U.S. vs. Mexico: the top moments in their contentious, competitive rivalry
The U.S.-Mexico soccer rivalry goes back to 1934, when the two sides first met. Though the Americans won that inaugural match, 4-2, with all four goals scored by Aldo "Buff" Donelli, they went nearly half a century without another victory, and it wasn't until the 1990s that things became much more evenly matched.
Here are some notable -- and notorious -- highlights from the history books. Which side will get to write a happy chapter on October 10?
July 5, 1991: Welcome to the chaos
The U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 in the inaugural CONCACAF Gold Cup en route to the title (they beat Honduras on penalties). Goals from John Doyle (now San Jose Earthquakes general manager) and Peter Vermes (the current Sporting Kansas City coach) were the difference in front of a packed house of 41,103 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
As a sign of how bad such defeats can be for one's career, Mexico coach Manuel Lapuente was fired in the locker room following the loss.
June 18, 1995: The "'Oh, s---' moment"
The U.S. spanked Mexico 4-0 in their 1995 U.S. Cup (a four-team invitational tournament) game at RFK Stadium. It marked the emergence of Claudio Reyna, aged just 22, who notched a goal and two assists.
Kasey Keller, U.S. goalkeeper 1990-2007: "We had never handed it to them before. That was the 'Oh, s---' moment for Mexico, no doubt about it. They can't come in here anymore, have home-field advantage in the U.S. and cruise."
January 19, 1997: Lalas takes one for the team
El Tri's Ramon Ramirez kicks Alexi Lalas in the groin as Mexico defeated the U.S. 2-0 on American soil for the first time since 1974.
Lalas doubled over in pain, wincing from what he would later call "a full assault on my manhood." A newspaper photo the next day identified Ramon Ramirez as the culprit. A U.S. Soccer spokesman said Ramirez later signed a copy of the photo and sent it to Lalas.
November 2, 1997: USA "win" in Azteca
Jeff Agoos' red card in the first half seemed to doom the U.S., who had lost 21 straight games in Mexico prior to this early November clash. But they emerged "victorious" with a 0-0 draw in World Cup qualifying as El Tri couldn't convert. It would be another 16 years before the U.S. earned another point on enemy turf.
Alexi Lalas, U.S. defender, 1991-98: "All the stories about Azteca are true: the coins, the batteries and bags of urine, all the different stuff. It's not an urban myth. I just looked at it from a punk-rock type of standpoint. I loved it. 'Go on, bring it on.'"
February 28, 2001: U.S. creates its own Azteca
Looking to extract the most advantage from home field, U.S. soccer opted for the tiny, chilly outpost of Columbus, Ohio, for a string of crucial qualifiers beginning in early 2001. It was cold and unforgiving, with little room for El Tri supporters and little comfort for their team, who didn't even take the field to warm up. Substitute Josh Wolff notched a goal and an assist in the first of four straight 2-0 victories for the U.S. at 20,000-seat Crew Stadium. The Mexican media even labeled the game "The Cold War."
Alberto Macias, Mexico defender 2000-01: "It was a different climate than what we were used to. The way the people backed them surprised us, and the cold was tremendous. When we went out to warm up, we did so with pants and gloves, and even Jorge Campos wore long pants. I think it was the only time in his career that he used them."
Ricardo Osorio, Mexico defender 2003-11, of Crew Stadium in 2003: "[Playing in Columbus] is f---ed."
June 17, 2002: The U.S. sent Mexico packing
The two teams met in the 2002 World Cup round of 16, and the U.S., boosted by a 3-2 win over Portugal in the group stage, advanced with a 2-0 victory. Brian McBride struck early before Landon Donovan sealed the win with a 65th-minute header in Jeonju, South Korea. Rafa Marquez was then sent off two minutes from time for a studs-up tackle on Cobi Jones.
After the match, El Tri striker Luis Hernandez told Donovan he was going to find and kill his mother.
It was the biggest U.S. win (and most crushing Mexican loss) of the modern era.
