BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — As Mexico’s first-ever match against the Chicago Red Stars neared the hour mark on Saturday, Diana Ordoñez saw the ball in the back of the net before the Red Stars could even react. Taking two steps in front of the penalty area, Ordoñez found acres of space with which to line up a golazo from distance, giving Mexico their fourth goal in an eventual 5-2 win, on a day when the best of the sport were on display.

The MexTour has been a wildly successful endeavor on the men’s side for years, as the Mexico men’s national team connects with fans in the U.S. who might not have the opportunity to travel and watch them in their home country. The men’s team most recently visited Chicago last June for a pre-World Cup friendly against Ecuador in front of 60,000 people at Soldier Field, solidifying the team as one of the most popular in the city and arguably the entire country.

The women’s national team is working on building that kind of following in the inaugural year of MexTour W after a few rocky years on the international stage. Mexico has missed the last two Women’s World Cups with performances during Concacaf qualifying tournaments that don’t reflect the growth in talent in the region in recent years. But Saturday was all about the future, as Mexico drew more than 6,000 fans out to SeatGeek Stadium in Bridgeview, the Red Stars’ home venue.

“When I heard Mexico was coming to play, I was like man, this crowd is going to be rowdy. So I was excited,” said Chicago defender and acting captain Arin Wright, happily sporting a Mexico jersey after the match ended.

The Red Stars were undoubtedly the away team in their home stadium on Saturday, with boos accompanying yellow card challenges and raucous cheers for every Mexico goal-scoring opportunity.

The crowd didn’t leave empty-handed. Mexico found spaces in and around a short-handed Red Stars defense to score five total goals, including a number of strikes from distance complemented by quality footwork in the penalty area. Ordoñez and Maria Sanchez led the charge, each scoring against Chicago just a week after doing the same for the Houston Dash in the NWSL.

“I felt like it was a great day for people that are football people,” said Red Stars head coach Christ Petrucelli. “It’s probably the first time we’ve ever been booed in our own stadium. But it’s OK, it was part of the fun.”

After a number of years when Mexican talent fell outside the NWSL talent pipeline, the door to more overlap between the U.S. and Mexico is appearing to open. Sanchez, Ordoñez, Katie Johnson and Scarlett Camberos are the highest-profile Mexican-American players to rise through the NCAA system and eventually find their way to the NWSL, while American talent is increasingly finding a home in Liga MX Femenil. Most notably, UCLA product and USWNT prospect Mia Fishel is on a goal-scoring tear for Tigres Femenil.

“I think there should be more Mexican players in our league,” Wright said after the game. “I mean, watching this game right there, it shows that they can keep up and that they bring a lot of different talent that we don’t have here in this league. And I think our league could thrive having a little bit more of their technical ability.”

Red Stars midfielder Jill Aguilera, who plays for the Puerto Rico national team, agrees that more opportunities for cross-competition are only good for the region. Saturday’s game was a quick turnaround for Aguilera, as Puerto Rico will play their own version of a club friendly against Liga MX Femenil side Tijuana in California early this week.

“I played Mexico a year ago, somewhat close to today,” she said. “So I was definitely used to the crowd, I knew that it would feel somewhat like an away game. I expected that.”

While the Red Stars did their best to quiet the Mexico crowd, most emphatically with Julia Bianchi’s Olimpico goal off a corner kick, they were also open about their desire to see many of the fans return, perhaps sporting their club colors next time around. The Red Stars’ home outside of Chicago’s city limits has long been a topic of conversation, as the team attempts to connect with the vibrant community northeast of the quiet suburb where they play.

“I think that we struggle a bit, everyone knows, to get fans out here to SeatGeek. So we were really excited to have them come in and have our players really experience that atmosphere that Mexico can bring,” said Wright.

“Overall, we’re just grateful to have as many people as we did out here, and the more we can get fans like this to our regular season games, the better for everyone,” echoed Aguilera.

Wright believes the way to draw crowds back is to continue being active with outreach, and the scheduling of international friendlies is an easy way to make the Red Stars a relevant part of the footballing conversation in the greater Chicagoland community.

