MEXICO CITY -- When the final whistle blew that completed
Mexico's 2-1 win over the United States, the huge crowd of about
110,000 in Azteca Stadium seemed both happy and relieved.
By winning Sunday's World Cup qualifier, Los Tricolores avenged
a painful loss three years ago, restored their status as the top
team in the region and kept up a 68-year tradition of never losing
to the Americans at home.
"To get a result in Azteca is always pretty difficult," U.S.
midfielder Eddie Lewis said. "Maybe we're just not quite ready
Lewis scored the lone U.S. goal in the 59th minute off a feed
from Landon Donovan, the first goal in Mexico for the Americans
since 1984. Mexico imposed its will for most of the game, getting
goals from Jared Borgetti and Antonio Naelson during a four-minute
span midway through the first half.
For now, Mexico City's 7,200-foot altitude remains too high an
obstacle for the U.S. team to climb. The Americans are 0-22-1 in
Mexico, getting their lone point from a 0-0 tie in a 1997
"We were always taking the initiative," said Mexico coach
Ricardo Lavolpe, who received a congratulatory call from President
Vicente Fox. "For 90 minutes, there was only one team on the
There was some booing and whistling during "The Star-Spangled
Banner" but the Americans expected worse. After the game, about
100 people gathered for a peaceful celebration near Mexico City's
Angel of Independence monument. A few first tried to burn, then
trampled a small American flag while chanting "Osama! Osama!"
Mexico had felt the pressure since its 2-0 loss to the United
States in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, a game that
dented national pride. But that match was played in South Korea,
not Mexico, where the Tricolores are 54-1-4.
A large banner in Estadio Azteca's upper deck proclaimed: "El
Gigante No Ha Muerto," or "The Giant Is Not Dead Yet." And Los
Tricolores proved that right: Mexico ended both the Americans'
16-game unbeaten streak and their 31-game run without a loss
against regional rivals.
"We weren't lucky enough to make it a blowout," Lavolpe said.
After a lackluster opening 20 minutes, Mexico began to play the
ball wide and dominate, leaving the U.S. team gasping for air.
"Our players shut down the last 15 minutes of the first half,
and that cost us the game," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said. "They
were completely done at the 30-minute mark, obviously recovered a
bit at halftime and were able to play a little bit better in the
Arena started just one forward, Eddie Johnson, and used Oguchi
Onyewu in central defense because Eddie Pope is injured. The
Americans, who prepared for the altitude by practicing in Colorado
Springs, Colo., were overly cautious, seemingly afraid to waste
"It's hard because you're just too tired," Donovan said. "You
know if you're going to run 40, 50 yards when you have the ball,
you going to (have to) get back."
Mexico went ahead in the 30th minute after Francisco Fonseca
brought the ball into the penalty area and tipped it to Salvador Carmona,
who looped it to Jaime Lozano at the far post. As goalkeeper Kasey
Keller raced to cover, Lozano headed the ball back across to
Borgetti, who got by Onyewu and headed it in from 3 yards out.
"When they got the first one in, I think we just died a
little," Donovan said.
With the U.S. defense still looking disorganized in the 33rd
minute, Cuahutemoc Blanco sent a long pass from midfield to
Borgetti, who headed the ball in front of the goal. With Keller
coming out, Naelson banged the ball in off the far post from 11
"That was a really poor goal, one that I'm sure that we'll see
two or three times in the next couple of days to try to fix that,"
Mexico could have scored more but wasted opportunities.
"Coming in at half the way we were playing, my main concern was
let's make sure we don't get blown out," Donovan said.
Keller made a leaping save on Pavel Pardo in the second half,
then dived to knock away a free kick by Ramon Morales from just
outside the penalty area. Lewis had the first good U.S. chance in
the 53rd minute but was stopped by goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez on a
point-blank shot. After Lewis scored on a left-footed shot, the
Americans never came close to getting the tying goal.
"We sort of committed our big sin in Mexico City by just
dropping off and letting them have the game," Lewis said. "We
started too tentatively, too conservatively, I think we gave Mexico
too much respect."
Mexico (2-0) leads the final round of qualifying in the North
and Central American and Caribbean region with six points, two
ahead of Guatemala (1-0-1) and three in front of the United States
and Costa Rica (both 1-1). The top three nations qualify for the
2006 tournament in Germany, and the fourth-place team goes to a
While Mexican fans outside Azteca were waving their tricolor
flags, the U.S. team was off to the airport for the flight to
Birmingham, Ala., and Wednesday's qualifier against Guatemala.
That's the first home game for the Americans in the 10-game final
"Now," Keller said, "the real pressure is on."
U.S. midfielder DaMarcus Beasley received a yellow card in the 37th
minute for a foul on Rafael Marquez. It was Beasley's second yellow
of qualifying, resulting in a suspension for Wednesday's game.
Lavolpe was ejected in the 41st minute for arguing, after the
fourth official, Carlos Batres of Guatemala, called referee Rodolfo
Sibrian of El Salvador over to the sideline.