The work is hardly done for Mexico, but the longtime regional giant is in a much better place after Friday’s thrilling, pressure-packed 2-1 win over Panama at Azteca Stadium.
And what a way to win it, on Raul Jimenez’s spectacularly audacious bicycle kick in the 85th minute, an absolute show stopper that arrived not long after Panama’s Luis Tejada had equalized for the visitors.
Amazingly, it was Mexico’s first win at home in five matches of final round qualifying play in the region. The way it looks today: Mexico holds fourth place in the six-team CONCACAF final round group. That would put El Tri into a home-and-away playoff in November against New Zealand, with a spot in Brazil going to the winner.
There is still a chance for Mexico to pass Honduras and grab third, bypassing that white knuckle playoff series ahead. But as Honduras needs just a point Tuesday at already eliminated Jamaica to clinch the automatic berth that Mexico craves, no one should count on that.
Plus, there is also still a chance that Mexico loses at Costa Rica on Tuesday while Panama gets the result it needs to take the fourth spot, which would eliminate El Tri altogether; the Central Americans face Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team on Tuesday in Panama City.
It wasn’t easy against Panama on Friday – then again, very little has come easily in the final round for Mexico. Remember, they had one loss, three draws and just one goal in four previous contests at Azteca in this round.
Oribe Peralta’s late first half goal was as well-taken – What a first touch to set up the shot! – but neither as historic or brilliant as Jimenez’s unbelievable, late effort.
Javier Hernandez had seen his tentative, second-half penalty kick saved (by LA Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo), adding to the drama of the night and keeping Panama in the fight.
Another Yank youngster has landed in Germany.
Weston McKinnie, 18, has starred for the United States U-20 team as well as FC Dallas’ Academy, and has been in demand.
[ MORE: Americans Abroad news ]
The club is Schalke, a Bundesliga outfit which has had an exceptional offseason. McKinnie joins the U-19 side, and is billed by Schalke as a midfielder who “can be deployed as part of a two-man central midfield or in the number 10 role.”
“He’s a player who convinced us with his robustness and game awareness,” said academy director Oliver Ruhnert. “In the US he is one of the best footballers for his age. He is also a youth national team player and has also captained his team. He brings a lot of qualities with him, especially to the mental side of his game. We are therefore convinced that Weston is capable of becoming a professional footballer. The transfer therefore makes a lot of sense.”
McKinnie, if you haven’t read his name before, is absolutely one to remember. The Schalke man joins a club with a good track record for Americans. Chad Deering, Thomas Dooley, and David Wagner have also represented the United States for the Miners.
Deadline Day was kinda nuts, am I right?
There’s a lot to digest, and we’ve covered a lot of it in this space.
But in case you need more — and who doesn’t want a bit more Premier League? — we’ve got a stream of Wednesday’s TV show covering the deadline, and the 2 Robbies talking transfers.
LISTEN: The 2 Robbies Transfer Deadline Day podcast
REWATCH: Wednesday’s Deadline Day show
Now onto the business of the Premier League’s nascent season. Who was boosted by today’s moves? Who took a hit?
She has the seventh-most caps and the sixth-most assists in United States women’s national team history, and she’s also calling it a day.
Excelle Sports is reporting that Heather O’Reilly is retiring at the age of 31. The FC Kansas City player will likely play her final match in September, as the 2015 champs have all-but been eliminated from the playoffs.
[ MORE: Five big Deadline Day signings ]
O’Reilly had 230 caps, 46 goals, and 54 assists for the USWNT team. She’s one of only a few players to have more than 45 goals and 50 assists (Julie Foudy, Tiffeny Milbrett, Shannon MacMillan, Abby Wambach, Mia Hamm, Kristine Lilly).
One of many successful products of Anson Dorrance’s UNC program, “HAO” spent her club career with New Jersey Wildcats, Sky Blue FC, and Boston Breakers before joining FCKC.
O’Reilly was left off the Olympic roster this summer, named as an alternate. She could’ve been useful — of course hindsight is 20/20 — and it’ll be odd watching more USWNT matches without HAO.
Two mainstays of the international game are done with that part of their career following shutout wins on Wednesday, just two of several friendlies early in this international break.
[ MORE: Five big Deadline Day signings ]
Germany 2-0 Finland
Max Meyer picked up from his remarkable Olympics by firing home, and Mesut Ozil also scored for the Germans in a match that was not about the winner. Bastian Schweinsteiger called it a day on his international career in the win, his 121st cap. The Manchester United man finishes his career with 24 goals, a World Cup title and a EURO runner-up finish. Not too shabby.
Ireland 4-0 Oman
ROI all-time leading scorer Robbie Keane fittingly ended his tenure as an international player with yet another goal, bringing his career tally to 68 goals in 146 caps. Stoke City’s Jon Walters scored twice for the Boys in Green, and Robbie Brady (Norwich) also netted in the win.
Denmark 5-0 Liechtenstein
It took the hosts a half-hour to break down the visitors, but a pair from Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen opened the floodgates and Andreas Cornelius, Viktor Fischer and Jens Stryger Larsen finished the scoring in a blowout at the CASA Arena in Horsens. It was Larsen’s first cap.
Turkey 0-0 Russia
Albania 0-0 Morocco
Estonia 1-1 Malta
Norway 0-1 Belarus
Lebanon 1-1 Jordan