Frankie Hejduk, U.S. defender, 1996-2009: "We get on the bus, we were celebrating, we were having so much fun. We had a couple of beers on the bus after that game. All of a sudden, our bus stopped at a red light. Another bus pulls up beside us as we're leaving the stadium. And it's [Mexico's] bus.
"All of a sudden they start flipping us off. We start dancing, chanting. All of our team was on one window. All of their team was on one window. We were chanting 'USA! USA!' It was such a crazy moment, such emotion. Our buses were three feet apart. Then the light turned green and both buses drove off."
Mexico coach Javier Aguirre, 2001-02, 2009-10: "You are only as good as your last performance, and today we lost against a team that it hurts so much more to lose against."
February 10, 2004: El Tri crush the Americans' Olympic dream
Mexico had to wait 18 months for revenge, and when it got the chance it routed the U.S. 4-0 at Guadalajara's Estadio Jalisco to eventually clinch an Olympic berth at the Yanks' expense. It was the first time the U.S. failed to qualify for the Olympics in 25 years.
Yet the game was more notable for something that happened before kickoff, as Landon Donovan was caught on camera allegedly urinating on the pitch.
Landon Donovan, U.S. forward, 2000-14: "[El Tri are] dirty and they're nasty and they spit on you and grab you where they shouldn't. It's bad. They want to get any advantage they can."
MedioTiempo editorial: "[Landon Donovan] has serious incontinence problems ... he has the custom of marking each field he is going to play on with his urine. ... It was provocation through a derogatory gesture, as if he felt superior, offending and pouring scorn on a stadium with as much tradition as the Jalisco."
September 4, 2005: Another "dos a cero" for the U.S.
A win in Columbus would seal a spot at the 2006 World Cup for the U.S., and they didn't disappoint, completing another 2-0 win thanks to goals from Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley. Oguchi Onyewu anchored a defense against the same Jared Borghetti who had destroyed them in the corresponding fixture five months earlier, winning 2-1 at the Azteca.
February 7, 2007: Eight straight shutouts for the U.S.
Despite being an "international friendly," this clash in Phoenix was anything but. Jimmy Conrad and Landon Donovan scored the goals, but the game stood out more for the actions of El Tri goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, who hit Eddie Johnson with a cynical slide tackle in stoppage time.
June 24, 2007: U.S. clinched the Gold Cup at El Tri's expense
The U.S. had little trouble in winning their fourth CONCACAF title, doing it on home soil with a 3-0-0 group stage record and a pair of comfy wins against Panama and Canada leading up to the final at Chicago's Soldier Field.
El Tri took the lead through Andres Guardado, but two goals in 11 second-half minutes from Landon Donovan and Benny Feilhaber earned Bob Bradley's side a memorable win.
The game-winner was no slouch, either: 22-year-old Feilhaber volleyed home a stunning goal from 25 yards.
Hugo Sanchez, Mexico forward, 1977-1994, and Mexico manager, 2006-08: "It isn't a very, very hurtful defeat. It all depends on the wound. If the wound is very small, it hurts you less than if it is huge. The team played well and we lost, so it hurts, but it hurts less in that way."
February 11, 2009: Hejduk got slapped
Opening another round of World Cup qualifying, the U.S. cruised to a 2-0 win in Columbus, Ohio, with two goals from Michael Bradley. And then El Tri assistant coach Paco Ramirez squared up to Frankie Hejduk in the tunnel ...
Hejduk: "The game ended, and I'm one of the last guys off because it's my home stadium. I remember walking off, and then this guy steps in front of me, and he had a suit on, he was a small little dude. I didn't know who he was. He held his credential up to my face for me to look at. When I looked at it, bam, he gives me this little slap in the face. I was like, 'What?' I literally didn't know what happened. I just put my hands in the air and went, 'Are you serious, dude?'
"People were like, 'Dude, he can't do that!' I was like, 'We won.' I laughed at it. I wasn't letting anything kill my buzz at that time."
Paco Ramirez, Mexico assistant manager 2002-06, 2008-09: "First of all, an apology ... he continued with the insults and that is how the conflict came about. Again, an apology."