“Chicago is a melting pot. It’s so diverse, it has so many different cultures,” she says. “So can we get more games against other countries? That’s how you get more fans is more visibility, and reaching different countries and different fan bases.”

Despite the result, the Red Stars relished the opportunity to be a part of the global game, and Wright is eager for more opportunities.

“The players are gonna be happy to do it,” she said. “Ask us to go to Mexico, twist our arm, we’ll be there.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Mexico women’s national team coach Monica Vergara maintains a tenuous hold on her job after the country’s soccer federation fired its sporting director and national teams director, the federation announced Wednesday.

ESPN initially reported that Vergara had been dismissed alongside general sporting director Gerardo Torrado and men’s U-20 team coach Luis Pérez.

Torrado, Pérez and national teams director Ignacio Hierro have been relieved of their duties, but Vergara’s future will be determined by new leadership, federation president Yon de Luisa said in a press conference.

Vergara was named head coach of the senior national team in January 2021 after stints with Mexico’s youth national teams.

“In the case of Monica Vergara, women’s national team head coach, it will be the new sports department that will evaluate and take decisions accordingly,” said de Luisa, who added that “new members of the sports department” will be announced “in the following days.”

The dismissals of Torrado and Hierro make space for Mexico’s federation to restructure its women’s program in particular. Women’s teams will move to their own department, and the federation will hire two national team directors — one for the men’s side, another for the women’s side, The Athletic’s Felipe Cárdenas reported.

“These changes are made in order to avoid the results that we had in the past weeks,” de Luisa said.

The moves come after the women’s national team failed to qualify for the 2023 Women’s World Cup and the 2024 Olympics. Mexico lost all three of its group stage matches this month as hosts of the Concacaf W Championship, which leaves the country on the outside looking in for the premier international tournaments.

“I’m not a person that gives up on things. Evidently, I’m going to be evaluated,” Vergara said following the team’s loss to the USWNT. “If the cycle finishes here, it’s been a spectacular ride.”

Mexico had been viewed as a favorite for one of Concacaf’s four direct spots into next year’s World Cup, which will take place in New Zealand and Australia. Headed into the W Championship, the team had a 10-game undefeated streak under its belt, with 52 goals scored during that time.

The first two group-stage losses knocked Mexico out of contention for one of the direct berths. The team still could have reached an inter-confederation play-in tournament with a third-place finish in four-team Group A, but a 1-0 loss to the USWNT closed the door on Mexico’s World Cup chances.

Vergara took full responsibility for the team’s fourth-place finish, saying she considered it a “personal failure.”

“We must salvage the good things that are developing in our country,” she added. “This women’s soccer project in our country is growing and it’s taking many solid steps.”

The U.S. women’s national soccer team fought to a gritty 1-0 victory Monday against host Mexico to clinch the top spot in Group A at the Concacaf W Championship.

The result knocks Mexico out of World Cup qualifying. Jamaica earned second place in the group and the group’s second World Cup berth with a 3-0 win against Haiti.

For the USWNT, the Mexico matchup provided highlights and lowlights ahead of the tournament’s semifinals.

Lack of chemistry remains a challenge

The USWNT struggled to find its offensive tempo against Mexico, with the squad logging just two shots on goal in the opening half. Mexico, for its part, disrupted its opponent’s attack, effectively blunting the United States’ rhythm.

When asked about the team’s lack of creativity following the match, USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski gave all credit to Mexico.

“Sometimes it’s not us. Sometimes it’s how much the opponent allows things to happen … [Mexico] was making it very hard for us … If we don’t score early the game will be difficult,” Andonovski told reporters.

The USWNT has been eager to give minutes to a range of players, with few lines given time to gel. Perhaps that has shown itself in the lack of chemistry.

Monday’s starting lineup featured seven changes from Thursday’s lineup against Jamaica. Emily Sonnett took the place of Emily Fox, who is out due to COVID-19 protocol. Becky Sauerbrunn slotted back into the defensive line, replacing Alana Cook, while Kelly O’Hara replaced Sofia Huerta. Casey Murphy got the start in net over Alyssa Naeher, while Andi Sullivan started in the defensive midfield position, pushing Rose Lavelle out of the starting XI. In the attack, Alex Morgan and Margaret Purce replaced an injured Ashley Hatch and a resting Mallory Pugh.

