Prior to Wednesday’s U-23 Concacaf Men’s Olympic Qualifying match between the United States and Mexico, both teams knew they were already through to the semifinal. But, this being U.S. - Mexico, nobody wanted to play it safe.
From the start of the match, Mexico made it a point to constantly kick and foul CF Montreal’s Djordje Mihailovic, although referee Daneon Parchment apparently didn’t see enough to award a single yellow card to Mexico until the 84th minute. The former Chicago Fire man was often an outlet for the U.S.’s build up play, which Mexico was intent on stopping with fouls.
But it was his old Fire teammate, defender Mauricio Pineda, who made the play of the game—a ridiculous, perfectly-timed sliding tackle to pop the ball away from Mexico’s Manuel Mayorga, who was through on goal and sure to score. Pineda, who looked a bit shaky at the beginning of his first match against Costa Rica, was solid on the night, calmly passing out of Mexico’s relentless pressure.
That tackle was worth all the accolades it’s received online, and then some. If you haven’t yet seen it, behold:
Mexico scored the game’s lone goal in the 45th minute, when Uriel Atuna pounced on a misplayed pass by the U.S. midfield, and tucked the ball away. El Tri went on to win 1-0, winning Group A.
“It’s a game of small details, and getting all those right,” Pineda said after the match. “Against the best teams, you’re gonna get punished if you make even the smallest of mistakes.”
The U.S. will play either Honduras or Canada—whichever team wins Group B—on Sunday in the tournament semifinal. The winner gets one of Concacaf’s two spots in the Olympics, and the U.S. is looking to qualify for the first time since 2008.
“We’re gonna have to flip the page quick, because that game’s coming up fast.” Pineda said. “We’ll move on from this, and we’ll be ready for the next game.”