There’s winning ugly. On Sunday, the United States and Mexico tied ugly.
The United States made the first mistake in the World Cup qualifier, a blooper by goalie Kasey Keller that put the Americans behind in the first minute of play. The Mexicans made the last with an own-goal that allowed the United States to rescue a 2-2 tie.
In between, there was a Mexican player ejected, four yellow cards for rough play, 36 fouls and plenty of scoring chances.
“You’re never satisfied with a tie at home. But we showed we can play attacking soccer,” U.S. coach Steve Sampson said. “With the way we started, I think we gained a point.”
The United States tied it in the 74th minute when second-half substitute Nicolas Ramirez of Mexico headed the ball into his own net.
The outcome left the United States three points behind Mexico in the race for three World Cup qualifying slots for the 32-team tournament in France in 1998.
The United States nearly won the game several times during a late flurry of attacks after forwards Michael Mason and David Wagner came in for defensive players.
“The U.S. played great. Those last 15 minutes were so difficult,” said Mexico coach Bora Milutinovic, who coached the United States from 1991 until Sampson, his assistant, took over in 1995.
Mexico has two wins and one tie against Sampson’s U.S. teams.
The tying goal was the second time the United States fought back. Carlos Hermosillo scored in the first minute of the game when Keller misplayed the ball in front of his own net.
After Eddie Pope tied the game in the 35th minute, Luis Hernandez put Mexico ahead again in the 54th.
The game was played before a sellout crowd of nearly 60,000 at Foxboro Stadium. Despite earlier talk that the crowd would be overwhelmingly pro-American, about half were cheering for Mexico.
The uncharacteristic blunder by Keller, who had posted five shutouts in his last six U.S. starts, deflated his teammates and the fans in the crowd less than a minute after the opening whistle.
Taking Alexi Lalas’ pass 10 yards in front of his net, Keller stopped the ball, paused, dribbled, and then kicked it straight into Hermosillo. The ball caromed off the Mexican forward’s head and bounced high into the net as Keller stumbled toward it.
Pope’s goal, the first given up by Mexico in the qualifying round, came after Claudio Reyna’s free kick was deflected high in the air by Mexican Benjamin Galindo. Leaping high over two defenders, Wynalda headed the ball toward the far corner, where Pope poked it home.
After four of 10 qualifying games, Mexico (2-0-2, eight points) and the United States (1-1-2, five points) remain favorites to get one of the three slots in the six-team group for countries from North and Central America and the Caribbean.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: U.S. SCHEDULE Won 1, Lost 5, Tied 3 a-Jan. 17 Peru 1, United States 0 a-Jan. 19 Mexico 2, United States 0 a-Jan. 22 Denmark 4, United States 1 Jan. 29 China 2, United States 1 Feb. 1 United States 1, China 1, tie b-March 2 United States 0, Jamaica 0 b-March 16 United States 3, Canada 0 b-March 23 Costa Rica 3, United States 2 b-April 20 United States 2, Mexico 2 b-June 29 at El Salvador b-Sept. 7 vs. Costa Rica* b-Oct. 3 vs. Jamaica* b-Nov. 2 at Mexico b-Nov. 9 at Canada b-Nov. 16 vs. El Salvador* a-U.S. Cup ‘97 b-World Cup qualifying *-U.S. sites to be announced
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