The last match played by the United States Women’s National Team against Mexico in Mexico was a World Cup qualifier in 2010.
The United States lost. Mexico went straight to the World Cup and the Americans were forced to earn their place in the tournament via interconfederate playoffs.
A lot has changed since then, with the United States winning back-to-back Women’s World Cups while Mexico struggled to drop records under three coaches. So when the teams met in the group final of another World Cup qualifying tournament – the CONCACAF W Championship – on Monday night, the 1-0 victory for the United States was expected.
But it wasn’t easy, with the only goal hitting Kristie Mewis’ thigh after a scramble in front of the net in the final minute of regulation time. The goal was given a lengthy video review before being cleared to stand.
The win was the Americans’ 29th consecutive CONCACAF World Cup and Olympic qualifier since that 2010 loss in Cancun. In fact, USA haven’t even allowed a goal in qualifying since then.
Even before Monday’s game, won in front of 20,521 in a hot and windy Estadio Universitario, the United States had a place in next summer’s World Cup. However, this year’s CONCACAF W Championship will also determine the region’s representative at the Paris Olympics in 2024, and in that sense the victory was significant as it will send the Americans to the semi-finals of Thursday’s tournament with Costa Rica. on a wave of momentum, having played 17 matches. and 11 months since their last loss.
The United States must beat Costa Rica and then win next week’s final to guarantee a place in Paris.
For Mexico, Monday’s gutsy effort was by far its best of a tournament it finished without a win or a goal. And it showed why the country entered the tournament with high hopes.
But that was undone in the 73rd minute when midfielder Jacqueline Ovalle was shown a red card for a cleats challenge on American Rose Lavelle. It took the United States 16 more minutes, playing against a shorthanded team, to score the only goal they needed.
It was meant to be the crowning achievement of a Mexican program that had made great strides under Mónica Vergara, who played on the country’s only Olympic team in 2004 and then rose through the ranks of the national team, coaching the U- 15, U-17 and U-20 teams before taking charge of the senior team 18 months ago.
The team entered the competition in Monterrey in the best form for a decade, unbeaten in their last 10 games and averaging over five goals per game. So when El Tri Femenil opened the tournament with a loss to Jamaica, Vergara called it a “stumble” and said it wouldn’t define his team. After losing to Haiti three days later, the coach, booed ahead of Monday’s kick-off, was already talking about the 2027 World Cup.
The team’s effort on Monday was the kind president Yon De Luisa and the rest of the Mexican soccer federation hoped for last year when they began an overhaul of the women’s program by making 39-year-old Vergara the first woman to lead the senior team, handing her a young and talented squad, most of whom played in the young and thriving domestic Liga MX.
At the time, the federation also appointed Maribel Domínguez – Mexico’s all-time leader in goals and international caps – and Ana Galindo to manage the U-20 and U-17 teams, marking the first time that the top three Mexican national teams were led. by women.
The reset continued two months ago when New York promoter Soccer United Marketing was enlisted to hold a series of friendlies in the United States to raise funds and profile the women’s team . The first match will be against Angel City FC in September in LA
“Supporting the women’s program was a board decision,” De Luisa said. “No doubt this is something that will develop in the future.”
That future was supposed to start this week, but Mexico underperformed on the pitch and played all three games to small crowds in a city where more than 30,000 people showed up to support Tigres Femenil, a women’s club team .
But it gave the best team in the world all they could handle and more on Monday. Maybe De Luisa’s big investment will pay off sooner after all.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.