The United States men’s national team has momentum but not history on its side as it prepares to host Mexico in a big World Cup qualifier on Friday.
The Yanks beat El Tri in this summer’s inaugural CONCACAF Nations League final then used an almost entirely new squad to beat Mexico in the Gold Cup final.
The two pieces of silverware matter greatly to U.S. fans as well as coach Gregg Berhalter and his players, but there’s more than a hint of anxiety as the rivals descend on Cincinnati for Friday’s match-up of CONCACAF’s top two nations.
The United States has not beaten Mexico in three consecutive competitive matches in the history of the rivalry and has only won three-straight matches including friendlies against El Tri twice, between 2000-01 and 2005-07.
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Longer unbeaten run are more common, with the U.S. boasting two four-match unbeaten runs and a six-match unbeaten run over the last 20 years, while Mexico last won three-straight competitive fixtures against the USMNT between 2009-11.
That was a remarkable run which included a 5-0 win in the 2009 Gold Cup Final, a 2-1 win in a 2010 World Cup qualifier at Azteca, and a 4-2 win in the 2011 Gold Cup Final.
And while the CNL win is a brand-new competition to go with the Gold Cup triumph, it’s easy to say that adding a Friday win to make the streak three — especially if it could carry a scoreline of, oh, I don’t know, dos a cero — would make Gregg Berhalter the author of the most impressive rivalry run in U.S. history.
We should also take a step back and note that the USMNT truly had dramatically swung the tide of the rivalry in the 2000s. The U.S. won the first ever meeting between the nations, a 1934 World Cup qualifier in Italy, but lost the next 10.
Mexico’s record stood at 21 wins, three draws, and one loss by the time the U.S. finally struck gold in a 1982 home World Cup qualifier.
Drawing a line before that qualifier and after the 1982 qualifier in Mexico won by El Tri provides a stark contrast.
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USMNT record versus Mexico, 1934 to November 9, 1980
Excluding friendlies: 1W-3D-13L
USMNT record versus Mexico, November 23, 1980 to present
Excluding friendlies: 12W-6D-13L
Yes, you’re reading that right: A U.S. win in Ohio on Friday would effectively level the rivalry in matches that matter over the last 40 years.
That’s saying a lot for a U.S. squad still perceived as a younger sibling of El Tri, even with the Yanks eliminating Mexico from the 2002 World Cup in what must be considered the most significant match between CONCACAF teams of this century and likely some distance prior to it.
Berhalter’s playing history against Mexico Includes some real momentous matches. He was on the bench when the Yanks knocked Mexico out of Copa America 1995 on penalties and played 120 minutes in the 1999 Confederations Cup semifinal loss to El Tri.
He went the distance in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16 dos a cero, lost a World Cup qualifier at Azteca in 2005, and won another dos a cero at home six months later.
What would it mean for Berhalter personally to help author another huge moment in the history of a rivalry destined to last as long as the nations themselves? Almost as much as it would to the Yanks’ 2022 World Cup fate, which would take a huge step toward being sealed with a win in Cincinnati.
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Gregg Berhalter can cement new place in USMNT vs Mexico lore on Friday originally appeared on NBCSports.com