Oguchi Onyewu’s first Mexico moment isn’t one he remembers fondly.
Entering a final round World Cup Qualifying match on March 27, 2005, the promising young defender with only two caps to his name was handed his toughest test to date when then-head coach Bruce Arena elected to start him in central defense in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s quadrennial visit to Estadio Azteca in Mexico City.
“You hear the stories about Azteca, but you can’t quite grasp it until you’re in it,” Onyewu told ussoccer.com. “The altitude in the stadium, the fans and the atmosphere plays an even bigger part in making it one of the toughest places to play in the world.”
Partnering with Gregg Berhalter on the back line, the 6-4 center back was also given the unenviable task of marking Mexico’s all-time leading goal scorer Jared Borgetti. The veteran forward, known for his aerial prowess, broke free from Onyewu in the 30th minute to deliver the hosts the opening goal. Beyond his goal, Borgetti gave Onyewu fits most of the match, helping Mexico to a 2-1 win while providing the budding U.S. center back a difficult lesson in World Cup Qualifying.
“Borgetti is a mainstay in Mexican soccer history. He got a goal and unfortunately rained on my parade. It was a definite eye-opener for my first USA-Mexico game at Azteca Stadium.”
Despite the loss, the U.S. cruised through “The Hex” that year, winning its next four matches. Onyewu appeared in two of those wins – a 2-0 victory three days later against Guatemala and 1-0 shutout against Trinidad & Tobago that August – and picked up even more international seasoning that summer by helping the U.S. lift the 2005 CONCACAF Gold Cup.
Those results had the MNT riding a nine-match unbeaten streak heading into September’s rematch against Mexico in Columbus. With both teams making quick work of their qualifying opponents, a win for either side that night meant they would be the first from CONCACAF to punch a ticket to the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Putting the bigger picture aside, the rematch had personal meaning for Onyewu.
“After the first game and our loss I definitely was looking forward to the home game in Columbus,” he said. “It was about redemption for myself, but also to rectify the result that we didn’t get in Mexico City. I was extremely focused, as well as everyone else on our team, but I definitely was not about to let Borgetti get the better of me two times around.”
In order to do that, Onyewu focused his efforts on physically frustrating Borgetti from the first whistle and set the tone for the one-on-one clash in the ninth minute. A ball played for Borgetti up the left flank saw him immediately shadowed by Onyewu. The two grappled down the touch line before Carlos Batres blew his whistle to indicate a free kick.
While a foul was committed by Onyewu, it also served to get under Borgetti’s skin, with the veteran forward immediately popping up to throw verbal jabs at the towering defender.
What happened next has become one of the most iconic moments in the USA-Mexico rivalry.
With Borgetti animated in his frustrations toward his marker, Onyewu didn’t respond. Instead, he chose to kindly brush aside the Mexico forward’s protests with an intimidating look that has come to be known in U.S. Soccer circles as “The Stare Down”.
“Obviously in that moment, it never was my objective for that stare to become as big as it has,” Onyewu said. “It’s just one of those moments in the game, and it was such a physical battle between him and I.
“What I remember is that I knocked him down, he got up and he looked like he was going to do something to me and I was really hoping he would. I don’t know what would have happened next, but I was expecting something would have happened. I’m just staring at him like, ‘Either do something or don’t do something.’ I guess that image is forever imprinted in U.S. Soccer history. That image itself speaks of the whole subject of that game in Columbus, Ohio against Mexico.”
The moment sent a message to Borgetti that the match would be altogether different from March’s encounter at Azteca. At the other end of the field, Onyewu's header off the left post setup Steve Ralston's go-ahead goal in the 53rd minute before DaMarcus Beasley added the second five minutes later. Onyewu indeed gained redemption as his play on both sides of the ball earned him Man of the Match honors.
And while a victory against Mexico always provides a reason to celebrate, bigger party plans were in order that night as the U.S. booked its spot at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
“We had confirmed our berth in the World Cup and we were just celebrating and happy,” Onyewu said. “I think that’s the only thing that was on our minds: the fact that we accomplished our goal and we had something even bigger to look forward to.”Read more
- U.S. Struggles in Mexico Continue as All-Time Record Falls to 0-22-1
- Two First Half Goals By Mexico Within Three Minutes Provide Mexico With Victory
- Eddie Lewis Scores Lone Goal for U.S. in 59th Minute
- U.S. Travels Back to the States for Next Qualifier Against Guatemala on March 30 live on ESPN2 at 8 p.m. ET at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.
MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 27, 2005) — The U.S. Men’s National Team continued their struggles in Mexico during their second match of the final round of FIFA World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF region with a 2-1 loss to the host this afternoon at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico.
The U.S. will fly to Birmingham, Ala., on Sunday night to prepare for the first home qualifier of the final round against Guatemala on Wednesday at 7 p.m. CT at Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala. on the third matchday of qualifying this year. Midfielder DaMarcus Beasley will sit out that match after picking up his second yellow card of qualifying in the 37th minute. The match will be televised live on ESPN2, and same-day-delay on Telemundo at 11:30 p.m. ET and PT. The match can also be followed live via ussoccer.com's MatchTracker, presented by Philips.
