Onyewu: My stare down with Borgetti will live forever

Oguchi Onyewu has reminisced about his iconic stare down with Jared Borgetti in USA’s defeat of Mexico in Columbus in 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ qualifying.

Borgetti gave Onyewu, winning just his third cap, the run-around as El Tri won the teams’ first meeting in that campaign at the Azteca. “He got a goal and unfortunately rained on my parade,” the hulking American recalled to ussoccer.com. “It was a definite eye-opener.

“After the first game and our loss I definitely was looking forward to the home game in Columbus. It was about redemption for myself, but also to rectify the result that we didn’t get in Mexico City. I was extremely focused, as well as everyone else on our team, but I definitely was not about to let Borgetti get the better of me two times around.”

I’m just staring at him like, ‘Either do something or don’t do something.’ I guess that image is forever imprinted in US Soccer history.

The Washington D.C. native handcuffed himself to ‘The Desert Fox’ from the outset, and after he was penalised for an early foul, Borgetti sprung up to chide his adversary. Rather than respond verbally, Onyewu fixed an intimidating glare on Borgetti – one that became known as ‘The Stare Down’ and remains an archetypical image of the Mexico-USA rivalry.

“Obviously in that moment, it never was my objective for that stare to become as big as it has,” said Onyewu. “It’s just one of those moments in the game, and it was such a physical battle between him and I.

“What I remember is that I knocked him down, he got up and he looked like he was going to do something to me, and I was really hoping he would. I don’t know what would have happened next, but I was expecting something would have happened.

“I’m just staring at him like, ‘Either do something or don’t do something.’ I guess that image is forever imprinted in US Soccer history. That image itself speaks of the whole subject of that game in Columbus, Ohio against Mexico.”

Onyewu finished that showdown as its man of the match. USA finished it with a 2-0 reverse of the arch-enemy, but it was something else that they were celebrating.

“We had confirmed our berth in the World Cup, and we were just celebrating and happy,” said the man whose club career took him to France, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. “I think that’s the only thing that was on our minds: the fact that we accomplished our goal and we had something even bigger to look forward to.”

Onyewu went on to represent USA at the 18th and 19th World Cups, and won 69 caps. One of his most memorable came at the FIFA Confederations Cup in 2009, when his impenetrable defending helped USA end Spain’s 35-match unbeaten run.

USA and Mexico meet in Columbus, Ohio in the first round of the ‘Hexagonal’ phase of CONCACAF qualifying for Russia 2018.