For a third straight Hexagonal, the U.S. Men's National Team's 2-0 win against Mexico to begin the Final Round of FIFA World Cup Qualifying gave fans at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio the satisfaction of singing "Dos a Cero" once again on Feb. 11, 2009.Read more
Originally published on October 10, 2015.
A self-admitted fan of the U.S. Men’s National Team long before he ever wore the red, white and blue, Michael Bradley fondly recalls the feeling he had ahead of his first World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Columbus in 2009.
“I remember sitting on the bus, driving to the stadium and letting it all sink in,” said Bradley. “Obviously, games against Mexico need no introduction, especially the qualifier in Columbus and what that has become.”
A match that has occurred every four years since 2001 has become a rite of passage of sorts for U.S. players, balancing the very pro-American atmosphere in the intimate venue with the chance of challenging weather and the common, “Dos A Cero” score line.
As a heavy down pour gave way to strong winds and cool temperatures, Bradley broke the tension of a back and forth first half in the 43rd minute.
“A corner kick got headed back across the goal by Landon Donovan and then on goal by Gooch (Oguchi Onyewu),” Bradley said. “The keeper made a save and I think I had run early and drifted back towards the goal. When the goalkeeper saved it, it sat up perfectly for me and I was able to smash it in.”
Having gone into halftime up 1-0, the U.S. gained a man advantage midway through the second half when Mexico defender Rafa Marquez was sent off for a vicious aerial challenge on Tim Howard.
The ejection put the U.S. in the driver’s seat for the rest of the match, but the elusive second goal didn’t come until second half stoppage time.
“They were obviously pushing to see if they could get it to 1-1 and we won a ball and played it forward,” said Bradley. “Jozy did really well to move with it and he ended up getting fouled pretty good. The play kind of kept going because I think the ball rolled to Landon’s path. Without running too hard I was able to move myself forward with the play, he played a pass back to me, I took a good first touch and on a wet night I thought if I could hit a good shot on target it might have a chance. I caught it well, got it moving a bit and that was it.”
Shortly thereafter, the final whistle blew and the third “Dos A Cero” result in Columbus was complete, building the psychological advantage the U.S. holds over Mexico in that special fixture.
“These games against Mexico in Columbus – the way things have played out on certain types of nights – 2001 when it was real cold, 2009 when it was cold, windy and rainy – it adds to it all in a special way,” said Bradley. “By now, when that schedule comes out for the Hex and they know they have to come to Columbus, mentally there’s an edge for us already.”Read more
Where were you on Feb. 11, 2009? Chances are you were either posted up in front of your TV, getting ready to watch the USA open the final round of World Cup qualifying, or if you were lucky enough to score a ticket (and determined to brave some intense conditions) then you were making your way to Columbus Crew Stadium to watch the MNT take on Mexico.
Six years ago today, the USA beat Mexico 2-0 in Columbus, setting Bob Bradley's team on the path to an eventual first-place finish in the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying final round group. An excellent team performance was punctuated by goals in each half from Michael Bradley as the USA earned a deserved victory against their regional rivals.
In addition to the familiar scoreline, the game was memorable for many other reasons: the eerie thunderstorm before the game, the incredible support from U.S. fans, and the sense of accomplishment at foiling Mexico yet again in the fortress of Crew Stadium.
We asked a few players who were involved that night to reminisce about that memorable night. The first thing Brian Ching mentioned was the weather, not surprising for the native Hawaiian. "I remember it was freezing," said Ching, who put in a workman-like shift up top alongside Landon Donovan. "We had been preparing for a long time, and we came out extremely determined. There is always a lot of hype around a Mexico game. We knew what we needed to do, and we got it done.”
"It was an important win for us, starting us off on the right foot in the final round of qualifying."
Fresh off a hat trick against Sweden, midfielder Sacha Kljestan started in the center of the park for the USA, and he too recalled the special atmosphere that night.
"I was glad to be a part of the team that day. I remember coming out for warm-ups and seeing all our fans behind the goal in red," said Kljestan. "It was great to have so much support. It was a pretty exciting match to play in Columbus, which is kind of like a home stadium for us and a place where we've played some pretty important games."
Kljestan's midfielder partner Michael Bradley put in two goals on the night, the second coming in second-half stoppage time. The shot from distance that squirmed past the hapless Oswaldo Sanchez sealed the win for the USA.
"Both goals that Michael scored that day were great, but the second one was the icing on the cake," said Kljestan. "I remember when that second goal went in celebrating with the rest of the team, realizing we had started off on the right foot and earned all three points."
Heath Pearce talked about the mood surrounding the game. A player with 29 international caps to his credit, Pearce described the game as a unique experience.
"Every international is important, but the whole buildup to USA-Mexico is so much more intense. it just feels different," said Pearce, who played 90 minutes in the victory. "You can feel the aura around the game and in the people you're with who have experienced it before. There are no games that prepare you for the intensity and tradition of a USA-Mexico game."
Pearce also remembered celebrating with teammates and fans after the hard-fought victory.
"The win was something we really earned and we worked hard as a team in sticking to our game plan that day. It was a great feeling to be able to do it in front of that many U.S. fans who were there supporting us and were so positive throughout the game. Sharing the win with them was amazing."
Though the U.S. had played one game before the match against Mexico, the 2-0 win in qualifying really set the tone for a successful year. Beating your biggest rival with the spotlight of the region shining brightly on Columbus, keeping yet another clean sheet at home, and enjoying the moment with the U.S. faithful provided the perfect foundation for a memorable 2009 for the national team. Three hundred and sixty-five days later, we can look back on the first place finish in qualifying and say that the win against Mexico was the catalyst.