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U.S. Survives Goalless Draw At The Hostile Estadio Azteca

Zaki Khan |
March 27, 2013 | 3:28 a.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Omar Gonzalez played a major role in Tuesday's draw with Mexico. (Robert Mora/LA Galaxy)
Omar Gonzalez played a major role in Tuesday's draw with Mexico. (Robert Mora/LA Galaxy)
It was a stress-filled match for U.S. and Mexican fans, alike, as both teams battled to a historic draw at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico. The U.S. national team’s players will leave Mexico with their heads held high, as if they had won the match. The Mexicans, on the other hand, will be fuming with many unanswered questions after suffering three disappointing draws to start off their World Cup campaign. 

The U.S. came into Tuesday’s game with an embarrassing track record in Mexico, where they had only earned one point in World Cup qualifying history there; the lone point came from a draw in 1997. This time, coach Jurgen Klinsmann would see his unbeaten record against Mexico continue after earning a crucial point from undoubtedly the toughest match of any other qualifier. 

Though many would have guessed that the U.S. would come in, park the bus and leave happy with a tie, the team played in a way that suggests that Klinsmann came to Mexico for his team to showcase a strong defensive performance. This is not to say that Mexico did not look dangerous. Mexico kept the ball for the majority of the match and created a number of chances – including 15 corners – but could not convert. Mexicans will also be upset about a late penalty that was not called after midfielder Maurice Edu committed a hard tackle from behind.

If you missed the game, a couple takeaways points emerged:

1. The US backline is solid. They came into camp with only two true-but-inexperienced fullbacks in Justin Morrow and Tony Beltran after injuries forced regulars Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo to be left out. Klinsmann made some tough decisions against Costa Rica by sliding Geoff Cameron to right back (as he plays for his club Stoke City), starting Clarence Goodson in his place, and making a makeshift left-back out of experienced USMNT serviceman DaMarcus Beasley. 

The backline served well in the snowy faceoff against Costa Rica, but Klinsmann decided to risk the backline even more for the crucially important battle with Mexico by throwing the young and inexperienced Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City and 2011 MLS Defender of the Year) into the deep end by giving him the start. Though it wasn’t the best game for Beasley, Omar Gonzalez made a statement with his play - one that should solidify his position in the future. Meanwhile, Besler fit in just fine. However, many questions still remain. How will German-American standouts Fabian Johnson and Timothy Chandler fit into this backline? Or will they? How would veteran Steve Cherundolo fit in when he becomes healthy?

2. Where was Chicharito? The beloved Mexican striker who boasts an impressive goal scoring record for EPL giant Manchester United did not show up to this game. Though his name was on the roster, his name only floated around sparsely throughout the match until he missed two great chances late in the first and second halves that he normally puts away. If Mexico is to turn things around and qualify, it needs Chicharito to be in top form for the big matches. 

3. Where was Jozy Altidore? A familiar Jozy Altidore returned by not doing much…again. After a great performance against Costa Rica, Altidore saw himself subbed off midway through the second half against Mexico. Though he really can’t be blamed too much, Jozy, like Chicharito, needs to score. It’s simple. The U.S. would easily qualify if he just unleashed the same goal-scoring monster that is tearing up the Eredivisie for the national team. Granted, it is tough playing as a lone striker and holding the ball up for a team that rarely holds on to possession. But he just needs to find a way to break through. It’s the missing piece in his extensive arsenal of weapons that will make him the greatest goal-scorer in U.S. Soccer history. 

With the draw, the U.S. now sits in third place of qualifying after an impressive Panama victory over Honduras took the Panamanians to first place. However, only three points separate last-place Jamaica from the top spot in what is proving to be the toughest Hexagonal group in CONCACAF qualifying history. 

In other news, Landon Donovan officially returned to the L.A. Galaxy today in their official visit to the White House. 

Reach Staff Writer Zaki Khan here.



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