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Mexico defeats the United States, finish first place in Group A

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Mexico battled to a 1-0 victory over the United States to grab first place in Group A.

Mexico v USA - 2020 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying Photo by Cesar Gomez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Mexico got their third win out of three games to get the top spot in Group A, defeating the United States by a 1-0 score. Both teams had already booked their spot in the semifinals and thus didn’t give their best performance, and although Mexico was the better team and got the deserved win their performance didn’t come close to matching their much better outing against Costa Rica. Both teams will now wait on the results of Group B, where either are guaranteed at least one of the teams from the match between leaders Honduras and Canada, while the other being either one of those teams or the winner of the match between Haiti and El Salvador.

Mexico started the first half with the Chivas trio of Uriel Antuna, Alexis Vega, and Jose Juan Macias. Mexico did not start Jesus Angulo or Sebastian Cordova, both with yellow card and facing a suspension should they get another. Mexico started the game with early pressure that lead to a shot from Roberto Alvarado that went wide. Later it would be Alejandro Mayorga who got a shot that also went wide. After a couple of even minutes, off a corner kick Johan Vasquez rose to head the ball and it went close but just wide. The game went back to being even with both sides pressuring each other and stopping any meaningful attacks as they constantly coughed up possession. Mexico seemed to get a good chance when Mayorga got into the area, but the Mauricio Pineda took the ball off his feet and deflected to a corner kick. Mexico looked a little better, but suddenly the match turned very even once again with Mexico lacking creativity and failing to produce much danger, just as the United States. Then off a free kick, Mexico’s goalkeeper Luis Malagon came out and clashed with US attacker Andres Perea and injured himself. Players called for a substitution almost immediately as Malagon looked to have hurt his arm and had to be stretchered out. Sebastian Jurado was subbed in his place. The injury rattled Mexico, who looked uneasy in the next couple of minutes. Then in the last minute, the United States made a mistake and gave the ball to Uriel Antuna, who then took on a defender and got off a rocket right footed shot that went past US goalkeeper David Ochoa for the 1-0 lead. Mexico took the lead just prior to halftime so that it would help the hit to momentum that was Malagon’s injury.

The second half started as Mexico looked to get back into the match after news came out that Malagon had been taken to the hospital at halftime. The US would get a good opportunity when Sebastian Saucedo got past Alejandro Mayorga, but his shot went terribly wide. Antuna would make a good play that would end up with a shot by Erick Aguirre that was blocked by the US defense. Later the US would get a shot that was deflected by the Mexican defense for a corner kick. On the corner kick, Sebastian Soto would fall and still get a header that was saved by Jurado. Later Antuna got a cross into the area, but his shot went well wide. The US would sub out Sebastian Soto, Johnny Cardoso, and Andres Perea for Jesus Ferreira, Jonathan Lewis, and Jackson Yueill. The US had a good chance when Djordje Mihailovic got the ball in the area, but Jurado blocked him off his feet. Mexico had more of the possession but the US had increased in their dangerous chances. Mexico would make their first substitutions when they subbed out Jose Juan Macias and Roberto Alvarado (both didn’t have a good match) for Jesus Ricardo Angulo and Carlos Rodriguez. The US then subbed out Sebastian Saucedo for Benji Michel. Later they made their last move by subbing out Hassani Dotson for Tanner Tessman. The US continued to get more and more possession as Mexico started to sit back, the last substitution really pushing the team towards that. Mexico had a great opportunity after the US gave the ball away but a cross by Mayorga was easily handled by Ochoa, wasting a good chance. After a cross into the area was handle by Ochoa, he ended up fighting with Vasquez which earned a yellow card to the Mexico defender and the US goalkeeper. The game continued to get a little chippy. Mexico almost got an opportunity when an Antuna cross connected with Vega but his header was lousy. The last minutes had the US trying to get the tie and Mexico subbed out Uriel Antuna for Alan Mozo. Mexico held on, and the end of the lackluster match gave them the win and first place in the group.

Mexico didn’t give a great performance, but they were able to get the result that many expected and they got the best possible outcome with three wins out of three games. Yet the worse news of the match by far was the injury to Luis Malagon. The injury definitely impacted the game, and although Sebastian Jurado is a great goalkeeper, Malagon was expected to be the keeper in the semifinals as he has had more participation as a starter with Necaxa. Mexico will also have to improve a lot, especially since the physical style of the United States hurt the team at times in trying to impose their offense and it will probably what would be what they will face in the semifinals. Mexico is the favorite to not only get the Olympic ticket but to win the tournament, and yet Coach Jaime Lozano will need to improve somewhat especially after Mexico’s decrease at their level of play once the second half hit.