There are a few moments that felt as big as what I witnessed Wednesday in the United States epic 1-0 victory over Mexico in Estadio Azteca.
2009 Confederations Cup: Bob Bradley took his side over to South Africa and found a way to almost become legend killers. First by taking down a Spain side that would eventually go on to win the World Cup the next year, then getting oh-so-close to winning the Confed Cup in a tough 3-2 defeat to Brazil. It felt like the US had arrived on the global stage, even in defeat.
2010 World Cup: The save. The counter. The melee. The goal. I still get goosebumps everytime I see Landon Donovan’s clean-up goal vs. Algeria in the waning moments of the Yanks eventual group stage win. Might be the best goal in American soccer history.
2002 World Cup: The Americans defeated their rivals Mexico in the knockout stages of the World Cup. Yes, they were the best team in CONCACAF and for that generation of players, they finally knew that they could compete with the best of the world. All while conquering their border brothers.
Of course, this is 2012. A completely turned over roster from 10 years ago, a new manager with a new philosophy and a team still trying to find out who they are. El Tri had just come home with their gold medals from the Olympic games in London, this was supposed to be a coronation of sorts. Two teams on two different paths meeting in the stadium that the Americans were previously 0-23-1 in.
That’s a whole lot of losing over the past 75 years in one place.
It doesn’t matter that the US basically packed it in for 79 minutes, employing a defensive scheme that was effective in slowing the Mexican attack while making many viewers eyes bleed. Sometimes the methodical madness allows for a climax that makes all that time wasted well worth it.
In the 80th minute, newly inserted winger Brek Shea made an immediate impact. Dribbled between a Mexican defender’s legs, crossed the ball in the box to Terrence Boyd, Boyd showed composure and moxie by backheeling the ball to Michael Orozco Fiscal. Orozco Fiscal, the Mexican-American, took a quick swipe at the ball to beat Guillermo Ochoa to give the Yanks a 1-0 lead.
Yes, Tim Howard put on his typical goalie exhibition. Standing on his head to make sure that Chicarito’s exploits didn’t result in a game-tying goal. Yes, three players who many American soccer fans were just getting familiar with left an indelible mark on US Soccer history. Yes, no one will talk about the deplorable football that was put on display for the vast majority of the game.
All that matters is that 75 years of losing across the Rio Grande has come to an end, 1-23-1 has never looked so sweet.