The United States and Mexico played an instant classic in Pasadena, California. They just had to play ninety minutes of regular time to build up the anticipation first.
Paul Aguilar's 118th minute wonder strike broke a 2-2 tie deep into extra time as Mexico clinched a berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw with both teams looking tired as the clock ticked upwards to ninety minutes, especially several of the US players. Javier Hernandez opened the scoring with his first goal against the States in the 10th minute bundling home a centering pass from Oribe Peralta. Geoff Cameron responded with an open header five minutes later following a free kick from Michael Bradley.
That would be the end of the scoring in regulation, though Hernandez had the best chance wide open from five yards but the pass was slightly behind him and he was unable to control. In the 34th minute the rivalry between these two teams flared, with Peralta sliding into US keeper Brad Guzan and earning a yellow card. Tempers ran hot for several moments while referee Joel Aguilar brought the two teams back under control and cooler heads prevailed.
The second half played out very cautiously, as neither team made a substitution until after the 75th minute. With extra time looming, Matt Besler appeared to handle a cross in the box but the appeals from Mexico were waved off and the final whistle went. After a stale ninety minutes, extra time would be needed to decide CONCACAF's Confederations Cup representative.
It would be Oribe Peralta who again would prove to be a thorn in the US side, tucking home a simple shot in the 96th minute from Paul Aguilar to restore Mexico's lead. Right after the goal, Jurgen Klinsmann sent striker Bobby Wood into the game and the substitute would make an immediate impact. Fellow substitute DeAndre Yedlin surged forward and found the cutting Wood at the top of the box, and he five-holed Munoz for the equalizer.
The winner from Mexico however was nothing short of beautiful. Following a set piece in the 118th minute, the US was only able to clear to about the top of the box, with Raul Jimenez playing an overhead ball back into the US penalty area. That was where Paul Aguilar was waiting.
Goal MEX - No.22 Paul AGUILAR - MEX 3-2 USA #CONCACAFCup @miseleccionmx @ussoccer http://t.co/4YCiB4FONy— CONCACAF (@CONCACAF) October 11, 2015
A full volley from that angle is worthy of winning any match, let alone a US-Mexico rivalry with a spot in the Confederations Cup on the line. A late Bradley free kick was not enough for the US and full time went and Mexico began their celebrations.
For the US, it's a dark day with the senior team losing out on the Confederations Cup and the U23s losing in the semifinals of Olympic qualifying. Next up for the US will be World Cup qualification matches against St. Vincent and Trinidad and Tobago in November and still the strong possibility of hosting the 2016 Copa America. But it will be a bitter pill to swallow on the overall development for US Soccer under Klinsmann.
Mexico appears to be back on the upswing. New coach Juan Carlos Osorio now inherits a national team that is coming off a strong summer with deserved titles in the Gold Cup and CONCACAF Cup playoff. A dismal effort in 2014 World Cup qualifying seems to be past them and now they will get the benefit of playing strong competition ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.