U.S. overpowers El Tri, revives ‘dos a cero’ tradition

Jesús Corona and Mexico have now lost to Team USA three times in a row. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
Jesús Corona and Mexico have now lost to Team USA three times in a row. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /
El Tri USA dos cero
Christian Pulisic (No. 10) and Weston McKennie (No. 8) each scored to lead Team USA to a 2-0 win over El Tri in a World Cup qualifier. (Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images) /

There’s no doubt about it. The balance of power in Concacaf has shifted.

Team USA outclassed Mexico in a World Cup qualifier, pulling away for a 2-0 victory with a dominant second-half showing. The faces of the generational shift – Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic and Juventus’ Weston McKennie – supplied the goals, helping the U.S. nudge El Tri out of the top spot in the Concacaf table.

El Tri looked like the better side through the opening 20 minutes, showing poise and patience even as “Tata” Martino was relying on a make-shift central defense (top choice back-liners César Montes and Héctor Moreno were injured, and top sub Néstor Araujo was suspended). But Julio César Domínguez and young Johan Vásquez put in solid performances.

Mexico’s best chance during the early going saw “Tecatito” Corona send “Chucky” Lozano in behind the defense in minute 18. The Napoli man raced to the top of the box with right back DeAndre Yedlin in hot pursuit. Lozano fired a skimmer from 16 meters that was ticketed for the inside post, but Man City keeper Zach Steffen lunged to his left and got a mitt on it.

El Tri knocked onto back foot

The game basically turned after that with Team USA pressing forward like a gathering storm, sustaining possessions deep in the El Tri half. Captain Guillermo Ochoa was up to the task when called upon, but it soon became apparent that Mexico’s fullbacks were vulnerable … and the U.S. knew it.

Timothy Weah and Yunus Musah took turns tormenting left back Jesús Gallardo while Miles Robinson repeaedly took advantage of right back Luis Rodríguez. The U.S. was able to bombard Mexico’s area with crosses and centering passes, often maintaining possession inside the El Tri defensive third and disrupting clearance efforts.

Rodríguez and “Tecatito” were particularly error-prone in the second half, keeping El Tri on its heels with untimely turnovers and misplays.

In minute 74, Weah sped past Gallardo for the umpteenth time, dribbling nearly to the touch line before zipping a low cross into the goal mouth just as Pulisic made a run toward the near post. “Cata” Domínguez was late in getting his body on Pulisic and the Chelsea man powered a header past Ochoa from close range.

Eleven minutes later, McKennie ran into space, dummied a pass then tried a give-and-go with Jesús Ferreira only to have his pass blocked by Charlie Rodríguez. The ricochet sprang the alert McKennie into the box all alone and he slotted home inside the far post to revive give new life to that dispiriting “dos a cero” chant.

U.S. now Big Man on Concacaf Campus

The victory on a cold, drizzly night in Cincinnati, Ohio, was the third straight for the U.S. over El Tri, only the third time the Americans have managed to cobble together three in a row over their bitter rivals.

The difference this time is that all three matches were official games. Gregg Berhalter & Co. defeated El Tri 3-2 in June (Concacaf Nations League final) and 1-0 in August (Gold Cup final).

No doubt, Mexico manager “Tata” Martino will be raked over the coals, and his failure to use the bench more judiciously will be a point of contention. The Argentine lacks the conviction to make changes, and comes up short in tactical adjustments.  Unfortunately, this is a common lament.

It doesn’t get any easier for El Tri with a trip to Edmonton in the offing where third-place Canada (13 points) is eager to climb past the Mexicans into second place.

After Friday’s Round 7 results, Team USA and El Tri sit atop the qualifying table at the halfway point, each with 14 points. The Americans are ahead on goal differential (+7 to +5). The rematch between the new Concacaf giant and the old Concacaf giant is set for Round 12 on March 24, most likely in Mexico City.

Next. US-Mexico rivalry, by the numbers. dark

Salvadoran ref Iván Alcides Barton was in charge and no serious complaints can be lodged against him. There were two mini-scuffles midway through the second half, but Barton restored order quickly both times.