It all started in 2016. After four consecutive 2-0 World Cup qualifying victories against Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, the United States fell.
On November 11, 2016, the United States men’s national team hosted Mexico in the fight for a ticket to the 2018 World Cup. The Mapfre Stadium that had previously seen the USMNT’s greatest highs, quickly witnessed an American low.
Fans entered the match expecting the United States to walk away with another 2-0 result, but the 89th minute saw the tables turn.
Suddenly, the United States found themselves with an unfamiliar 1-1 scoreline. Then, a quick corner from Miguel Layun found the head of veteran defender Rafael Marquez, who perfectly redirected the shot to find the back of the net.
24,000 spectators watched in silence. Mexico had triumphed in Columbus and defeated their North American rivals in a World Cup qualifier for the first time since 1972.
That loss marked the first of a disappointing string of results for the United States, a pattern that ultimately led to the American side missing the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
Now, just one day after the five-year anniversary of the legendary defeat, the USMNT will look to get their redemption. The hosts, however, have opted for a new stadium as a symbolic change of scenery to mark a new era. Friday’s match will be played at Cincinnati’s TQL Stadium.
Though the two national teams frequently meet to compete in Concacaf tournaments, no Nations League or Gold Cup final can compare to a decisive qualifier.
During said tournaments, a neutral organization determines the time and location for the final, which results in an unbalanced audience. Mexican fans suddenly turn finals into home grounds for El Tri.
This time, the USMNT strategically found a location that they would consider home turf.
“All the qualifiers that we play at home are amazing, but this takes it to another level,” U.S. head coach Gregg Berhalter told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “It’s like amazing-plus. Because of the attention around the game, because of the amped-up crowd, all of this just turns it into a really special event. For us as a group, we’re relishing this opportunity.”
The United States sit in second on the Concacaf table after a shaky start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. The American side holds a record of 3-2-1, earning 11 points in six games. Meanwhile, Mexico leads with 14 points and a record of 4-2-0.
A win for the USMNT would mean tying for first place.