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The USMNT Earns an Important Point By Outplaying Mexico in a Scoreless Tie at the Defanged Estadio Azteca
MEXICO CITY — Fortress Azteca used to be a thing. Visiting teams, including the United States, came to the cauldron in fear. Altitude, pollution, midday heat and a buzzing wall of humanity, to say nothing of the Mexican national team, conspired to beat opponents before the whistle had even blown.
That’s gone now.
On Thursday night, the USMNT tied Mexico 0-0 to come within one game of potentially clinching a World Cup berth, and the truth is the visitors had the two best scoring chances (from Christian Pulisic and Jordan Pefok) and should have won their first World Cup qualifier ever here. The performance was especially impressive considering the U.S. was missing injured starters Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest and Brenden Aaronson.
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But the biggest surprise was that the notorious Estadio Azteca mystique had disappeared. The nighttime crowd, limited to 40,000 by Covid regulations and the threat of homophobic chant punishments, was strangely muted from the start. During the middle of play, a desperate stadium PA announcer repeatedly tried starting MAY-HEE-CO chants and The Wave, but almost nobody joined in. On the one occasion when El Tri fans began their trademark O-LÉ chant on every pass, Mexico comically lost possession on an unpressured misfire out of play.
At times, the 1,000 U.S. fans in an upper stadium corner drowned out the Mexico supporters, except when they were whistling and booing their own coach, Tata Martino.
You kind of felt embarrassed for the hosts.
A longtime fan writes: “I’ve been following the [USMNT] since 1994, I’ve been deep in BigSoccer forums for decades, and from everything I see, the fans are demonstrably less fun and more awful than they have ever been. Win or lose, it’s just generally much more unpleasant than in years past. Are these my fellow travelers now? Miserable, angry people who have absolutely zero sense of proportion or enjoyment?”
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