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In the coming days, you’re going to hear the words “dos”, “a” and “cero” a fair amount.
As the fevered buildup to Friday’s USA vs. Mexico World Cup qualifier continues apace, with the election now in the rearview mirror and apparently only stoking its relevance, that Spanish reference will come back again and again. Dos a cero. Two-zero.
It’s the score of the last four World Cup qualifiers between the two teams held on U.S. soil – all in Columbus, Ohio – where this one will be put on as well. It’s also the score of the lone time the sides met at a World Cup, in the round of 16 in South Korea and Japan in 2002. And three recent friendlies between the two sides held in the United States ended in that score line, going back to 2000. As did the semifinal of the 1991 Gold Cup semifinal.
Nine dos a ceros, in other words.
Here’s a brief history of the score line that would come to live a life of its own.
July 5, 1991, Gold Cup semifinal, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
In the first ever championship of CONCACAF, the U.S. upset the heavily favored Mexicans through goals from John Doyle and Peter Vermes. It’s impossible to overstate the significance of this win, as the Americans had beaten Mexico just once since 1934 – 11 years prior in 1980 – and lost 23 times. A lot of those losses were by ugly scores, like 7-2 (twice) and 6-0 (twice).
Oct. 25, 2000, friendly, Memorial Coliseum, Los Angeles
In Landon Donovan’s coming-out party, he scored a goal and gave an assist to Josh Wolff. It would hardly be the last time that Donovan was decisive in a game with Mexico.
Feb. 28, 2001, World Cup qualifier, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
The Americans’ success in Columbus is hardly accidental. The thinking then, as now, is to make things as uncomfortable for Mexico as possible. And 15 years ago, it was so cold – never getting above freezing – that in La Guerra Fria, as it came to be known – El Tri never even left the locker room for warmups. An unmistakable home crowd (a rarity then) turned the newish stadium into a cauldron. Wolff, who had come on for Brian McBride (whose eye had swollen shut after a collision and starred in the game), scored. Earnie Stewart did as well.
June 17, 2002, World Cup round of 16, Jeonju World Cup Stadium, Jeonju, South Korea
Yes, Mexico was probably the better team. But McBride scored the opener early and Donovan got another in the second half. Rafa Marquez put his studs into Cobi Jones and headbutted him all in the same challenge. He was sent off and forever became the bogeyman of this rivalry. The U.S., meanwhile, reached its only quarterfinal of the modern era and did so at the expense of its arch-rival.
Sep. 3, 2005, World Cup qualifier, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Steve Ralston and DaMarcus Beasley scored in quick succession in the second half. Jared Borgetti and Oguchi Onyewu almost came to blows after staring one another down. The Americans clinched their place at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.
Feb. 7, 2007, friendly, University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Jimmy Conrad opened the scoring for the USA. The Yanks left it late to make it dos, though, as Donovan didn’t get another until the 90th minute. Donovan so angered Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez with his swagger that he tried to tackle Eddie Johnson as he ran off to celebrate with his teammates, succeeding partly. Mexico wouldn’t shake the American hands after the game.
Feb. 11, 2009, World Cup qualifier, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
On another frightful weather day, Mexico was again made deeply uncomfortable. Michael Bradley, who has since risen to become captain, was just old enough to drink, but that didn’t stop him from scoring twice in either half. Marquez got sent off again, this time for kicking Tim Howard in the knee.
Sep. 10, 2013, World Cup qualifier, Columbus Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
Eddie Johnson, back in the picture after a few years on the fringes of the team, scored the opener. Donovan, back from a self-imposed exile, got the second. Clint Dempsey threatened to break the dos a cero streak, but slammed his late penalty kick wide. The Americans clinched their place in Brazil and celebrated on the field after the game, with the Mexicans long gone.
April 15, 2015, friendly, Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas
After much griping that there was insufficient talent coming through, one-time phenom Juan Agudelo returned to score a great goal. But first, the collegian Jordan Morris got his first international goal.
Leander Schaerlaeckens is a soccer columnist for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @LeanderAlphabet.