World Cup Qualifying recap: USMNT 1–2 Mexico

In a game of two halves, the US was narrowly beaten by a very good Mexico side, 2–1, with a first half goal from Miguel Layun canceled out in the opening minutes of the second half by Bobby Wood. A late goal from Rafa Marquez, though, sealed the points for the visitors.

First half

The US opened in an unexpected 3-5-2, with three center backs. Christian Pulisic started in the playmaker role. The formation was meant to put Mexico off balance, but it was the Mexicans that took the initiative early, quickly switching fields from side to side and moving the US’s wide center backs around. And in the tenth, the US nearly conceded the opener, with Jesus Corona curling in a shot from the US right that only the barest fingertip of Tim Howard’s diving left hand pushed onto the post.

The US grew into things a bit thereafter, but Mexico broke the Dos a Cero streak in the 20th. Michael Bradley won a challenge outside the US box, but the ball bounced away from him and Mexico’s Miguel Layun picked it up. Layun took one touch then took a shot. The ball took a slight deflection, carrying it around Howard’s dive and in.

And it almost got worse. In the 25th, Corona put in a cross, met by Carlos Vela and Matt Besler. Vela’s header deflected off Besler, onto the crossbar, and the ball was cleared. The close call finally forced the US into a formation change, switching to a 4-4-2, with Pulisic moved wide left. The switch immediately settled the US, but Mexico were still in the ascendancy.

In the 34th, Howard appeared to injure himself on a goal kick, requiring several minutes of trainers’ attention, but remained in the game. But after his next action—a routine save in the 39th—he called for a substitute. Brad Guzan entered the game.

The US was hanging on, but only just, with several players shown yellows or given stern warnings, as the half ended with just the one goal.

Second half

The US came out with a lot more fire to start the second half, and soon had the equalizer. John Brooks intercepted a ball in the back and sent a first time pass up the field to Jozy Altidore. Altidore put his defender on his back, turned well, and trucked upfield. He soon fed Bobby Wood making a run down the center. Wood used one touch to split two defenders, then waited and sent a shot through the challenge of a defender, deflecting it through the glove of Alfredo Talavera and into the net.

The US followed that up with a string of good chances, but had the referee to thank for avoiding a penalty kick for Mexico. Omar Gonzalez went to ground in the US box and made contact with Hector Herrera’s ankle. Herrera, however, made a theatrical leap to the ground, and the ref called it simulation, handing Herrera a yellow and the US a break.

In the 74th, Wood nearly had a brace, taking a flick-on from Altidore in the box, turning, then lacing a shot on goal that the keeper could only palm away. A minute later, Carlos Salcedo laid out Pulisic just outside the Mexico box. On the ensuing free kick, Altidore sent a shot heading for the upper 90, only to see it saved for a corner with a long reach from Talavera.

While the US were on top, Mexico was dangerous on the break, with a last-ditch tackle from Fabian Johnson the only thing stopping Mexico from taking the lead in the 79th. And for all the US’s dominance, Mexico would take the lead in the 88th minute. Mexico earned a rare corner kick on the US right side. The ball came in, and Rafa Marquez, of all people, met it with a near-post run. His flick was, in fairness, quite beautiful, and the ball looped over Guzan and nestled in the far corner. The US, whether by accident or design, had no one on the back post who might have headed the ball away.

Mexico was reduced to ten men in stoppage time when Salcedo received his second yellow for shoving Pulisic with the ball out for a Mexico throw. But it wasn’t enough for the US to find a late equalizer, and Mexico handed the US its first home World Cup Qualifying loss in 15 years, vanquishing their Dos a Cero demons in the process.

Final thoughts

The US played a poor first half, in which Mexico could have had the game salted away, then turned things around in a big way in the second. But the US couldn’t build on their tying goal and a fine headed finish from Marquez gave Mexico the win. This is a very good Mexico squad, perhaps the best the US has seen in half a decade or more, so a draw would have been a worthy result on the night. But losing even that point hurts.

The loss is by no means fatal to the US’s qualification chances, and should they play as well in upcoming games as they did for most of the second half, they will do just fine. But a repeat of the form of the opening 30 minutes against Costa Rica on Tuesday could easily put the US into a big hole.

Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Mexico
Date: Nov. 11, 2016
Competition: 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia – Qualifier
Venue: MAPFRE Stadium; Columbus, Ohio
Kickoff: 8 p.m. ET
Attendance: 24,650
Weather: 48 degrees; Partly cloudy 

Scoring Summary
MEX – Miguel Layún 20th minute
USA – Bobby Wood (Jozy Altidore) 49
MEX – Rafael Márquez (Miguel Layún) 89

1-Tim Howard (12-Brad Guzan, 40); 21-Timmy Chandler (2-DeAndre Yedlin 74), 3-Omar Gonzalez, 6-John Brooks, 5-Matt Besler (14-Michael Orozco, 81); 23-Fabian Johnson, 4-Michael Bradley (capt.), 13-Jermaine Jones; 10-Christian Pulisic, 17-Jozy Altidore, 7-Bobby Wood
Subs: 22-William Yarbrough, 8-Alan Gordon, 9-Aron Johannsson, 11-Alejandro Bedoya, 15-Steve Birnbaum, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 18-Julian Green, 19-Graham Zusi, 20-Lynden Gooch
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann

12-Alfredo Talavera; 4-Rafael Márquez (capt.), 5-Diego Reyes (2-Hugo Ayala, 46), 7-Miguel Layún, 10-Giovani dos Santos, 11-Carlos Vela, 14-Javier Hernández, 15-Héctor Moreno, 16-Héctor Herrera, 17-Jesús Manuel Corona, 18-Andrés Guardado (3-Carlos Salcedo, 28)
Subs: 1-Jesús Corona, 13-Guillermo Ochoa, 20-Jesús Dueñas, 22-Orbelín Pineda, 8-Marco Fabián, 9-Raúl Jiménez, 19-Oribe Peralta, 6-Jonathan dos Santos, 23-Hirving Lozano, 21-Oswaldo Alanís
Head coach: Juan Carlos Osorio

Stats Summary (USA / MEX)
Shots: 9 / 11
Shots on Goal: 5 / 5
Saves: 3 / 4
Corner Kicks: 5 / 1
Fouls: 18 / 13
Offside: 1 / 4

Misconduct Summary:
MEX – Diego Reyes (caution) 10th minute
USA – John Brooks (caution) 15
USA – Timmy Chandler (caution) 44
MEX – Héctor Herrera (caution) 58
MEX – Carlos Vela (caution) 64
USA – Matt Besler (caution) 68
MEX – Miguel Layún (caution) 70
MEX – Carlos Salcedo (caution) 76
MEX – Carlos Salcedo (caution) 90+3
MEX – Carlos Salcedo (ejection) 90+3

Referee: Walter Lopez (GUA)
Assistant Referee 1: Leonel Leal (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Gerson Lopez (GUA
4th Official: Oscar Reyna (GUA)


  1. Mexico was the better team and deserved the win. They came out with a better strategy and it was only the iron that kept the US in it.
    At least it wasn’t a free kick managing to squeeze through a wall. More of a corner kick that got through an unguarded border.

  2. Tinker tinker tinker.

    Stinker stinker stinker.

    Hoping to see Klinsman put his hand up and acknowledge that he only outfoxed himself.

    • Nope he didn’t. He blamed it on Bradley and Jones for not covering the middle. Once again he proves he’s classless and has no idea about tactics. If I have to hear him telling his players to “be brave” one more time I might puke.

    • Hehe, I wouldn’t hold your breath on Klinsmann issuing a mea culpa. Typical Klinsmann overthinking things and outsmarting himself. He even thinks it was a 3-4-3, but regardless, our midfield was non-existent in this formation and the match only turned when we switched to something with a little more balance. It seems like every US match, they come out with a puzzling lineup and formation which looks like the team hasn’t trained in this way. Then, an adjustment gets made to stabilize things. Jermaine Jones sums it up best below:

      “I think that we have to be more focused on us,” Jones said then. “Play with that what we have.”

      Yup, couldn’t agree more.

      • From ESPN FC:

        When Mexico midfielder Andres Guardado went down injured in the 26th minute, it was like a boxer being saved by the bell. It allowed both Bradley and Jones to walk over to Klinsmann and plead with him to change the formation. Bradley barely hesitated when asked who suggested the formation change, Klinsmann or the players: “I think ultimately it was among us all. It was clear that it made sense to change.”

  3. Team looked pretty good in moments last night. Bobby bloody Wood is awesome. We paid for a few bad decisions, and Mexico was the better team. But not by much. I’m actually a little encouraged and think we can beat Costa Rica…. provided Kilsmann doesn’t get the urge to go with a 2-3-5 formation. Stick with that second half lineup in the 4-4-2.

  4. Fire Klinsi.

  5. What I never understand about this team is why is Timmy Chandler on it to start, second stop changing formations, and third everyone already knew Miguel Layun was the target to stop. So what do they do they put Chandler on Layun’s side so Layun can boss the whole game and come up with a Goal and an assist and easily should’ve had more. It just doesn’t make sense to me 3 in the back was a terrible thought versus an attacking Mexican side. I mean hell with Jones healthy you were better off playing either a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-2-2 or a 4-4-2 which they switched to. The structure of this team is a joke when they play versus top teams. I don’t understand why coaches push things the team has no structure for, for example USMNT in a 3-5-2, the Union consistently playing a 4-2-3-1 all season when it is clear that the goals have dropped off and the personnel to play that structure is gone. I’m all for picking a system and sticking with it, but it has to match the players that you have that make the team succeed and it has to play to their strengths. Every team should at least be able to play in 2 to 3 formations incase of injuries or tactical advantages. Personally I think both the Union and USMNT have the same problem with tactics they don’t play to their strengths. USMNT should learn a 4-4-2 and a holding 4-3-3. The Union since they’ve been playing a 4-2-3-1 for most of the teams existence should learn that and the 4-4-2 if you ask me. I would like the union to learn a 4-3-3, but not sure they have the personnel for it yet.

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