Purce was a bright spot in an otherwise stressed USWNT attack, with the Gotham star dominating the wing and creating the most dangerous chances for her side.

After an arduous first two halves, the USWNT finally found its breakthrough goal in the 89th minute, as Kristie Mewis bodied in a deflected Sonnett header. The play was reviewed for a potential offside call on Sonnett, but the ruling on the field stood, upholding the USWNT’s lone goal of the match.

Naomi Girma continues to shine

Naomi Girma has had an excellent showing during the Concacaf W Championship, slotting into the center-back role alongside Cook and then Sauerbrunn. The 22-year-old continued to show her potential in the Mexico game, winning one-on-one defensive battles with apparent ease.

The San Diego Wave star’s ability to distribute also has been on display, as she has served precise long balls into the USWNT attack. While the Concacaf group stage hasn’t been the most illuminating for defensive tests, Girma has made a case for herself in the team’s center-back pool.

Atmosphere favored Mexico

Mexico’s fans showed out to watch their team take on the USWNT, with 20,522 fans packing the Estadio Universitario in Monterrey. The crowd is what Mexico was waiting for all tournament long after lackluster turnout.

The fans were raucous, packing the venue and staying loud throughout the match. The USWNT hasn’t played in such an environment in quite some time, giving the younger players a critical look into international tournament atmosphere.

Andonovski credited the impassioned crowd for affecting his team’s focus.

“As the atmosphere was getting fired up, our team started losing focus on the tempo,” Andonovski told media. “We had very good control of the tempo until the atmosphere started getting ramped and then our players started falling into the trap. That’s where the inexperience comes in.”

The USWNT continues its quest for the Concacaf W Championship title at 7 p.m. ET Thursday, when the team will face Costa Rica in the tournament semifinals.

When the final Concacaf W draw in April set the groups of the last round of the tournament, all eyes eventually landed on Group A. As unlikely as it is to have a “Group of Death” in a two-group format, Jamaica, Mexico and Haiti would have to compete against each other and the U.S. for two automatic qualification spots to the 2023 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.

As May and June passed, and the USWNT lost key players to injury while Mexico blew through much of its competition, anticipation for a group stage upset grew. Adding to the intrigue, the games were to be played in Monterrey, Mexico — a more hostile qualifying environment for the World No. 1 team than they’d seen in years.

The USWNT and Mexico, historically, haven’t been pitted in the type of rivalry we’ve seen on the men’s side, but this year seemed to be trending toward an inflection point that could set a new tone between the two programs.

What actually occurred over the last week didn’t quite meet that expected, giving us a glimpse into a region that hasn’t changed in the ways we projected. A 1-0 loss to Jamaica last Monday set them on the wrong path, and a 3-0 loss to Haiti on Thursday has pushed them to the brink of the unthinkable.

Mexico will need all three points against the USWNT on Monday night to even have a shot at the inter-continental playoff spot given to Group A’s third-place finisher.

In addition to Haiti’s big step forward, the shock in the standings comes from all the progress Mexico had made in recent years to prepare for this exact moment. In 2016, the country founded Liga MX Femenil with the intention of developing domestic talent into a formidable national team that can represent Concacaf on the biggest stages. In 2018, Mexico failed to qualify for the three available spots for the 2019 World Cup, most notably falling 2-0 to eventual inter-continental playoff team Panama.

That failure devastated fans and players alike, but belief in the process kept the team pushing forward. The Mexican Football Federation identified that the future lay in the strength of the next generation, and after strong performances as the coach of the U-17 and U-20 ranks, former player Monica Vergara was named first-team manager in January 2021.

Vergara’s tenure up until a week ago had been considered a great success. She had identified talent both in Liga MX Femenil and abroad, and she had created a free-flowing attack that scored goals with ease. She also appeared to instill a belief into the player pool that they could compete with anyone, as evidenced in the team’s two results against Olympic gold medalists Canada at home last November.

Mexico advanced through the newly established Concacaf W preliminary rounds in completely dominant fashion and entered the final stage of the tournament on a 10-game winning streak, having scored 52 goals in that span.

