2018 CMU20: Mendez powers U.S. past Mexico
MIAMI, Florida – This Friday at 7:00 PM ET, Concacaf will be airing a re-broadcast of two matches from the 2018 Concacaf Men’s Under-20 Championship: The Qualification Stage Group H match between Panama and Mexico and the Final between the United States and Mexico. The matches can be seen on Concacaf’s YouTube and Facebook pages, plus the Concacaf App.
Both the U.S. and Mexico arrived into the Final with unbeaten records, so something had to give between these two storied rivals.
“Once we qualified [for the World Cup], it was a great time and we were all happy, but I think during that time after that game we were focused on Mexico,” said U.S. MF Alex Mendez in an interview with Concacaf.com. “I think that everyone was up for it and everyone was pumped and ready.”
Justin Rennicks had the game’s first good look at goal in the 16’ when he raced past the Mexican defense, only to see Mexico GK Carlos Higuera come up with a big save.
But there was nothing Higuera could do to stop the opening goal from being scored just a minute later in the 17’ by Mendez, who collected a pass from Paxton Pomykal and swept in a left-footed shot to hand the U.S. a 1-0 lead.
“I’d say the first goal versus Mexico was my favorite, based off the emotion, just because the meaning of the game, the opponent and what it meant to me,” said Mendez.
“Going into the game my parents and my family were saying, ‘You have to go out there and win the game” and in my head I was saying of course I do, but when I scored the first goal there were so many emotions that came out just because of my background, but it was a great feeling,” added Mendez.
At the other end, U.S. GK Brady Scott stayed alert and make a big stop off a Jose Juan Macias header in the 41’ to keep the U.S. lead intact.
Five minutes into the second half, the Mendez-Pomykal connection would once again bear fruit for the U.S., as Mendez polished off a one-two combination with a shot through the legs of Higuera to make it a 2-0 U.S. lead.
From there, Scott and the U.S. defense took over with the U.S. shot-stopper making a pair of stretch saves to secure the 2-0 final scoreline and a well-deserved Golden Ball honor for Mendez.
“It’s funny, right before that game I was on the bus and Uly [Llanez] was right in front of me and he said, ‘You know if we win this game, you can get the Golden Ball. You’ve scored a lot of goals and you’ve been playing well,’” recounted Mendez.
“Going into the game, I score and then I score a second, and then the game ends and the players are coming at me saying ‘MVP! MVP!’ and then I remembered Uly’s words in my head and I thought, ‘Wow, I might actually win this award’. When they gave me the Golden Ball, I was honestly really happy,” concluded Mendez.