This weekend features one of the biggest non-World Cup games in the USMNT’s recent history. Certainly it’s one of the biggest games of Jurgen Klinsmann’s tenure as manager. Most of the hot takes and debating is centered around Klinsmann and whether he should keep his job should the US lose on Saturday. To say nothing of this being Mexico, where the results take on outsized importance. The stakes are so high, yet the actual prize on the line—a trip to the 2017 Confederations Cup—is something of an afterthought.
Still. For all the hand-wringing USA fans have been doing in the run-up to the game, there’s plenty of good history and encouraging precedent to point to as they head into Saturday.
This week, we look at one heartening past meeting— the first ever “Dos A Cero,” February 28, 2001.
With CONCACAF World Cup qualifying heading into the home stretch, US Soccer was looking to max out home field advantage against their fiercest rivals. Columbus Crew stadium—at the time the only soccer specific stadium in the country—was chosen for the vital fixture. It’s unlikely anyone at the USSF knew this would be the staging ground of a new legend in international football.
Things didn’t get off to a good start. The US had to use 2 substitutions in the first half, with Josh Wolff clocking in after just 15 minutes to replace Brian McBride (who picked up an impressive shiner) and Clint Mathis tagging out Claudio Reyna. Yet the US managed to hang on through the first 45 minutes and head into the tunnel with a level scoreline, thanks in part to some solid netminding work from Brad Friedel (back when he had hair!).
The second half was when things got fun.
In the 47th minute, Mathis won the ball in midfield and sent a long looping pass into a wide open chasm in the forward third. Mexico keeper Jorge Campos rushed out into no man’s land to deal with it, confident he could beat Josh Wolff in a foot race. He was wrong. Wolff got just enough of a touch on the pass to get it around Campos, then took a few touches foward before slotting it into an empty net. It remains one of the most memorable goals in USMNT history.
And they weren’t done yet.
Having withstood some promising chances from Mexico, the US found themselves holding on to the lead with the clock running down. Wolff, dribbling by the corner flag to waste time, somehow managed to slip past two defender and race down the touchline toward goal. With just a half-second to spare before Campos would’ve been able to stop the play, Wolff laid the ball into space, teeing it up for Ernie Stewart who booted it into another empty net.
Dos. A. Cero.
No one could’ve known back then that such an innocuous scoreline would become such a Thing, and certainly not such a point of pride for USMNT fans. But it did, and it has. And with home field advantage this Saturday, the Yanks will be looking to make history repeat itself.
The playoff qualifier kicks off on Saturday at 9:30pm EST. English language coverage will be on Fox Sports 1, while Spanish language coverage will available on Univision.