Mexican national team star Maria Sánchez is a product of both Liga MX Femenil and the NWSL. (Manuel Guadarrama/Getty Images)

So, when Vergara told the media before Mexico’s first match against Jamaica that they were “going to see a Mexico that they’ve never seen before,” there was reason to believe she was right. In reality, the game felt more haunted by the team’s 2018 failure than the clean slate they had been building toward. Vergara changed her starters against Jamaica, presenting a lineup that prioritized emerging talent without the benefit of experience. Even before the first whistle, the selection changes at the last minute undermined the idea that Mexico felt secure going into the biggest games of the qualifying cycle.

On the field, the team played with a similar aimlessness, as an early goal by Jamaica’s Khadija Shaw left Mexico scrambling for an equalizer. El Tri Femenil sent cross after hopeful cross into the box, rendering the attack both endless and predictable. Against Haiti, belief began to wane as they gave up two penalties and one exceptional free kick. While goals against are expected in tournaments like Concacaf W, Mexico’s lack of attacking bite sunk them before they could even get a foothold in the competition. The team enters Monday’s game still looking for its first goal.

They also didn’t benefit from a dip in the USWNT’s form. In a cruel twist of expectations, the young and relatively un-capped U.S. team has looked as relaxed and confident as they would on home soil.

Some of the tightness the USWNT showed in the Haiti match gave way to flexibility and freedom against a tired Jamaica side, with Sophia Smith scoring one of the best goals in the tournament just four minutes into the game. Jamaica couldn’t match their energy from Game 1 against the world champions, and the USWNT ran away with a 5-0 win while rotating lineups. They clinched a World Cup berth later that day after Mexico fell to Haiti.

This USWNT qualifying squad is a far cry from the roster we saw in France in 2019, and it’s also not the exact team we’re going to see in 2023, but their ability to slot new players in has been a quiet strength of the group.

Vlatko Andonovski’s roster selection came under a fair amount of criticism, with creative attacking midfielders coming at the expense of the defensive midfield. As the Tokyo Olympics made clear, Lindsey Horan is not a long-term solution at the No. 6 and Andi Sullivan hasn’t been able to carry heavy minutes for the team in some time. Losing two starting center backs also raised red flags, as the U.S. depth was clearly going to be tested throughout the tournament.

Those deficiencies, however, didn’t sink the team in their first game, and in their second, they firmly overcame them. Naomi Girma looked just as calm and collected as advertised in her third cap against Jamaica. In fact, the NWSL rookie’s vision in distribution opened the field up for Smith’s first goal. And as the USWNT took a 2-0 lead within the first 10 minutes, any hope for another Jamaica upset seemed to fade.

The storylines all lead to Monday, when instead of granting a World Cup berth, the Mexico-U.S. match might follow old patterns instead. The USWNT does not want to meet Canada in the semifinals, and will do everything it can to get all nine points and set up a likelier meeting with Costa Rica. They’re also in the home stretch of the competition, meaning that they’re less likely to rotate within games as they aim for the tournament’s single-guaranteed 2024 Olympic spot.

For Mexico, the work put into the last four years should have meant that this game against the U.S. was an opportunity, and not an ultimatum. They’ve been bested by two good teams — Jamaica is the region’s established third-best squad with a very good new coach, and Haiti is bursting with young talent — and such is the injustice of the tournament’s draw. But they’re now fighting off the inevitability of defeat and, beyond that, an uncertain future.

After their appearance in the 2015 World Cup, Mexico bought into investment patterns within women’s world football that are supposed to work after a number of years. U.S. Soccer created the NWSL to establish a solid pipeline to the first-team USWNT, and the Americans have won two World Cups within the 10 years of the league’s existence. Across the world, club dominance has since translated to strong national team presences, as the emergence of Spain, France, and England in this year’s Euros can attest.

Trinity Rodman and Mallory Pugh are two pillars of the USWNT's future. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

History tells us that, eventually, Mexico’s investment in its own domestic league will pay dividends on the international stage.

