U.S. Men’s Soccer Team Earns Key Point In Mexico, Sets Up Key Game Sunday Against Panama

by Michael Lewis

DeAndre Yedlin (L) of Team USA and Hirving Lozano (R) of Mexico compete during a match between the United States and Mexico as part of the Concacaf 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers on March 24, 2022 in Mexico City.


Though the U.S. men’s soccer team was unable to solve Mexico’s defense, the squad still picked up a valuable road point on Thursday in its quest to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The archrivals met for a 0-0 draw at Estadio Azteca, the fortress of a stadium in the heart of Mexico City where the home team rarely falters. The U.S. has never won a World Cup qualifier at Azteca, though it’s now registered a tie in three straight qualifying games there.
With a record of 6-2-4 (22 points) and two games remaining in the “Octagonal” final round of Concacaf World Cup qualifying, the U.S. remained in second place behind Canada with a crucial home game coming against Panama on Sunday night in Orlando.
The top three teams in the Octagonal automatically qualify for the World Cup, which begins this year in November instead of its usual summer window. The fourth place Concacaf team moves on to an intercontinental playoff this summer.
Mexico shares the same record as the USMNT but ranks third in the standings based on goal differential. Costa Rica is fourth with 19 points, followed by Panama with 18. That means a win against Panama would secure a top-three spot. Anything less than that could mean the U.S. goes into its final game, at Costa Rica next Wednesday, needing a result.
There had been speculation that U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter might want to rotate his squad during this qualifying window and save some of his top players for Panama. The Americans, however, started their A team against Mexico, albeit without some key players due to injury, including midfielder Weston McKennie.
Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was the star of the match, producing to vital saves to keep the U.S. off the scoreboard. He tipped away Yunus Musah’s 16-yard shot in the 14th minute and then denied Christian Pulisic’s point-blank attempt with his chest in the 35th minute.
Pulisic fell into the goal as he slammed both his arms into the ground. It could have been frustration for missing such a close-range opportunity or that he was clipped by a Mexican player after he shot.
Ochoa stopped Pulisic again in the 49th minute, parrying away his shot for a corner kick.
U.S. goalkeeper Zack Steffen was tested only once, catching Cesar Montes’ header in the 14th minute.
Mexico picked up stream in the second half but could not place any dangerous shots on target.
The Americans came close again in the 72nd minute as second-half substitute Jordan Pefok, from point-blank range, knocked Gio Reyna’s right-wing feed wide right.
“The game was there for us to win,” Berhalter said on the Paramount+ broadcast. “Unfortunately, we didn’t get that goal.”
The match was a costly one for the U.S. as two players — right back DeAndre Yedlin and forward Tim Weah — incurred their second yellow cards during qualifying, meaning they will miss the Panama game.
The United States team will be back in action on Sunday night at 7pm eastern time against Panama, where they will look to secure their spot in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Michael Lewis, who covers soccer for Newsday, has written about the sport for four decades and has written six books about soccer. He is a freelance contributor to on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.