As I stepped into TQL Stadium in Cincinnati on Friday night, the atmosphere was different. This wasn't a regular game. It's a World Cup Qualifier featuring the biggest rivalry in North American Soccer. USA against Mexico; and the packed house over 26,000 fans, overwhelmingly in favor of the USMNT, sensed that this could be the official changing of the guard for superiority in this region of the world. After all, the US was looking for it's third straight victory over "El Tri" in the last 5 months.
For 90 minutes not a fan in the stadium sat down. Chanting and singing, living and dying on every kick of the ball. It was a dream to see that kind of atmosphere and support for the US Men's National Team at home. It hasn't always been this way, especially when Mexico rolls into town. It's the reason why Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio have gotten the last two home World Cup Qualifying matches between the two. The electricity in the building made it feel like the most important game of the year. Like the sport of soccer was on center stage, and the pride for country was on full display. I've been fortunate enough to be at a lot of major sporting events over the last 15 years, but this ranks right at the top.
On the field, team USA put on a show, especially in the second half. There was no doubt who the better team was in this game. The "Dos a Cero" (2-0) score line, could not have been more perfect. Fans reminisced about getting another Dos a Cero victory over Mexico, after the famous 2-0 win for the US over Mexico in the 2002 World Cup in Japan/South Korea and the Columbus World Cup Qualifier in 2015. Friends and fans around me, even wished against a third USA goal late in the game, just to maintain the "Dos a Cero" chant alive throughout the streets of Cincinnati, late and into the early hours of Saturday morning. And that it did.
Of course it had to be the face of the USMNT, Christian Pulisic who came off the bench after recently returning to Chelsea from a lengthy injury, to score the game winning goal against Mexico again, for the second time in the last 5 months. A beautiful play and cross by Timothy Weah, followed by a quick move from Pulisic in the box, to whip a header past Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa for the opening goal.
What made it even better, was the ultimate troll job from the Hershey, Pennsylvania native after he scored.
You see, Ochoa said in an interview about the USMNT "Mexico is the mirror in which they want to see themselves. The one they want to copy"
Well Guillermo, you had it coming. After scoring, Pulisic lifted his jersey up just enough to reveal a t-shirt with the words "Man in the Mirror" written on the front. Absolutely epic, and only doubled down by the stadium DJ playing "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson as soon as the referee blew the final whistle.
Weston McKennie, added the second goal to complete the infamous "Dos a Cero" and the celebrations began soon thereafter. The players ran over to celebrate with the biggest USA soccer supporters in the American Outlaws, as this was a defining moment for this generation of the Men's National Team.
A rivalry that was once one-sided is now turned on his head. It will only continue to get more fierce as we move forward. But even after all this success against Mexico this summer, there is still another milestone to reach. A win at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in March, would mark the first away win against their old rivals in World Cup Qualifying.
The bigger picture though, is locking up that 2022 World Cup spot. As they sit in first place in the CONCACAF standings, the USMNT will continue that journey this Tuesday night in Jamaica. It was an emotional and beautiful night in Cincinnati for American soccer fans everywhere, but now it's back to work.