July 26, 2009: Mexico took gold in emphatic fashion
What a way to end more than a decade of futility on American soil! El Tri thumped the U.S. 5-0 at Giants Stadium to claim their seventh Gold Cup. All five goals came after the 55th minute, and Jay Heaps (now coaching the New England Revolution) was sent off.
Aguirre: "Yes, we thought we would win the game, but not with such authority."
August 12, 2009: El Tri fought back, Donovan got a shower
Mexico proved that they had underdog qualities of their own, coming back after going down 1-0 (via Charlie Davies) after nine minutes to win 2-1 at the Azteca in their World Cup qualifier. Goals from Israel Castro and Miguel Sabah, who scored an 82nd-minute finisher, helped revitalize El Tri's World Cup bid in front of 100,000-plus fans in Mexico City.
Brian Ching, U.S. forward 2003-10: "Landon Donovan was about to take a corner kick and they have the security guards standing right over him, basically, with the shields protecting him from stuff being thrown."
Bill Simmons: "During a corner kick in extra time, they showered Landon Donovan with such a staggering amount of debris that he briefly staggered back toward the field in disbelief, shrugging his hands as if to say, 'How could anyone act like this?' You can't even call it just a hostile environment; it's more primal than anything."
June 25, 2011: Mexico wins the Gold Cup in LA
A crowd of 93,000 -- predominantly Mexico fans -- at the Rose Bowl saw the U.S. take a 2-0 lead inside 23 minutes before Mexico began its roaring fight back to a famous victory. Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado made it 2-2 before half-time. Then another Barrera strike and a cheeky chip from Giovani dos Santos gave El Tri a 4-2 win.
It was a game for Mexico fans to savor, not just for the result but also for the way the team came back and for that sumptuous Dos Santos goal to secure the victory. The match also seemed to hint that El Tri would go on to enjoy a dominant spell in the rivalry under coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre. Meanwhile, U.S. coach Bob Bradley would be fired a month later.
Goalkeeper Tim Howard also had a moment of madness, reacting angrily to Fernando Fiore, master of ceremonies for the medals presentation. "It is a f---ing disgrace the entire postmatch ceremony was in Spanish. You can bet your ass if we were in Mexico City, it wouldn't be all in English." Yet Fiore was switching between Spanish and English the whole time. Howard issued an apology through his agent three days later.
Donovan: "They're as dynamic as any Mexican team I've played against. They've got a few guys who can change the game in a heartbeat."
August 15, 2012: The U.S. conquer the Azteca
For the first time in 25 attempts, the U.S. got a victory in the thin air and high altitude of Mexico City. Michael Orozco Fiscal -- son of Mexican parents who's had a career in Liga MX since 2010 -- scored a stunning 80th-minute goal and Tim Howard made three clutch late saves.
Graham Zusi, U.S. midfielder, 2012-present: "Back in the locker room, I remember the guys taking pictures because we were the first team to do that. It was a celebratory feeling. Even though it was just a friendly, that didn't matter to us."
Andres Guardado, Mexico midfielder 2005-present: "I don't think the United States were better [than us] at any point."
October 15, 2013: "San Zusi" saved Mexico
The rivalry hasn't been entirely negative. El Tri was lifeless, down 2-1 and lacking ideas against an ecstatic Costa Rican side. In the last round of qualifying, El Tri was set to miss on the World Cup for the first time since 1982. At least that was the case 95 seconds before the final whistle.
Over in Panama, however, where the already qualified U.S. was playing their last game, the celebrations had already started with the home side up 2-1. The three points the win would give Panama would have been enough to shunt Mexico out of the intercontinental playoff spot. But Graham Zusi netted an equalizer in the third minute of injury time against Los Canaleros and the party was instantly over. Aron Johannsson then sealed a 3-2 victory one minute later.
The U.S. saved Mexico, even if the two weren't playing directly, and it felt like the Stars and Stripes had gotten one up on El Tri in a major way. Mexico's newspapers were full of joy for their rivals the next morning.
Rafael Ramos, ESPN columnist: "Mexico died in San Jose and was resurrected in Panama City."
Christian Martinoli, Mexican TV commentator (in English): "We love you. We love you forever and ever. God Bless America!"