After a slow-paced beginning, Mexico sprinted to a two-goal lead with finishes by Jared Borgetti and Antonio Naelson within a four-minute span in the first half that put a dent in the USA’s plans to come away from Estadio Azteca with a point, something the U.S. has only done once. The U.S. struggled offensively, getting only three shots in the first half, but finally got in a bit of an offensive groove in the second half and Eddie Lewis cut the lead in half with a well-placed strike in the 59th minute. The U.S. looked to find the equalizer in the final 20 minutes, but it ended up being Mexico who peppered the U.S. goal, forcing U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller to come up with a couple big saves.
The U.S. has never beaten Mexico in Mexico as their record dropped to 0-22-1. The loss was the first for the U.S. in 16 games, an unbeaten streak that began over a year ago, and also ended their 11-game unbeaten streak in World Cup qualifying games and their 31-game unbeaten streak against CONCACAF opponents.
"Any way you look at it, altitude was a big factor. I believe our players shut down in the last 15 minutes of the first half and it cost us the game," said U.S. Manager Bruce Arena, who fell to 6-4-1 against Mexico. "Our goal at halftime was to get a goal back in the first 15 minutes and we did that, and we positioned ourselves to perhaps get a point from the game."
"We were the only team in this competition that had their first two games on the road. If you had asked if I would be happy that we had three points after two games, I would say yes."
The U.S. had the first shot on goal in the fifth minute. Right back Steve Cherundolo curled in a cross to the left side of the box where Eddie Johnson brought it down and dropped it to the top of the area for Claudio Reyna, but his low strike was wide right.
A minute later, Mexico got deep into the U.S. penalty area as a cross came in from the left side. Borgetti brought it down at the right post and struck a shot that Gregg Berhalter was able to block. The deflection fell dangerously to Francisco Fonseca in the front of the goal and he hit it first time, but Reyna was there to block his shot as well before it was cleared out of the area.
Mexico took the lead in the 30th minute on an attack that started with Fonseca dribbling into the left side of the penalty area. Unable to get around Carlos Bocanegra, Fonseca dropped the ball back towards the sideline for Salvador Carmona, who lofted a cross to the back post for Jaime Lozano a few yards from the endline. Keller traced the cross from left to right and dove to cover the left post believing Lozano would head it on goal, but instead the midfielder headed it back across the goalmouth to Borgetti who headed it into the wide-open net after getting free from Oguchi Onyewu.
Borgetti’s goal ended Mexico’s scoreless streak against the U.S. at 463 minutes. The streak spanned the last six games between the two rivals, four of which were shutouts by the U.S. defense.
Three minutes later, the U.S. fell into a deeper hole when Mexico doubled their lead. Blanco knocked in a long ball from left side of the centerline to the top of the 18-yard box where Borgetti was able to head the ball back to the left for an unmarked Naelson in the penalty area. With just Keller to beat, Naelson took a settling touch and then chipped the ball around the ‘keeper, hitting the inside of the upper right post before the ball crossed the goal line.
In an interesting twist, Mexico head coach Ricardo LaVolpe was sent off in the 41st minute for arguing with the referee on the sidelines.
In the 42nd minute, the U.S. had their last attempt on goal of the half when Donovan brought down a cross inside the penalty area on the right side. He cut inside and unleashed a low shot towards the near post, but a defender deflected his attempt out for a corner.
The U.S. finally tested Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez in the 52nd minute off a good buildup that started on the right flank. DaMarcus Beasley pushed the ball up to Donovan who dribbled toward the right corner of the penalty area before dropping it across the 18-yard line where Johnson let it roll through his legs leaving it for Lewis. The midfielder cracked a low drive on goal, but Sanchez was able to get down and deflect the ball for the save.
Lewis got another attempt on goal seven minutes later and this time didn’t give Sanchez any chance for a save, cutting Mexico’s lead in half in the 59th minute. Johnson was released down the right flank and brought the ball into the penalty area before cutting the ball back to Donovan a few yards behind the penalty spot. Donovan was able to control the ball while holding off Carlos Salcido and pass the ball square to his left to set-up Lewis, who drilled a left-footed one-timer into the lower right corner.
After weathering the U.S. storm, Mexico turned up the pressure as they looked to put the game away with a third goal, but Keller gave the U.S. the chance to find the equalizer in the final 10 minutes with some big-time saves. In the 75th minute, Keller did well to parry a 25-yard blast from Pavel Pardo and then was well positioned to make a save on Ramon Morales’ shot directly in front of the goal that went just wide of the left post.
Keller’s best effort came in the 79th minute as he stretched out to knock away a Mexican free kick. Morales curled the 18-yard free kick around the U.S. wall towards the lower-left corner, but Keller was able to react quickly and dive to his right to get a glove to the ball and push it to the outside of the post.
