#Dosacero: The history of United States-Mexico in Columbus (with video)

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COLUMBUS, Ohio – How maddening, how frustrating, how very infuriating it must be for proud Mexican soccer fans to know they have been hashtagged thus:  #Dosacero.

It’s the score (2-0, that is) that keeps recurring in big U.S.-Mexico matches.

Before it was a Twitter hashtag, “Dos a cero” was a rallying cry and a verbal stick in the eyes of Mexican supporters, who ruled the region in soccer until about 12 years ago. That’s when the United States began gaining control of the rivalry, crushing Mexican spirits time and again on U.S. soil and once notoriously in Asia, in a Round-of-16 elimination match at World Cup 2002.

So much of the U.S. dominance on home soil happened in Columbus, site of tonight’s big-stakes World Cup qualifier. Here is the history of “Dos a cero” at Crew Stadium:

2001: The original  “La Guerra Fria”

Cold weather? In Ohio, in February? Who knew?

Clearly, it was a strategic venue selection by U.S. Soccer officials, and how perfectly it all worked out. So many of the U.S. men played in Europe , or had previously. By contrast most from El Tri had always played in Mexico, where temperatures in the 20s are mostly just a scary tale.

So it was bitterly cold as Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart scored for the United States in the match that started all this. Wolff had his paw prints all over this one, scoring the first goal with a big assist from a Jorge Campos blunder, and then created the insurance strike with some crafty dribbling along the end line. Ironically, Wolff was on the field because Brian McBride had gone off early, injured, unable to see through a badly swollen eye.

That was the important opener in final round qualifying for the 2002 World Cup. There, the United States’ improbable quarterfinal dash helped elevate the game’s domestic standing.

Highlights of that one are here:

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Sept. 3, 2005: The United States qualifies!

Just like tonight, the United States went into the warm September afternoon with opportunity in hand to make it official, to book their spot for Germany 2006. Just like tonight, the opportunity came fortuitously against Mexico.

So the scenes were full of red, white and blue pride and joy at the final whistle. Landon Donovan, having been substituted late that day against Ricardo Lavolpe’s Tri Colors, raced around the field with an American flag draped around his shoulders. Kasey Keller and others joined the celebratory laps, taking it all in along with the boisterous Crew Stadium crowd.

Among those celebrating: U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu, who had first frustrated Mexican scoring star Jared Borgetti and then stared down the man in a famous picture-book moment. (One that helped to make Onyewu a U.S. fan favorite for years to come.) Also celebrating was Steve Ralston, a fairly unlikely figure to nail the game-winner, the goal that officially sent the United States to Germany.

Oh, the game ended 2-0. Of course it did.

Feb. 11, 2009: “La Guerra Fria Two”  

Torrential rain before kickoff and fierce winds added to the weather-related misery as U.S. fans and players shook off any elements of discomfort, warmed by the knowledge that it all worked to the psychological advantage of Bob Bradley’s team. So chants of “Dos a cero!” rang through the crowd as Tim Howard made huge, early saves. Later, Michael Bradley was Johnny on the Sport to hammer in a rebound off a corner kick.

Bradley supplied the second goal, as well, a big shot from 25 yards.

The match was also memorable for Rafa Marquez’s further vilification among U.S. fans. Marquez was shown a straight red for his ridiculous, studs-up challenge on Howard in the 65th minute.

Highlights of that one:

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Report: Newcastle activates $12m release clause of ex-Arsenal youth

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Reports out of Turkey say Newcastle United have finally struck the transfer market for a new No. 10.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Aksam reports that Rafa Benitez got the Magpies hierarchy to activate a near $12 million release clause for Besiktas midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup.

The 25-year-old was part of Arsenal’s youth set-up until 2012, making two League Cup appearances in 2011-12 before moving to Besiktas.

Dutch-born Ozyakup is 35-times capped with a goal for Turkey, twice captaining the Crescent-Stars.

Ozyakup lost playing time to Talisca this season, and registered just four assists in 24 appearances. In 219 appearances for Besiktas, he’s posted 27 goals with 50 assists.

Like the move for Newcastle?

Lukaku pens inspiring post on hard-scrabble upbringing

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Manchester United and Belgium striker Romelu Lukaku has an inspiring and emotional post in The Players’ Tribune which tugs at the heart strings and explains his competitive fire.

[ MORE: West Ham adds Diop ]

Lukaku talks about how his family’s poverty caused him to become a fierce competitor in the hopes of meeting his dreams head-on and providing for his family.

The Belgian, 25, scored twice in his side’s 3-0 World Cup-opening win over Panama earlier this week, and is now far removed from his youth, but he tells his story as if it lives fresh in his mind.

From The Players’ Tribune:

There were even times when my mum had to “borrow” bread from the bakery down the street. The bakers knew me and my little brother, so they’d let her take a loaf of bread on Monday and pay them back on Friday.

Lukaku also talks about racism in football, his debut for Anderlecht, and that aforementioned competitive drive. It’s 100 percent worth the read.

West Ham signs club record center back from Toulouse

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West Ham has reportedly set a club record with its latest signing under new manager Manuel Pellegrini.

Issa Diop is the player, the 21-year-old Toulouse captain and center back costing the Irons around $29 million.

[ MORE: Arsenal signs Leno ]

Diop scored three goals with an assist and eight yellow cards in 31 Ligue 1 matches this season, giving the young defender 95 apps, six goals, three assists, and 23 yellows since debuting with the senior team at 18.

Capped by France at every level below the senior team, Diop’s 2.2 interceptions per game ranked sixth in Ligue 1.

Toulose finished 18th in Ligue 1, but won its promotion/relegation playoff to stay in the French top flight.

From WHUFC.com:

“I am very happy to sign for such a historic, English club, and I hope to show my best here. I am a very ambitious player and West Ham is a very ambitious club, as we’ve seen with the appointment of the new coach. I hope to help the team win lots of games and make the fans happy.”

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 3

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In the third episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, England pulls out a massive win while VAR finds its way into the World Cup spotlight.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.