U.S. Soccer Stuns Mexico With Historic Win At Azteca Stadium
The United States found a way to a break a 75-year drought south of the border Wednesday evening with a goal by Michael Orozco Fiscal in 80th minute to defeat rival Mexico 1-0 in Wednesday's friendly.
Fresh off a substitution into the game, FC Dallas winger Brek Shea made an immediate impact with a perfect cross to Rapid Vienna striker Terrence Boyd, who then made a no-look backwards pass to Ozorzco for a goal that vanquished years of frustration at Mexico's hallowed ground, Azteca Stadium.
Orozco, who had just entered the game in the 77th minute, was oppotunistic in getting the ball by keeper Guilermo Ochoa and brought the American’s all-time record in Mexico to 1-23-1.
On a night in which Mexicans were celebrating the triumph of its Olympic gold medal-winning men’s soccer team, El Tri dominated the game with numerous chances to score throughout the match and time of possession strongly favoring the Mexican side.
Without captain Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo at centerback, and Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley in the midfield, the United States was not given much of a chance to come away with a draw, much less a victory.
Yet centerback replacements Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu made numerous key stops, together with keeper Tim Howard, to deny Manchester United's potent striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández a goal on the night. Not to be forgotten, Kyle Beckerman also made key stops in the midfield, and though the Real Salt Lake midfielder struggled when on the attack, he made for up for it by not being caught out of position on Mexican counter-attacks.
After a first half where the U.S. had all of one shot on goal, coach Jürgen Klinsmann brought on Boyd and DeMarcus Beasley in place of Landon Donovan (who suffered a hamstring injury) and Jose Torres.
This change gave the U.S. a far more potent attack to start the second half, though it did not stop Mexico from consistently finding ways to get the ball to Chicharito in scoring position.
Chicharito's speed allowed him to sneak by Edu and Cameron in the 72nd minute, and his header just did not have enough on it to get by Howard.
Later in the 85th minute, Howard made a marvelous save when Chicharito took a shot off a failed clearance attempt by Cameron. Chicharito's shot bounced off Edu and Howard dived to just stop the ball with one hand.
Four minutes later, Howard again found himself under assault from another Chicharito header, but he managed to stopped the ball with his hands and then foot as the spinning ball continued to go towards the net.
The victory is redemption of sorts for the United States, which in addition to failing to qualify for the 2012 Olympics, had lost in a painful manner to Mexico in the 2011 Gold Cup Final. The defeats led many critics to suggest that it has fallen well behind Mexico in terms of talent.
With World Cup qualification set to resume in September with a two-match series agains Jamaica, the U.S. can use this victory (along with its impressive 1-0 February win in Italy) as proof that it can win even in the difficult of environs.
Even without its other star striker, Giovanni Dos Santos, who was injured during the Olympics, the loss serves as stunning proof for El Tri that it is no longer unbeatable against its northern rival at Azteca Stadium. The rivalry between the U.S. and Mexico has been far closer when played on neutral ground (the U.S. defeated Mexico 2-0 in the 2002 World Cup) or on U.S soil.
By doing what no other U.S. coach has done before in winning in Mexico, Klinsmann and his approach to defense and targeting dual-nationality players like Boyd and Fabian Johnson has significant credence.
Whether this approach will work in the 2014 World Cup is still anyone’s guess. But for a team that found itself lost and without a direction a year ago in Pasadena after the Gold Cup, it is an impressive turnaround and a defining achievement for U.S. soccer that was 75 years in the making.