Christian Pulisic came prepared—with the help of some of his teammates.
After scoring against Mexico five minutes into his stint off the bench in Friday's World Cup qualifying match, the U.S. men's national team star lifted up his jersey to reveal a shirt that read "Man in the Mirror." Regardless of whether Pulisic is a fan of Michael Jackson's music, the message had a purpose.
Prior to the U.S.-Mexico match, veteran El Tri goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa provided some bulletin board material, telling TUDN that, “Mexico has been that mirror in which they [the U.S.] want to see themselves and reflect, what they want to copy."
The theme of respect had been one that was talked about prior to the U.S.'s 2–0 win, which sent the Americans to the top of the Concacaf World Cup qualifying Octagonal halfway through the competition. Even with the U.S. having won the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup finals over Mexico this summer, it evidently hadn't jarred Mexico's most experienced players.
“When you hear things coming out from their camp that we want to be them, we're looking at some mirror that's Mexico and want to see ourselves or something like that, it shows that we have a long way to go to get the respect of Mexico,” U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter said on the eve of Friday's match. “And the two victories in the summer I guess didn't do a lot to get that, and we're going to have to do it tomorrow by our play on the field.”
Perhaps that's changed after Friday's result. Pulisic entered in the 69th minute, and five minutes later he was heading in a cross from Tim Weah. The Lille winger said it was he and DeAndre Yedlin who got the team's equipment manager to write the message on the shirt—something Pulisic played down in his post-match remarks.
Weah was happy to oblige, though.
"I think it's a new era now. Before the game Mexico was talking a lot of smack," he said. "And beating them just shuts them up."
Added Berhalter: “This was about going out and earning respect and I think we earned it today.”
On top of the shirt itself, the "Man in the Mirror" song blared over the TQL Stadium loudspeakers after the match as well, another nod at Ochoa's remarks and a point of emphasis that those in U.S. Soccer's camp most certainly heard what he'd said—and had every intention of making him think again.
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