The two giants of CONCACAF meet again Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., with the 2011 Gold Cup on the line.
Ahead of tomorrow's more traditional preview, let's take a look at some moving pictures as the rivalry has evolved in the last 20-odd years. Mexico still leads the overall series 32-15-11, but the U.S. has won 10 of the last 16 matches.
1993 Gold Cup Final
Mexico beat the U.S. 4-0 in this game played at the Azteca -- which is arguably the one underlying bedrock of this rivalry, since the U.S. never eevvvvvvver wins there. At this stage, the Mexicans were the clear giants of CONCACAF, despite being thrown out of the 1990 World Cup. Villainous, talented, unrelenting, El Tri was every kind of nefarious thing you could think of, all rolled into a green jersey. Noteworthy names in this match included Jorge Campos, Zaguinho, John Harkes, Alexi Lalas and Thomas Dooley. Advantage: Clearly El Tri
1995 U.S. Cup
Fun blast from the past video here, if only for Seamus Malin's acerbic commentary and Campos' garnish goalkeeper kit. The U.S. actually whooped a full-strength Mexico team featuring Luis Hernandez, Carlos Hermosillo and Alberto Garcia-Aspe 4-0 at RFK. Claudio Reyna also scored in this game for the U.S. Advantage: Still El Tri, by a decent amount.
1996 U.S. Cup
This match ended in a 2-2 draw, thanks to a late goal from Dooley and also featured my the blonde-haired, Mexican villain Luis Garcia. Of note, because the video quality is poor, this was arguably the most difficult game to ever watch since the U.S. debuted their powder blue home jersey, which didn't contrast at all with the Mexican green shirt. It was awful. Advantage: El Tri, but the gap is closing
1997 U.S. Cup
(Video missing) ... worth noting because it was the last time the U.S. played a game against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, losing 2-0. Advantage: Still Mexico
1997, World Cup Qualifying
(Video missing) Steve Sampson's finest moment. The U.S. earns a 0-0 draw at Azteca. Here's a still photo from the match that says it all. Advantage: Tide begins to turn.
2001 World Cup qualifying
A key turning point in frozen Columbus Crew Stadium. The U.S. had won the previous two games against Mexico on American soil at this point, but this changed the rivalry. It was the first game of the CONCACAF Hexagonal -- won by Costa Rica that year by the way. The U.S. won 2-0 on goals by Josh Wolff and Earnie Stewart. It was a contentious match, as the rivalry probably hit is boiling point. The legend of "Dos a cero" was born. Advantage: U.S., for the first time.
2002 World Cup
Arguably the finest moment in U.S. soccer, beating Mexico 2-0 in South Korea in the World Cup Round of 16. This is the pinnacle of the rivalry, with Rafa Marquez being sent off for his dastardly tactics. A high for the Americans. A low for the Mexicans. Oddly enough, the only World Cup game started by Reyna -- across three World Cups -- that the U.S. would win. Advantage: U.S., completely.
2006 World Cup Qualifier:
The U.S. still can't win in Mexico, Jared Borgetti sees to that. Advantage: U.S., slightly
2006 World Cup Qualifier:
As Azteca is to the U.S., Crew Stadium is the El Tri. Another 2-0 win by the Yanks on goals from Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley. Game featured Oguchi Onyewu's epic ownage of Borgetti, firmly establishing the U.S. isn't going to cower in fear of El Tri anymore.
In a highly publicized ESPN-televised post-World Cup match for both teams, Mexican keeper Oswaldo Sanchez puts the "dirty" in Dirty Sanchez. Advantage: U.S. firmly.
2007 Gold Cup Final
Benny ... Feilhaber. YEEEESS. (Sorry, couldn't find a quick link to the Max Bretos call. Oh wait, here it is.) The U.S. comes from behind in Chicago, winning 2-1. In the process the U.S. books a place in the 2009 Confederations Cup and later beats Spain. Advantage: U.S.
2010 World Cup Qualifying
Another qualifier in Columbus, another 2-0 win for the Yanks. Advantage: U.S. fully.
2009 Gold Cup Final
Call this Mexico getting it's mojo back. Yes, the U.S. sent a second string team to this tournament after the Confederations Cup, but a 5-0 stomping is still a 5-0 stomping. Advantage: Swinging back to Mexico?
2010 World Cup Qualifying
Charlie Davies scores to give the U.S. a rare 1-0 lead at Azteca, but the smog and bottle-throwing fans finally get the best of the U.S. as Mexico rallies to win 2-1. Landon Donovan later admits to playing the game with swine flu. Advantage: Creeping back to Mexico.
So, that's where we were.
It seems in the new decade, things between both teams are very even. Maybe even Mexico has reclaimed the crown as king of CONCACAF.
Oddly enough, the game on Saturday at the Rose Bowl will have a different feel since its the first time Javier Hernandez -- Chicharito -- will play against the U.S.
If anything, Chicharito represents a newer breed of Mexican player. He's grown up in a world where the U.S. was the equal or superior in the rivalry. The sneering, haughty arrogance that pervaded the Mexican team in the late 1990s and early 2000s with guys like Maraquez and Cuauhtémoc Blanco seems to be gone. El Tri no longer seems quite as villainous, even with their penchant for wearing black uniforms.
There's a modicum of respect on both sides, at least from the players perspective.
We'll see what happens with 90,000 El Tri fans packed into the Rose Bowl, however. It could turn into a cauldron pretty fast, bringing back the days of elbows, side tackles and stomps pretty quickly.