The CONCACAF berth in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia needed two tournaments and an extra match to determine. It’s only fitting that the regions representative in the pre-World Cup tournament would take 120 minutes to determine.
The U.S. and Mexico traded goals in the first 15 minutes, then again in extra time in a grueling affair at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, before Paul Aguilar scored the game-winner in the 119th minute to give Mexico a 3-2 victory and the trip to Russia.
The U.S. made two comeback efforts in an epic battle between two heated rivals, but ultimately it was a wonder-strike from Aguilar to end thoughts of a return to the Confederations Cup.
Jurgen Klinsmann fielded eight MLS players in his starting lineup, including RSL midfielder Kyle Beckerman, and his squad was put to the test early on. Chicharito scored in the 10th minute for his first career goal against the U.S.
That was answered in the 15th minute when Michael Bradley found Geoff Cameron with a free kick and the former Houston Dynamo defender scored the headed equalizer.
The two teams traded momentum over the next 75 minutes without a goal before heading to extra time.
Like in regulation, Mexico got on the board early, this time through Oribe Peralta on a ball played back across the box from Aguilar in the 96th minute. The U.S. again found an unlikely response, coming from 22-year-old substitute Bobby Wood off a ball from DeAndre Yedlin in the 108th minute. It was the third big goal scored late by Wood, after winners against the Netherlands and Germany in friendlies back in June.
However, any thoughts of another round of heroics were thwarted by Aguilar in the 118th minute.
Mexico had a deep free kick that was cleared initially, but kept in the mixer long enough for Aguilar to fire a volley from the right side that crept past Brad Guzan and inside the far post for the Cup-winning goal.
Mexico now advances to Confederations Cup in June and July of 2017 in Russia.
It was the end of a disappointing day for the Americans, as the U.S. U-23s fell 2-0 to Honduras in the CONCACAF Olympic Qualifying tournament at Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday, as well in a match that saw Head Coach Andi Herzog ejected in the second half. The U-23s have not yet been eliminated from contention for the 2016 Olympics, but it will take a win on Tuesday over Canada and in March over Colombia to earn a berth.