Paul Aguilar’s game winning goal in the 115th minute secured Mexico‘s spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup on Saturday night in front of 93,723 fans.
Minutes after Bobby Wood’s equalizer in extra time looked to have saved the U.S. Men’s National Team, a clever flick from Raul Jiménez sprung Aguilar free on the corner of the box. His volley, directed for the far post, screamed past a diving Brad Guzan for the third goal in a 3-2 Mexico win.
Mexico will now represent CONCACAF next year in the eight-team tournament that pits the host nation (Russia), previous World Cup winners (Germany) and six FIFA confederation champions (UEFA, CONMEBOL, CONCACAF, CAF, AFC, OFC) in a two-week tournament which will serve as a prelude to the 2018 World Cup. This is the second consecutive qualification for Mexico who failed to advance out of the group stage in the 2013 Confederations Cup.
Mexico jumped out to a dream start just ten minutes into the game when a breakdown from the USMNT allowed Oribe Peralta to collect a free ball on the right side of the box. He then played a low cross to Javier Hernandez for the opening goal.
Six minutes later, the USMNT scored an equalizer on a Michael Bradley to Geoff Cameron free kick and header. The goal sprung new life into the USMNT who slowly started to assert their dominance over Mexico as the first half went on. That dominance almost paid off in the 41st minute when Bradley’s curling free kick was pushed wide on the line by Mexico goalkeeper Moisés Muñoz.
After a back and forth second half that saw neither team find the back of the net, the match went into extra time. Mexico struck first in the 96th minute when a free kick over the top was redirected into the middle of the box by Paul Aguilar. Peralta, who was trailing the play, fired past a diving Guzan.
The USMNT is going to have to rebound from this loss rather quickly. In November, qualifying for the 2018 World Cup starts with a match against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on the 13th.