[WOMEN'S WORLD CUP QUALIFYING] Winless in 25 previous games -- 24 losses and one tie -- and outscored by a 106-9 margin, Mexico recorded the greatest upset in the history of women's soccer when it beat the United States, 2-1, Friday night in the Concacaf Women's World Cup qualifying tournament in Cancun. Californian Veronica Perez's goal completed a wild first half and qualified Mexico for the 2011 Women's World Cup with a thoroughly deserved victory.
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The loss relegated the United States to Monday's third-place game against Costa Rica in the Concacaf qualifying tournament (UPDATE: the game will broadcast live on ESPN2 at 6 p.m. ET). The Americans will need to win that game to advance to a playoff against Europe's No. 5 team, Italy, for a berth in next year's finals (see below).
Canada beat Costa Rica, 4-0, in the other semifinal and claimed Concacaf's other automatic bid to the world championships.
Mexico, which was coming off a 3-0 loss to Canada in the group stage of the Concacaf tournament, exposed the shaky U.S. backline in an eventful first half that saw all three goals come in the first 26 minutes.
In just the third minute, former WUSA star Maribel Dominguez scored her sixth goal of the tournament, finishing off a play that began when Nayeli Rangel flicked on Natalie Garcia's header into the area.
It was the sixth goal by Dominguez in the tournament and the first allowed by the United States.
The Americans equalized in the 25th minute when Carli Lloyd scored on a rebound after goalie Erika Vanegas failed to clear Megan Rapinoe's corner kick.
But Mexico raced down and went back ahead a minute later when Perez scored on a header off Juana Lopez's cross.
The USA pressed for the equalizer but lacked flair and creativity and grew frustrated as the game went on. Three Americans received yellow cards in the second half and the USA was whistled for 25 fouls to only four for Mexico.
Both teams finished with only 10 players when Abby Wambach and Kenti Robles had to leave the field with head wounds following a collision.
The loss continued a year of misery for the U.S. women's national team program. The USA failed to qualify for the U-17 Women's World Cup and lost in the quarterfinals of the U-20 women's championship.
It was just the second loss in 60 matches under U.S. coach Pia Sundhage and first since the USA fell to Norway in its opening game at the 2008 Olympics.
“You can’t take anything for granted,” said Sundhage. “We knew Mexico would be a good team and that it would be a good game. Today, they scored one more goal than we did and their early goal made a big difference. They got the 12th player, the crowd to support them and they had so much energy. Not only that, when we scored to tie the game, they came back to score right after.”
The game, only the second in the USA-Mexico series played on Mexican soil, drew 8,500 fans at Estadio Quintana Roo.
Perez, who attended the University of Washington, was one of three Californians to start for the Tri femenil.
Center backs Natalie Vinti and Natalie Garcia played together at the University of San Diego.
Perez and Vinti have graduated, while Garcia is a junior at USD.
PLAYOFF. If the USA beats Costa Rica, it will play Italy for the first leg of the playoff series on Nov. 20. The home leg would be played on Nov. 27 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.
Nov. 5 in Cancun
Mexico 2 USA 1. Dominguez 3, Perez 27; Lloyd 25.
Mexico -- Venegas, Robles (Castillo, 93+), Vinti, Garcia, Saucedo, Lopez (Morales, 52), Worbis, Rangel, Dominguez, Garza, Perez.
USA -- Barnhart, Mitts, LePeilbet, Rampone, Buehler (Lilly, 84), O’Reilly (Morgan, 60), Boxx, Lloyd, Rapinoe, Rodriguez, Wambach.
Yellow Cards: Mexico -- Robles 42; USA -- Rapinoe 61, Boxx 79, Rampone 90.
Referee: Dianne Ferreira (Guyana).