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On this day in 2002, Sporting Legend and longtime MLS goalkeeper Tony Meola added to his catalog of caps for the United States Men's National Team in a high-profile friendly against rivals Mexico in Denver, Colorado.
The fixture came at a significant time for both sides, slated just a few months before the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea. This particular juncture also saw a significant shift in the balance of power between the U.S. and Mexico.
Until 2000, the Mexicans had held a 27-5-9 all-time record in the rivalry and shown no real signs of relinquishing their dominance in the series. The U.S. grabbed a decisive stranglehold in the 2000s, however, and that decade remains their proudest in the history of the rivalry.
From 2000-2009, the Americans went 10-3-2 versus Mexico, including a momentous 2-0 victory in the Round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup. But less than three months before that legendary performance—a game in which Meola was on the bench—the Kansas City keeper led the Yanks to a 1-0 triumph over El Tri with a crowd of 48,476 looking on at Empower Field at Mile High.
In what became his very last of 27 clean sheets for the U.S. MNT, Meola kept Mexico off the scoreboard and forward Clint Mathis bagged the decisive match-winner in the 66th minute. The friendly gave the U.S. all the momentum it needed to knock off El Tri once more on June 17, 2002, as it progressed to the World Cup quarterfinals before falling to Germany in controversial fashion.