United States Draws Mexico, Earns Crucial Road Point
June 11, 2017
MEXICO CITY—For the third time in as many games, the United States men's national team went into Estadio Azetca and earned a result. The Stars and Stripes emerged with a 1-1 draw, giving it four points in the last two qualifiers and putting the team well on its way to reaching the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
Due to the short turnaround time, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena made seven changes to the team that started against Trinidad & Tobago on Thursday night. Only DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Michael Bradley, and Christian Pulisic returned to the starting XI. Brad Guzan, who shut out Mexico during a 2013 World Cup qualifier, got the start in net. The Americans came out in a 3-5-2 or a 5-4-1 or possibly a 5-2-3. Who knows! There were definitely 11 players on the field. (It was a 5-4-1 when Mexico had the ball, which was a lot of the time.)
The U.S. went ahead in the sixth minute. Michael Bradley picked off an errant pass, took a couple touches, then chipped Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from 35 yards out. As the ball dropped into the net, the American captain sprinted toward the corner flag and looked up to the rapturous American Outlaws section. The stadium went quiet, similar to when Charlie Davies scored in 2009.
Mexico got its first real chance in the 13th minute. A teasing cross came into the box. Chicharito was waiting to head it past Guzan but Cameron managed to rise up and head the ball out for a corner. Moments later, Jonathan Dos Santos' shot from a quick restart went inches wide of the U.S. goal.
Another El Tri chance went wasted in the 20th minute. A chip found Chicharito alone but while his flick cleared an onrushing Guzan, it went wide and was ushered out by Omar Gonzalez.
Bobby Wood should have made it 2-0 two minutes later. A messy clearance by Mexico off a corner left him alone at the six-yard box but he whiffed on a difficult left-footed volley. Mexico immediately counterattacked. Eighty yards later, 35-year-old DaMarcus Beasley couldn't stay with Carlos Vela, whose shot beat the sprawling American goalkeeper to his left. To be fair to the U.S. left back, he didn't get a lot of help from his teammates in the break.
The American lead was fun while it lasted.
The teams battled back and forth for the remainder of the half. Mexico had more of the ball, but neither side could find an opening or even a very good chance. In the 44th minute, Yedlin, who looked increasingly tired, saw yellow for persistent infringement. Minutes later, Salvadoran referee Joel Aguilar Chicas blew his whistle and the two squads went into the locker room after an exiting opening stanza.
The second half began the way the first one ended—with the home side on the ball, poking and prodding, while the U.S. lines bending without breaking. In rare moments when the Americans did get the ball, they turned it over quickly on home run efforts to find a second goal. The red, white, and blue's best/only chance of the first quarter hour came in the 56th minute when Yedlin drew a free kick but Kellyn Acosta's ensuing effort was cleared away. Paul Arriola saw yellow as he broke up the counterattack.
In the 64th, Darlington Nagbe replaced Arriola, who put in a strong stint in his first World Cup qualifying game.
Midway through the second half, the electricity of the first had not returned. It began to feel like both teams would be happy to walk away with a 1-1 draw.
Hector Herrera very nearly broke the deadlock with a laced free kick in the 71st minute. The ball beat Guzan before slamming into the crossbar.
Bradley almost scored his second spectacular goal three minutes later but his blast deflected off the outside of the post.
As time ticked down to a quarter hour remaining, the home side found new life. Mexican fans woke up as pressure increased on the American net.
In the 79th, Jozy Altidore replaced Wood. The Mexican fans waved their towels. Presumably, these two things were not related.
In the 88th minute, the home fans began chanting "Si se puede." Their team, however, could not.
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Noah Davis is a New York City-based writer and the Deputy Editor of American Soccer Now. Follow him on Twitter.