USMNT defeats Mexico, draws to Jamaica in World Cup qualifying

Mark Keplinger, Sports Editor

Christian Pulisic inspired the USMNT to victory against Mexico. (Matthew Tate)

The United States Men’s National Team continued their qualification campaign for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with two more matches. The USMNT defeated their rivals Mexico 2-0 in Cincinnati before drawing 1-1 to Jamaica in Kingston, Jamaica.

Manager Gregg Berhalter called in a young team again, with the average age being just under 24 years old. Superstar forward Christian Pulisic of Chelsea FC returned to the national side, although he is still nursing an ankle injury. 

Other European-based players also joined the team, including forwards Brenden Aaronson of Red Bull Salzburg and Tim Weah of Lille OSC, midfielders Weston McKennie of Juventus, Tyler Adams of RB Leipzig and goalkeeper Zack Steffen of Manchester City FC. McKennie, in particular, has been in excellent form for Juventus entering the U.S. camp.

The United States did have several important players not called up. FC Barcelona right back Sergiño Dest missed out due to a lower back injury, while VfL Wolfsburg center back John Brooks was not chosen due to his poor form for the national team. Brooks admitted that his recent performances for the national team were not good enough but vowed to work hard to regain his starting spot.

Playing in a sold out TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, the Americans hosted hated rivals Mexico in a crucial qualifying match on Nov. 12. In an intensely fierce and chippy match, the United States emerged victorious thanks to a strong second half performance.

The home team started the game brightly, with the U.S. generating several half chances early. However, it was Mexico who had the best chances of the first half. Edson Alvarez’s first time shot from about 20 yards out was well saved by a fully outstretched Steffen. 

Several minutes later, quick passing through the American lines led to Hirving Lozano breaking through on the American goal with no defender in position to stop him, but Steffen came up with a heroic leg save. Lozano continued to cause problems, as his teasing deep cross found a wide open Jesús Corona 15 yards in front of the American goal, but Corona was unable to direct his shot on target.

Half time proved to be the turning point of the game, as the United States dominated from the second half kickoff. McKennie had the first chance of the half, as his first time effort was parried over the crossbar by the goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa. 

As the half went on, Mexican players began taking out their frustrations on the Americans. In one incident, after Aaronson was fouled, Mexican players manhandled the American to prevent him from restarting the game quickly. Aaronson was clawed in the face, leading to a skirmish on the far sideline between both teams and several yellow cards being brandished. 

However, the incident was quickly forgotten after the U.S. took the lead, thanks to substitute Christian Pulisic’s header. Tim Weah, who had been tormenting Mexico’s right flank all night, once again beat his man before crossing in a perfect ball which Pulisic converted. 

10 minutes later, McKennie continued his excellent form when he coolly slid his shot past Ochoa. The game ended with that famous scoreline 2-0, or as American fans know it, Dos a Cero

On Nov. 16, the USMNT traveled to Kingston to play Jamaica. The U.S. beat Jamaica 2-0 earlier in the qualifying cycle but this time would be different, as the match ended in a 1-1 draw.

Weah scored first for the Americans in the 11th minute after he skipped past several defenders before finishing well off the far post. Aaronson nearly doubled the lead but was foiled by goalkeeper Andre Blake.

The lead did not last long, as Michail Antonio’s stunning strike leveled the game at 1-1. Shooting from nearly 30 yards out, Antonio’s thunderous strike was unsaveable as it arrowed its way into the top left corner.

Neither side could provide much offense for most of the rest of the match, as both sides resorted to long shots which either sailed over the crossbar or were comfortably saved. Gianluca Busio came closest for the Americans, when his curling effort was barely too high, although a diving Blake appeared to have the area covered anyway. Jamaica should have scored through Bobby Reid, but he could not properly control the ball and ended up firing his shot well over the crossbar despite being only 4 yards in front of goal.

The USMNT will next be in action when they host Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18 for an international friendly. The Americans will continue their World Cup Qualifying campaign when they host El Salvador on Jan. 27, before traveling north to face Canada on Jan. 30. The USMNT will then return to host Honduras on Feb. 2.

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