The top 10 USA-Mexico matches of the past 20 years

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Emmanuel Dunand
The USMNT faces arch-rival Mexico in Sunday's Gold Cup final, and Goal runs down the 10 best installments of the rivalry in the past 20 years

The U.S. national team and Mexico will renew their rivalry on Sunday in the Concacaf Gold Cup final, facing off in the regional championship game for the first time since 2011. The allure of lifting a trophy will only serve to add more spice to a rivalry that doesn't need much help delivering the drama over the years.

The first time the USMNT faced Mexico was way back in 1934 and it didn't take place in North America, but rather in Rome, where the United States defeated Mexico at the World Cup. That win would be the only one the Americans would record against El Tri for 46 years. For the better part of 65 years, the rivalry was so one-sided it was tough to call it much of a rivalry.

Things started changing around 2000, when the United States started beating Mexico with regularity, and in the past two decades the neighbors have forged a rivalry that has blossomed into a real battle for CONCACAF supremacy.

The United States holds a 14-9-6 advantage in the past 20 years, but Mexico has turned things around, boasting a 5-4-4 edge on the Americans in the past 13 meetings. El Tri has also gotten the better of their rivals in recent title games, having won the past three matches where a cup was on the line.

Sunday's Gold Cup final will mark my 22nd time covering the rivalry, a collection of matches that have delivered drama, skill, passion, anger and joy. I have followed the rivalry to as far as way as South Korea, and others as close as the old Giants Stadium, whose former location I can see from my house in New Jersey. That was also the very stadium where I covered my first USA-Mexico match, back in 2000.

The next chapter of the rivalry will take place on Sunday in Soldier Field, a venue with its own special place in the rivalry. It was in Soldier Field where Benny Feilhaber's wonder goal helped the Americans defeat Mexico in front of a packed pro-Mexico crowd in the 2007 Gold Cup final.

Sunday's final has the makings of a special match, but it will need to deliver some magic to crack Goal's list of the best USA-Mexico matches of the past 20 years.

Here is a look at the 10 best:

  1. Pedro Pardo

    #10 2017: Mexico 1, USA 1 (World Cup qualifier)

    The USMNT registered its second straight World Cup qualifying draw at Estadio Azteca in a back-and-forth encounter that produced one of the best goals in the series. Michael Bradley's long-range strike in the sixth minute stunned the crowd in Mexico City, but it didn't stop Mexico from taking control and eventually finding an equalizer in the 23rd minute courtesy of a Carlos Vela solo effort.

    Bruce Arena was lauded for his tactical approach to securing a point at the Azteca, but it was also the excellent work of his defense and Bradley that helped the USMNT earn a point. Unfortunately for the United States, a trip to the 2018 World Cup still didn't happen.

  2. Jamie Sabau

    #9 2009: USA 2, Mexico 0 (World Cup qualifier)

    Another dominating performance by the United States in Columbus saw Michael Bradley put on one of his best performances for the national team. He scored both goals, one in the 43rd minute and one in second-half stoppage time to help the USMNT get its Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying off to a winning start.

  3. Paul Vernon

    #8 2016: USA 1, Mexico 2 (World Cup qualifier)

    The Columbus curse came to an end for El Tri, but it didn't come easy. Mexico dominated the USMNT in the first half, threatening to run away with the win before some in-game adjustments helped the Americans settle into the match.

    Bobby Wood's 49th-minute equalizer helped give the Americans the momentum, but they couldn't find another goal, and it left the door open for long-time USA-Mexico villain Rafa Marquez to head home the winner in the 89th minute. The goal helped Mexico post its first win in Columbus after four straight qualifying shutout losses, and it also helped put a nail in the coffin of Jurgen Klinsmann's tenure as USMNT coach.

  4. Donald Miralle

    #7 2009: Mexico 2, USA 1 (World Cup qualifier)

    When Charlie Davies opened the scoring at Estadio Azteca on this day in 2009, it looked like Mexico's undefeated record against the United States in home qualifiers might be in jeopardy. Unfortunately for the Americans, they couldn't add to that lead as Mexico responded just 10 minutes later courtesy of a 28-yard blast by Israel Castro.

