Mexico ended its Columbus curse Friday night as it handed its fiercest rival USA a devastating 2-1 loss at the MAPFRE Stadium in what would be the start of World Cup nerves for the United States and in a game layered with political issues.
The fierce regional rivalry in international soccer between Mexico and the USA has attracted extra attention in the wake of Donald Trump’s winning the US presidency, whose campaign was fueled by his proposal to create a wall along the US-Mexico border and his tough stance with undocumented immigrants.
US captain Michael Bradley said that the already spicy World Cup qualifier in Columbus now has an extra layer to it.
“Given the way everything has gone [in the political arena] the last few months, there is an added layer to this game,” he said to reporters Wednesday per the Washington Post.
However, Mexico coach Juan Carlos Osorio has said that although he understands the fears regarding a Trump presidency, as he too was an immigrant worker in the US having previously worked as coach of Major League Soccer sides New York Red Bulls and Chicago Fire, his “efforts are all directed toward winning the game and nothing else.”
And now it seems coach Osorio and the team were focused on that goal as Mexico came out firing Friday night and could have put the game to end in the first half by dominating the US as if giving a resounding answer to a Trump presidency.
But then the Americans used a combination of desperation, history and anger to even the score early at the second half, scaring the Mexicans and putting them on their heels.
The electrifying match came to an end when Mexican captain Rafael Marquez delivered an 89th-minute game-winning goal that sent the USA to a 2-1 loss, its first at home at World Cup qualifying since 2001.
For 15 years, the US has defeated Mexico at World Cup qualifying, having won four successive 2-0 wins, and that entitled them to feel good about their chances of kicking off the last part of the road to Russia in style.
With the recent loss to Mexico, the US will next battle Costa Rica for the second match of six-team, yearlong, double-round robin tournament known as the Hexagonal on Tuesday. The top three teams will qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia with the fifth place heading into the inter-confederation playoffs.
As recent political history tells us, one bad night does not a campaign make. But the US soccer team have much to ponder as it prepares to leave what was previously its happiest hunting ground.
Photo Courtesy: Sporting Innovations/Flickr