Mexico City, Mexico- A crazy week ended in historic fashion for the U.S. men’s national team as they survived to claim an unlikely 0-0 tie against Mexico Tuesday night at the fortress Azteca.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made two fantastic saves just before time expired, allowing the U.S. to narrowly escape with an invaluable point on a night that began with the U.S. national anthem being booed and ended with U.S. fans being pelted with cups and debris.
Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann kept faith with much of the same team that triumphed in that mad match in the Colorado snow last Friday night. With Jermaine Jones back in Germany with a sprained ankle Klinsmann had an obvious replacement in Maurice Edu and Edu filled in admirably against the dangerous and lightening quick Mexican side. Less obvious was what to do about late scratch Clarence Goodson.
Goodson let Klinsmann know that his hamstring injury might keep him from playing the full 90 against Mexico. Klinsmann was impressed by Goodson’s honesty and impressed as well by his replacement, Matt Besler. Klinsmann likes to say you have to, “throw them into the cold water.” Meaning that you have play players in big games in order to find out about them.
Against Honduras, hexagonal debutant Omar Gonzalez had his troubles. Last night Besler picked up a first half yellow card. Klinsmann was impressed by how the Sporting KC center back handled it. “In a place like this, against Chicarito, this is a tricky situation,” Klinsmann said. But Besler assured the coach at the break, “coach, no worries, I will be focused, I will get it through and nothing else will happen.”
Besler and Gonzalez, who has steadily improved since Honduras, made big play after big play, on a night when the Mexican attack threatened to completely overrun the U.S. The speed of the Mexican team was something to behold, but for all of that Mexican verve that had the crowd baying at the full moon sitting high above Azteca, the goals just never came.
To be sure the Americans had some luck on their side. Mexico’s dangerous winger Javier Aquino was brought down from behind by Edu for what looked like a stone cold penalty, but the call was corner kick. Similarly, Michael Bradley looked like he got away with a first half shove in the box on Hernadez. Mexico were furious about both, but on this night Guzan might well have saved the penalty kicks.
What a difference a week can make. In the run up to the Costa Rica match in Colorado the U.S. were a team that seemed to be on the ropes. Injuries were piling up at a record pace, the sanctity of the locker room was breached by a controversial article that quoted anonymous players as critical of the teams direction, and the team was coming off of a bad loss.
One character building win and tie later and the outlook is entirely different. The thing that has always made the USMNT what it is on their best day, seems to be back. Last night Klinsmann called it, “the spirit in the team.” And for all the criticism that the coach has taken of late, he has to be given some credit too. Credit for having the nerve to throw young players into that, “cold water.”
Now, two games after Honduras, Gonzalez is the leader of the back four, and he looks like he may be on the way to becoming the special talent that Klinsmann has said he will be. Besler was cool all night, had he not taken that yellow card, Mexico might have been off on a breakaway.
DaMarcus Beasley defended and fought all game, another feather in Klinsmann’s cap. Sure, Mexico were the more exciting team. It is still hard to believe that El Tri didn’t score two or three goals. But they didn’t. Over the years the U.S. has been a team that has accomplished a lot on heart. That quality has been missing somewhat in recent months, as losing leads became a nasty habit.
Mexico will feel they should have won last night, and they dominated, everywhere but where it counts, on the scoreboard.
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
MEX 0 0 0
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 20-Geoff Cameron, 4-Omar Gonzalez, 14-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 4-Michael Bradley, 6-Maurice Edu; 19-Graham Zusi (11-Brek Shea, 82), 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 9-Herculez Gomez (13-Brad Davis, 71); 17-Jozy Altidore (18-Eddie Johnson, 55)
Substitutions Not Used: 5-Kyle Beckerman, 2-Tony Beltran, 23-Terrence Boyd, 10-Joe Corona, 21-Clarence Goodson, 22-Sean Johnson, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 15-Justin Morrow, 12-Nick Rimando
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
MEX: 1-Guillermo Ochoa (capt.); 13-Severo Meza, 16-Diego Reyes, 15-Hector Moreno, 20-Jorge Torres Nilo (8-Angel Reyna, 72), 17-Jesus Zavala, 3-Carlos Salcido, 11-Javier Aquino (9-Omar Bravo, 81), 18-Andres Guardado, 14-Javier Hernandez, 10-Giovani Dos Santos
Substitutions Not Used: 2-Francisco Rodriguez, 4-Hugo Ayala, 5-Carlos Alberto Peña, 6-Gerardo Torrado, 7-Hector Herrera, 12-Jesus Corona, 19-Jonny Magallon, 21-Jesus Molina, 22-Raul Jimenez, 23-Alfredo Talavera
Head coach: José Manuel de la Torre
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 1 / 17
Shots on Goal: 0 / 3
Saves: 3 / 0
Corner Kicks: 2 / 15
Offside: 1/ 4