    The Americans looked like they might be able to escape Mexico City with a draw, but Miguel Sabah's close-range goal in the 82nd minute set off raucous celebrations at the Azteca, and eventually sent the USMNT home with another loss.

  5. Jamie Sabau

    #6 2013: USA 2, Mexico 0 (World Cup qualifier)

    The 2014 World Cup qualifying cycle was a rough one for El Tri, and a stellar one for the USMNT. Those divergent paths met in Columbus in 2013 to bring us one of the U.S. team's more impressive performances in the history of the series.

    Landon Donovan scored a goal and registered an assist, while Eddie Johnson scored to push Mexico to the brink of failing to qualify for the 2014 World Cup. Of course, the Americans went on to do El Tri a favor by beating Panama on the final qualifying matchday, opening the door for Mexico to keep its qualifying hopes alive on the way to eventually joining the USMNT in Brazil.

  6. David Maxwell

    #5 2001: USA 2, Mexico 1 (World Cup qualifier)

    The original "Guerra Fria" and the original "Dos a Cero," this World Cup qualifier in a frigid Columbus, Ohio was the first of what would eventually be four straight qualifying wins by the USMNT against Mexico at the building formerly known at Crew Stadium.

    Josh Wolff came off the bench in the first half for an injured Brian McBride and delivered a goal and assist, with Kasey Keller keeping El Tri off the scoreboard. They helped deliver the U.S. team's first World Cup qualifying win over Mexico in 21 years, and only the second in history. The win helped establish Columbus as the home for USA-Mexico qualifiers. The Americans won four straight qualifiers in Columbus before seeing the streak snapped in 2016.

  7. Jonathan Daniel

    #4 2007: USA 2, Mexico 1 (Gold Cup final)

    This meeting at Solder Field in Chicago featured one of the most memorable goals of the series. Benny Feilhaber's stunning 73rd-minute winner shocked the packed stadium and stunned El Tri, which never did muster a comeback.

    That victory came in the midst of a dominant stretch in the series for the USMNT, which was 9-2-1 in its past 12 against Mexico after that victory.

  8. Frederic J. Brown

    #3 2015: USA 2, Mexico 3 (CONCACAF Cup)

    Playing with a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup on the line, the USA and Mexico turned this newly-created game into a clash for the ages. Mexico had the better of the play in regulation, but poor finishing allowed the Americans to push the match into extra time. The teams traded goals in the extra 30 minutes, including a crowd-shaking equalizer from Bobby Wood in the 108th minute that had the Rose Bowl rocking.

    The match looked destined for penalty kicks before Mexico's Paul Aguilar scored a wonder-goal in the 118th minute to win the match and hand Jurgen Klinsmann his first loss to Mexico as a player or coach. It wouldn't be the last.

  9. Kevork Djansezian

    #2 2011: USA 2, Mexico 4 (Gold Cup final)

    The 2011 Gold Cup final was one of the most action-packed matches in the series, with Mexico erasing a two-goal deficit by scoring four unanswered to win the title. The USMNT came out flying, scoring twice in the first 23 minutes, but an early Steve Cherundolo injury left the U.S. defense weakened and El Tri took full advantage, with Pablo Barrera scoring two goals to help lead the comeback, along with Giovani Dos Santos, who was outstanding.

    Mexico's victory had long-lasting ramifications for the United States, with then-coach Bob Bradley being fired soon after and replaced by Jurgen Klinsmann.

  10. Greg Wood

    #1 2002: USA 2, Mexico 0 (World Cup)

    There is no bigger platform in the game than the World Cup, and no bigger statement made in this rivalry than the USMNT's win over El Tri in South Korea. The Americans didn't just beat Mexico, they outplayed them, dominating the first half on the way to a rivalry-defining victory. Between Landon Donovan's goal, Claudio Reyna's outstanding performance, Brad Friedel's heroics and Rafa Marquez's infamous headbutt on Cobi Jones, this one had it all.

    This is one defeat Mexico has not been able to avenge, and won't be able to unless these teams meet again at a World Cup.