Weston McKennie celebrates after the USMNT's 2-0 win over Mexico during a FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifying match on Nov. 12, 2021 in Cincinnati.
CINCINNATI — A few seconds after Weston McKennie’s shot hit the back of the net in the 85th minute, a familiar refrain emanated from the great state of Ohio for the first time in eight years.
Perhaps you heard it:
Dos a cero!
Dos a cero!
The fans chanted it for the remainder of the World Cup qualifying match at TQL Stadium.
They chanted it incessantly as they left the stadium.
The Americans just didn’t defeat Mexico, they dominated their archrivals for almost an hour of the emphatic 2-0 victory in Cincinnati’s gleaming new stadium.
Dos a cero had become emblematic of the USMNT’s dominance of Mexico in World Cup qualifying matches on American soil. The U.S. men had won by that score in four consecutive qualifying matches in Columbus (2001, 2005, 2009, 2013) before the Mexicans broke the string in 2016.
Even though both teams have a 4-1-2 record and 14 points at the midway point of Concacaf’s “Octagonal” final round of qualifying, the triumph propelled the U.S. into first place. The Americans have two things going in their favor — superior goal differential (plus seven to plus five) and head-to-head results.
“It’s a huge to help us to get three points, in first place in the group, and to be in this position is unbelievable,” said midfielder Christian Pulisic, whose 74th-minute goal broke the deadlock.
It was unbelievable because the U.S. has now beaten Mexico three times in a year for the first time. The Americans previously defeated El Tri in the Concacaf Nations League final and in the Concacaf Gold Cup final.
And now this.
“I think we’ve earned respect,” Pulisic said. “The last couple of times we played them, they understand what we’re about and we understand what they’re about. That’s what makes a great rivalry. I’m just really happy that we could that we could come out on top again tonight. We knew it was always going to be a good game against Mexico. To get three points just helps us get a lot closer to qualifying.”
The confrontation featured the younger, less experienced American side against the more veteran and experienced Mexican squad.
The teams battled evenly for a good portion of the first half before the U.S. started to pull away in the waning minutes after wearing Mexico down with their press.
“We talked before the game about what we’re going to need to be successful in this game and the starting point was intensity,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said. “We wanted to break the rhythm with our pressing and eventually wear them down. The first half was it was an entertaining half. It went back and forth both teams were taking shots at each other. The second half is where we started to pull away.”
Pulisic, sidelined by a high ankle sprain since the September qualifying window, replaced Brenden Aaronson in the 69th minute. On his first touch five minutes later, Pulisic headed in Tim Weah’s right-wing cross past Guillermo Ochoa. Weah owned the right flank in the second half, sending the ball into teammates.
McKennie added an insurance goal in the 85th minute, after a nice give-and-go with second-half sub Jesus Ferreira.
As big as this victory was, the U.S. needs to get back to down to earth quickly because it has one more qualifier this calendar year — at Jamaica on Tuesday.
“First of all, it looks like getting good recovery in and then preparing ourselves as best as possible because this game is behind us now,” Pulisic said. “We haven’t accomplished our ultimate goal yet. Jamaica is going to be a tough match. We know let's know what they're about. We’re going to prepare as best we can.”