Looking for the equalizer to sneak out with a point, the U.S. moved to a 3-4-3, bringing Pat Noonan in for Bocanegra and Brian McBride for Cherundolo, with McBride joining Eddie Johnson and Landon Donovan up front. The change didn’t provide the offensive attack the U.S. was hoping for though, as it was Mexico that took advantage of the fewer men on the backline. Mexico continued to attack, mainly up the right flank, but were unable to connect on a final pass as the U.S. defense bent, but didn’t break.
After Matchday 2, the U.S. is now in third place in CONCACAF Final Round qualifying, as Mexico leads the group with six points and Guatemala, the U.S. opponent this Wednesday, is second with four points. In other CONCACAF action this weekend, Costa Rica topped Panama by a 2-1 margin in an empty Estadio Saprisa in San Jose, Costa Rica, as the Ticos were ordered to play the game behind closed doors as a sanction for fan actions in their opening game. In the other game, the next U.S. opponent Guatemala trounced Trinidad & Tobago at home by a 5-1 margin, with Guillermo Ramirez opening the scoring and Carlos Ruiz and Dwight Pezarossi each scoring two.
-- U.S. Men’s National Team Game Report --
Match-up: USA vs. Mexico
Date: March 27, 2005
Competition: 2006 World Cup Qualifier
Venue: Estadio Azteca; Mexico City, Mexico
Kickoff: 12 p.m. CT
Attendance: 110,000 est.
Weather: partly cloudy, 79 degrees
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 1 1
Mexico 2 0 2
MEX – Jared Borgetti (Jaime Lozano) 30th minute
MEX – Antonio Naelson (Jared Borgetti) 33.
USA – Eddie Lewis (Landon Donovan) 59.
USA: 18-Kasey Keller; 4-Carlos Bocanegra (13-Pat Noonan, 75), 3-Gregg Berhalter, 22-Oguchi Onyewo, 6-Steve Cherundolo (20-Brian McBride, 83); 25 Pablo Mastroeni (14-Steve Ralston, 70), 10-Claudio Reyna (Capt.), 7-Eddie Lewis, 17-DaMarcus Beasley, 21-Landon Donovan; 9-Eddie Johnson
Subs not used: 24-Jon Busch, 2-Clint Dempsey, 12-Cory Gibbs, 16-Josh Wolff
Head Coach: Bruce Arena
MEX: 1-Oswaldo Sanchez; 18-Salvador Carmona, 4-Rafael Marquez (Capt.), 5-Ricardo Osorio, 6-Carlos Salcido; 19-Jaime Lozano (23-Luis Perez, 68), 8-Pavel Pardo, 7-Antonio Naelson; 17-Jose Francisco Fonseca, 10-Cuahutemoc Blanco (11-Ramon Morales, 68), 9-Jared Borgetti (16-Alberto Medina, 65)
Subs not used: 2-Francisco Rodriguez, 12-Oscar Perez, 20-Rafael Garcia, 22-Hector Altamirano
Head Coach: Ricardo LaVolpe
Stats Summary: USA MEX
Shots 5 12
Saves 4 1
Corner Kicks 3 7
Fouls 12 5
Offside 1 10
MEX – Cuauhtemoc Blanco (caution) 28th minute.
USA – DaMarcus Beasley (caution) 37.
MEX – Ricardo La Volpe (ejection) 41.
USA – Gregg Berhalter (caution) 51.
Referee: Rodolfo Sibrian
1st Asst.: Carlos Pastrana
2nd Asst.: Reynaldo Salinas
Fourth Official: Carlos Batres
ussoccer.com Man of the Match: Kasey Keller
2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying Schedule
CONCACAF Final Round
Team P W L D GF:GA GD PTS
Mexico 2 2 0 0 4:2 +2 6
Guatemala 2 1 0 1 5:1 +4 4
United States 2 1 1 0 3:3 0 3
Costa Rica 2 1 1 0 3:3 0 3
Panama 2 0 1 1 1:2 -1 1
Trinidad & Tobago 2 0 2 0 2:7 -5 0
Date Match (home teams listed first) Location Kickoff/Result
Feb. 9 Panama vs. Guatemala Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 0:0
Feb. 9 Costa Rica vs. Mexico Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose 1:2
Feb. 9 Trinidad & Tobago vs. USA Queen’s Park Oval; Port of Spain 1:2
March 26 Costa Rica vs. Panama Estadio Ricardo Saprissa; San Jose 2:1
March 26 Guatemala vs. Trinidad & Tobago Estadio Mateo Flores Guatemala City 5:1
March 27 Mexico vs. USA Estadio Azteca; Mexico City 2:1
March 30 Panama vs. Mexico Estadio Rommel Fernandez; Panama City 8:30 p.m. ET
March 30 USA vs. Guatemala Legion Field; Birmingham, Ala. 7 p.m. CT
March 30 Trinidad & Tobago vs. Costa Rica Hasely Crawford Stadium; Port of Spain 3:30 p.m. ET