Lopez and Mexico stun football world, take down USWNT for first time since 2010

For just the second time in its nation's history, the Mexican Women's National Team found a way to take down its neighbors to the north. Two brilliantly taken goals pushed Mexico into the quarterfinals as the winners of Group A.

United States v Mexico: Group A - 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup
United States v Mexico: Group A - 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup / Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/GettyImages

All heart. Sheer grit. That defined the Mexican National Team's performance on Monday night in Carson, California against the mighty USWNT. Pedro López was right, his team is in fact a "wolf in sheep's clothing."

In July 2022, this same nation failed to earn a single point in the CONCACAF W Championship group stages. Three matches. Zero goals scored. Five allowed. The ex-Spanish U-19 coach Lopez has breathed life into this team. You can see the comradery between the green and red. It's clear as day. This group won the Pan-American Games in October and November, allowing just two goals in five fixtures. Lopez is building this unity, and right now his magic is working faster than some would have expected.

Led by a first-half stunner by 24-year-old Tigres UANL midfielder Lizbeth Ovalle and a cracker via the right foot of Mayra Pelayo-Bernal, El Tri Femenil produced one of the most historic nights in CONCACAF history. The strike by No. 20 in green put the icing on top of a sensational display, laying that final dagger into any hope of the home side salvaging a draw.

“They were bold,” Lopez said post-match. “That was a spectacular match. This is great for the Gold Cup, the fans, and everyone watching.”

Per Opta Stats, Mexico became the first nation since 2000 to earn a triumph against the Stars and Stripes on its home turf. The United States' neighbors to the south advance to the tournament's quarterfinals as Group A winners while the Red, White, and Blue move on as the runners-up. Using a relentless pressing style executed to perfection by the front three of Ovalle, Maria Sanchez, and Kiana Palacios, Mexico made the United States extremely uncomfortable. Despite having over 60 percent of the possession, the home outfit only forced Esthefanny Barreras into making two saves.

There was little cohesion between the three levels of the USWNT formation. Both center backs could not break lines through distribution while the attack lacked the width that we saw in the first two group stage fixtures. Both teenagers led the nation to back-to-back victories to kick off the tournament watched until the 78' when Jaedyn Shaw came on as the right winger, pushing Midge Purce to full back.

Emily Sonnett and Alex Morgan were brought on to create some stability in the second half, but credit to the USWNT's rivals to the south. Liga MX Femenil is no joke, and last night emphasizes that much more. This was more about Mexico than it was about the U.S. Yes, the passing patterns were poor, but that was all due to Lopez's brilliance and the players' desire to believe in something that seemed improbable at kick-off. That work ethic on all three levels frustrated a group that once again was arguably leaning on the old guard a little too much.

You could say a mistake by Becky Sauerbrunn resulted in the first goal, but it was all created through some brilliant pressure by Ovalle. On the right, Karen Luna was a force on both ends, acting as arguably Mexico's Player of the Match. In just her third cap for her national team, she found Pelayo-Bernal with a cross-field pass to set up the second and final goal of the night.

Interim head coach Twila Kilgore was very blunt in the post-game, highlighting that her side did not carry out its plan to perfection.

"I think they had a good game plan, I think we had a good game plan. Simply, they just executed theirs better than ours," Kilgore stated. "Part of that does have to do with intensity but generally can be measured by things like tempo with the ball, but also defensive things like winning first tackles and winning second balls."

Now, it's time to see the United States respond to some adversity. The better team won on Monday. For a team with such high expectations, this is its first walk-up call post-World Cup. The growth of the game globally is getting these countries closer. Sure, the U.S. had a head start, but that has vanished. The history of this rivalry may still signal how lopsided it is, but in reality, on the pitch, that is not the case anymore.

Lopez and Mexico aren't satisfied just yet.

"I insist that for us it would be of no use if in the next game, we lose the quarterfinals and we go down in history as the team that only beat the United States one day," the Mexican sideline leader explained.

Before the next two groups finish up, Mexico holds the No. 1 seed in the quarterfinals, meaning it would encounter the final club to qualify. The USWNT, on the other hand, sits in that No. 3 spot. Its position will likely drop with Canada and Brazil still to play.

The CONCACAF W Gold Cup quarterfinals are on March 2, and 3 with all fixtures taking place at Angel City's home, BMO Stadium.