has earned a point in the famed Azteca every time.
Still, the Americans had hoped to make history with an actual qualifying victory in Azteca, especially since another opportunity to do so against Mexico will not arrive until the cycle that follows the next one (the USA, Canada and Mexico host in 2026 with guaranteed entries, so none of the teams will need to qualify.)
Mexico, even without winning, at least escaped the humiliation of a loss to the USA. With their final two games coming against regional minnows El Salvador and Honduras, El Tricolor fans can reasonably believe that their team is likely to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.
Despite the energetic way Mexico’s players began the game, controlling the ball possession and spending the majority of their time in the USA’s end of the field, the best first half chances fell to the Americans.
Christian Pulisic, in particular, had a golden opportunity in the 36th minute, as he one-timed a shot from a ball Tim Weah gifted him straight toward Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa’s chest.
At the half, both teams had four shots, but only one of Mexico’s was on target, while three of the ones the U.S. attempted required saves from Ochoa. The veteran goalkeeper for Mexico was up to the task and ended the night with four saves, twice as many as were required of his counterpart in goal, Downington’s Zack Steffan.
Once the second half was underway, in the 49th minute, Pulisic again could have done better with a low shot that Ochoa parried.
U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter went to his bench around the hour mark, replacing Ricardo Pepi and Weah with Jordan Pefok and Giovanni Reyna.
The Americans then wasted another glittering chance in the 72nd minute when Reyna met an Acosta pass in the box with a one-time redirection to Pefok, who shanked his shot high and right. Reyna spread his arms wide in momentary disbelief, as if to indicate how open the goal was for a decent attempt.
As the game drew to a close, Mexico’s attempts on goal grew increasingly desperate, but as happened throughout the game, again and again good build up play was wasted by a hastily taken shot. Hirving Lozano came closest in the 78th minute with a shot that sailed just over the bar.
The game was also scrappy, with the referee giving yellow cards to Miles Robinson, Edson Àlvarez, DeAndre Yedlin, Tim Weah and Alexis Vega.
Where they stand
Honduras was in some ways the hero of the day for the U.S. Though already mathematically eliminated from World Cup qualification, they played for pride and produced a late goal in their match against host Panama. That 1-1 result meant the Canaleros only earned a single point, which gives the Americans more breathing room near the top of the table. Jamaica and El Salvador also divided points in a 1-1 draw, while Costa Rica defeated Canada to claim all three points in that contest.
Canada remains at the top of the qualifying table with 25 points, then the United States and Mexico follow tied at 22, with the USA retaining goal differential advantage. Costa Rica has 19 points and Panama 18. El Salvador has 10 points. Honduras and Jamaica’s points totals eliminate both teams from contention for a qualification spot.