The USWNT unceremoniously dumped Mexico from 2023 Women’s World Cup contention on Monday night, securing a late 1-0 win in Nuevo León in front of a 2022 Concacaf W Championship-best crowd of 20,522.
The loss was devastating for La Tri, who miss out on a second straight World Cup despite the consistent growth of a domestic league. Placed in a tough group, Mexico couldn’t bounce back from a 1-0 loss to Jamaica, losing the plot in a 3-0 defeat to Haiti before officially being knocked out of World Cup qualifying with Monday’s defeat to its northern neighbor.
After the match, the tears were real for Mexico’s players. But not all the tears were in agony of defeat. Former college teammates Ashley Sanchez and Maricarmen Reyes, rivals on the pitch Monday, shared a tender moment with friends and family in the stands after the match, wonderfully captured by photographer Azael Rodriguez.
Sanchez, who played the full 90 for the U.S., and Reyes, who came on as a 76th-minute substitute for Mexico, played together at UCLA. Sanchez, a dynamic attacking midfielder, left UCLA to go pro — she was the fourth overall pick in the 2020 NWSL Draft — while Reyes is a rising graduate student still playing midfield for the Bruins. They were joined from the crowd by fellow UCLA midfielder Madelyn Desiano, who helped document the moment.
Even after a tough battle on the pitch, the friends could still share hugs — and jerseys — after the match.
Sanchez, 23, was born in California of Mexican descent and has represented the U.S. since the U-14 level, competing in a variety of youth World Cups. Reyes, 22, was born in California but has chosen to represent Mexico, the country of her parents, and already has six goals for La Tri. Desiano has also appeared for various U.S. youth national teams.
Sanchez and Reyes weren’t the only players to exchange jerseys. Sofia Huerta, who came on in the 63rd minute for the U.S., and Bianca Sierra, who came on 12 minutes later for Mexico, swapped shirts. Huerta became the first player to compete both for and against the U.S. national team when she made a one-time switch in 2017. Sierra was on the Mexico squad when Huerta played against the USWNT in 2013 and recently married Mexico midfielder Stephany Mayor.
— Zona TUDN (@Zona_TUDN) July 12, 2022
Though Mexico’s run in the Concacaf W Championship is over, the U.S. will stay in Mexico for the semifinals on Thursday against Costa Rica. The Americans will then play in either the championship or the third-place match on Monday. The four semifinalists have already clinched World Cup berths and are playing for 2024 Olympic qualification, with one berth going to the champion and another to the winner of a September 2023 playoff between the second- and third-place teams.