Guillermo Ochoa said earlier this week that the Mexican men’s national team was “the mirror in which the [USMNT] wants to see itself.”
Christian Pulisic clearly believes in bulletin board material, although perhaps he’d use a garment instead of the traditional post.
“I actually wrote it in a mirror,” Pulisic said. “No, I’m only kidding.”
Pulisic beat Ochoa with a second-half header to break open a scoreless World Cup qualifier that the U.S. went on to win 2-0 in Ohio, raising his shirt to reveal the words “Man in the Mirror” written with black ink on his white performance gear.
The Yanks have now beaten Mexico in three-straight meaningful matches for the first time ever — the first two for silverware — and while coach Gregg Berhalter tried to play down Pulisic’s gesture, it’s clear that the man who played in the Americans’ biggest ever win over El Tri, the Dos a Cero win that knocked Mexico out of the 2002 World Cup, loves these occasions.
“This was about going out and earning respect and I think we earned it today,” Berhalter said when asked about the gesture.
Speaking after Berhalter, Pulisic was a bit more open with his words.
“We’ve earned respect the last couple of times we’ve played them,” Pulisic said. “They understand what we’re about. We understand what they’re about. It’s what makes a great rivalry.”
And Weah, well, he spoke a bit more. It was almost like each successive member of the post-match Zoom call got a little closer to the heart.
“It’s a new era now,” said Timothy Weah. “Before the game Mexico was talking a lot of smack. Winning shuts them up. That’s the only way to earn respect and we have to keep earning it.”
The Yanks didn’t finish well and actually needed some big saves from Zack Steffen just to get to halftime without any damage inflicted on the scoreboard.
But when Pulisic entered the fray on a fitness-limited time budget, Berhalter knows what it did to the room.
“I was thinking how well we were playing and it would’ve been a shame if we didn’t win the game,” Berhalter said. “When we brought in Christian it gave the team a boost and it put some fear in Mexico because they know his quality.”
The Americans were terrific coming out of the gates but mistakes in poor parts of the field forced defensive interventions and flat-out rescues by Steffen.
And the lack of Pulisic — and finish — definitely appeared in the game. Effort and organization, however, was not an issue.
“The starting point was intensity,” Berhalter said. “We wanted to break their rhythm with our pressing and eventually break them down. The second half is when we started to pull away. And that’s the effect we can have on our opponents when we make them turn around and face their goal.”
The U.S. moves ahead of Mexico on goal differential with 14 points through seven qualifiers. Better yet, the Yanks now hold a three-point lead on fourth-place Panama and an eight-point hold on fifth.