USA’s Weston McKennie

CELEBRATION: USA’s Weston McKennie (#8) celebrates after scoring with teammates Tyler Adams, left, and Christian Pulisic during the second half in their FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Mexico, in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA, on Friday night. USA won 2-0.

@Sun Caption:—Photo: AP

Christian Pulisic sent a message, with his head and his undershirt. Take that, Mexico. Pulisic and the Americans are back atop the region.

Pulisic scored on his very first touch in the 74th minute, Weston McKennie added a goal in the 85th and the United States beat Mexico 2-0 Friday night in a World Cup qualifier — the “Dos a Cero” scoreline that became traditional early in the 21st century.

When Pulisic scored five minutes after entering, he ran to the endline and pulled up his jersey to show the red-white-and-blue clad fans.

“Man in the mirror,” was scribbled in dark ink. Earlier in the week, El Tri goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa was quoted as saying: “Mexico is the mirror in which the United States wants to see itself.”

A night that began with smoke — from fireworks during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as LED lights flashed through the stands — ended with Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” played on the public address system. Fans in the crowd of 26,000 at new TLQ Stadium booed Ochoa with every touch.

Heated matches between Mexico and the USA are the norm, and this one ended with the USA, a man short after Miles Robinson got a pair of yellow cards.

The USA and Mexico have 14 points each, followed by Canada with 13, Panama 11, Costa Rica, Jamaica and El Salvador six each and Honduras three. Three nations from North and Central America and the Caribbean qualify for next year’s tournament in Qatar and the fourth-place nation advances to a playoff.

The USA won four straight home qualifiers against Mexico by 2-0, all at Columbus, Ohio, before falling 2-1 in November 2016 at Crew Stadium. That led to the Americans missing the 2018 World Cup.

Pulisic, one of the few holdovers, entered in place of Brenden Aaronson in the 69th minute. Since a high left ankle sprain on September 8 at Honduras, Pulisic had been limited to a pair of late-match appearances for Chelsea. The Americans outshot Mexico 18-8 but couldn’t break through.

Yunus Musah, an 18-year-old emerging as a key American midfielder, passed to the 21-year-old Tim Weah on the right flank to set up the first goal. Weah, the son of Liberia president and former FIFA Player of the Year George Weah, crossed and Pulisic got in front of Johan Vásquez and headed the ball past Ochoa for his 17th international goal.

McKennie, dropped from the roster for two matches in September for violating team Covid-19 protocols, scored with an eight-yard right-footed shot after exchanging passes with Jesús Ferreira. The return pass deflected off McKennie’s boot, hit Vásquez and bounced into the path of McKennie, who ran onto the ball for his eighth international goal.

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