75 years. That’s how long it took for the USMNT to earn their historic first victory over Mexico on Mexican soil.
The 1-0 victory by the Americans at the Azteca last night was the first time the United States Soccer has gone to Mexico and returned the victor. Prior to last night, the USMNT had played 24 matches against the Mexicans in Mexico, losing 23 of those matches with a goalless draw in a 1997 World Cup Qualifier being the only other result.
Shocking Win for USMNT
Going in to the match yesterday, not much suggested that the streak would come to an end. The US brought over a mix of young and inexperienced players along with several veteran mainstays such as Landon Donovan, Maurice Edu and Tim Howard. Several key USMNT players, such as Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey (arguably the best player in CONCACAF), Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundulo, were all left off the squad for various reasons. Mexico, meanwhile, fielded a much more experienced side.
Mexico, in the midst of a golden generation of stars, has seemingly widened the gap between them and the US in recent years. Mexico won the Under-17 World Cup in 2005 and 2011, the (mostly) Under-23 Olympic tournament last week and the 2011 Gold Cup along with a 3rd place finish at the 2011 Under-20 World Cup. The USMNT meanwhile, failed to even qualify for the Under-20 tournament, somewhat embarrassingly failed to qualify for London and lost that 2011 Gold Cup final to Mexico on home soil. So with Mexico riding an Olympic victory fueled high, an inexperienced US side and a recent history of Mexican superiority, yesterday’s match result is definitely shocking.
How It Happened
Mexico controlled the run of play throughout much of the match but failed repeatedly in the final third to set up and finish their chances. Shots ended 15-6 in Mexico’s favor and they also held a 10-0 edge in corners. The US however, did a great job of defending and containing the Mexicans on the edge. The job that Fabian Johnson and Edgar Castillo did on Andres Guardado and Pablo Berrera was fantastic. It was Castillo’s finest performance in an American jersey and another solid showing from Johnson. Edu and Geoff Cameron also did a fine job at the center back positions which overall was an extremely encouraging sign for American fans to see such a performance from the inexperienced back line.
On a day when the Americans had few threatening chances, they capitalized on the one that they needed to. Brek Shea’s dazzling run into the box and past the Mexican defender led to his cross that Terrence Boyd deftly corralled and blindly back heeled on to the foot of the much maligned Michael Orozco Fiscal, who poked the ball into the semi-open Mexican net in the 80th minute. It would be the difference in the game as the Americans held Mexico at bay and got a little help from keeper Tim Howard as well. His 85th minute save on a deflected shot from Chicharito was simply fantastic. Caught going to his right, the deflection forced him back across the net where he made his first game saving stop. The second, on an 89th minute header from Chicharito was just as fantastic and clutch. Tim Howard, the man of the match, fully demonstrated why he is one of the top goalkeepers in the world.
What It Means for the USMNT
Most times, the results of international friendlies do not mean much – and that should somewhat be taken into consideration here. Nevertheless, the result of this match is important and the historic value of the win should not be discounted. What we saw was a squad of mostly young and inexperienced Americans handle the pressure of what playing a match in the Azteca involves (and it often involves disgusting projectiles such as bags of urine and cups of vomit, among other concoctions). Not only did they refuse to wither and succumb, but they played with confidence and poise that many going in weren’t sure we would see. With Bocanegra and Cherundulo left in Europe, Oguchi Onyewu’s recent poor play since returning from injury and Timmy Chandler still deciding if he wants to play for the US or Germany, seeing such positive performances out of the back four gives Jurgen Klinsmann more options with his pool of players. There was no Dempsey, no Bradley, no Altidore and Landon Donovan only played half the game, but the USMNT was still able to come out of the Azteca with the first positive result ever for the Americans.
With the next set of matches for the 2014 World Cup qualifying a month away (Sept. 7th, at Jamaica), the result obtained from this Mexican match, as well as the equally historic win in Italy in February, should give confidence to Jurgen Klinsmann, the American players and the American faithful that they can go in anywhere and come away with a win. With potential for matches in Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras or Costa Rica in the next round, the Americans will be more experienced and should be undaunted in facing those tough and challenging environments where the fans and atmosphere and anything but accommodating.
It was just a friendly, but the result was still historic. Mexico has the recent trophies and they have had the better performances of late, but the perceived gap between the two countries is not as large as some are making it out to be. Last night’s victory was proof of that. And while Mexico will remain as the current king of CONCACAF, the Americans should feel confident and encouraged that the level of play between the two countries is not as large as some suggest and that the future for American soccer is promising and ever growing brighter.
What do you think of the USMNT’s big win over Mexico? Let us know in the comments!