Whether Mexico walks away with the result necessary to have a chance at the next World Cup or not, those in leadership should understand that this tournament is simply a reflection of how difficult the climb can be. Liga MX Femenil is an increasingly competitive market for top players, Mexican stars are doing well in other leagues, and the national team’s future remains bright even if this cycle goes sideways.

From there, a rivalry against the U.S. remains an achievable — if not delayed — dream. Diana Ordoñez and María Sánchez are establishing themselves in the NWSL, and Liga MX Femenil has already attracted top USWNT prospect Mia Fishel.

Regardless of other results, Mexico can take a big step toward its long-term goals with a win Monday night. If you’re a believer in a healthy Concacaf region, you might in fact be rooting for it.

Claire Watkins is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering soccer and the NWSL. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

Mexico’s World Cup hopes are in serious danger after the host team suffered a 3-0 loss Thursday against Haiti in Concacaf W Championship group play.

The defeat comes days after a stunning 1-0 loss to Jamaica in the team’s qualifying opener.

A pair of buried penalty kicks by Roselord Borgella and Nerilia Mondesir and a stunning free-kick from Sherly Jeudy allowed Haiti to seal the empathic shutout over Mexico.

Sitting at the bottom of Group A entering the final match of the group stage, Mexico must beat the United States and receive help for another shot at a World Cup berth. The third-place finisher from Group A will move on to FIFA’s inter-confederation play-offs next February, which will feature 10 teams competing for three World Cup spots.

If Haiti and Jamaica tie, then Mexico would be eliminated even with a win against the USWNT. A tie or a win by Haiti would clinch the first-ever World Cup berth for that team.

Should Jamaica lose to Haiti, Mexico would need to win by any margin to secure third place in the group and a spot in next year’s play-in tournament.

If Haiti loses, Mexico would have to not only beat the USWNT but rack up the goals, as the tiebreaker against Haiti would come down to goal differential. Haiti will enter Monday with an even goal differential, while Mexico will enter at minus-four.

The USWNT has yet to let in a goal during the tournament, defeating Haiti 3-0 and Jamaica 5-0, making the prospect of a Mexico win — let alone a multi-goal victory very unlikely.

Mexico has made three previous appearances in the World Cup, first in 1999 and then again in 2011 and 2015.

The Concacaf W Championship hosts will look to salvage their World Cup dreams when they play the USWNT at 10 p.m. ET Monday on Paramount+.

Jamaica started off the Concacaf W Championship on the right note Monday, stunning host Mexico with a 1-0 victory.

Khadija “Bunny” Shaw played hero, notching the game’s lone goal a mere eight minutes in off of a set piece.

The all-time top goalscorer for the Jamaican women’s national team, Shaw has played with Manchester City since 2021 and has scored nine goals through 17 appearances with the Women’s Super League club.

After the game, Mexico head coach Mónica Vergara said the slow start was a killer for the home team and took responsibility for the loss, while Jamaica head coach Lorne Donaldson said his team went in prepared and didn’t come across any surprises in their matchup.

“Almost everything they did, we expected it,” he said.

The Reggae Girlz finished with four shots on goal to Mexico’s two.

The win opens up Group A, as just two teams will advance to the knockout rounds. Jamaica, now in second in Group A, is in a strong position as it enters their final two matches of the group stage.

The draw for this summer’s Concacaf W Championship took place Tuesday, with the USWNT drawing Mexico, Jamaica and Haiti in Group A.

Canada, the leader of Group B, drew Costa Rica, Panama and Trinidad and Tobago.

Both Canada and the USWNT earned byes to the tournament – Canada won Olympic gold last summer while the USWNT are the reigning World Cup champions. The remaining teams were determined through winning their qualifiers throughout the February and April international windows.

This year’s tournament will take place in Monterrey, Mexico, from July 4-18, the second time the tournament has been hosted in the country.

Of the eight teams, the top two in each group will earn spots in the 2023 Women’s World Cup, which will take place in Australia and New Zealand. Additionally, the team that wins the W Championship will earn an automatic berth to the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris, France.

The USWNT has only lost the tournament once – the only other time that Mexico has hosted the tournament in 2010. Team USA fell to the home team in the semifinals and took third.

The third-place finisher from each group will advance to an intercontinental playoff field of 10 teams that will determine three World Cup spots.