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U.S. Men's National Team

USA 1, Mexico 0: A Look Back

USABeatsAzteca (Getty)

Twenty four times over the course of 75 years.

That is how many times, and over how long a period of time, the U.S. Men's National Team had traveled south of the border looking for a win against Mexico. Twenty four times they tried and 24 times they failed to win, and 23 of those times they lost.

It is that record of futility, and all those decades of frustrating defeats, that made Wednesday night's 1-0 victory against Mexico as meaningful a win as you will ever see in an exhibition match. It is that long-standing drought and all those years of Mexican dominance that made finally beating them in their most sacred of homes all the more significant and gratifying.

No, ultimately the victory doesn't mean anything toward World Cup qualifying, and it doesn't give the CONCACAF Gold Cup back to the USA. What the victory does do is give U.S. national team players, both the ones on the field Wednesday night and those watching around the world, the belief and understanding that winning in Mexico City isn't some unimaginable and unreachable dream of a goal.

That is something you can't put a value on, and something we may not see the clear dividends of until the U.S. returns to Azteca and wins a World Cup qualifier there.

Until that time comes, Wednesday's victory will serve to inspire U.S. national team players to believe that they can win in Mexico, and after beating Italy in Italy earlier this year, this U.S. team is starting to believe that it can beat anybody, anywhere.

Here are some more thoughts on Wednesday night's match:

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Hats off to Jurgen Klinsmann. He made some sharp moves with his lineup, and with some position changes and came up with a game plan that worked. Now the USA has won road games against Italy and Mexico, two places the U.S. had never won before. He has instilled a real belief in his team and, for the time being, has earned the confidence of his players. This should bode well for the rest of World Cup qualifying.

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Geoff Cameron was outstanding. No other way to say it. He played with poise and confidence, showing the physical attributes to handle playing high-level competition as well as the technical quality to be an effective centerback for the national team.

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Maurice Edu had his moments where you could tell he's not used to the position, but his turn at centerback was a solid one. If he goes to a club team that lets him play centerback, then Edu could definitely turn into a strong centerback option going forward. Moving to centerback would also help alleviate the central midfield glut.

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Fabian Johnson was rock solid at right back, and looked like an absolute natural there. Does that mean he's a long-term option there? Not really because he's still too important at left back. Steve Cherundolo is still the starter at right back, and if Tim Chandler never does make up his mind to come back we should expect Eric Lichaj to get a look eventually.

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Edgar Castillo's performance drew mixed reviews. Some thing he was excellent while some thought he was terrible. The truth lied somehwere in between. He started out with a shaky first 10-15 minutes, when he was beaten on separate occasions by Pablo Barrera and Andres Guardado, but he settled down after that and had a solid 30 minutes to finish out the first half. The second half was more shakiness, with Elias Hernandez beating Castillo for pace repeatedly and firing in dangerous crosses seemingly at will. Ultimately none of those crosses bore fruit, but there is no denying Castillo struggled in the second half. Overall though, he faired better on Wednesday than he did a year ago against this same team.

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No matter what any Mexican fan might try and say, the Mexican team that lost on Wednesday night was a strong team very close to being a first-choice squad. Olympic team members Jose Corona, Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Salcido are players who would normally be starting for the first team, but the absences of Corona and Salcido really didn't factor into the decision. Did Mexico miss Dos Santos, who is a perennial USA killer? Absolutely, especially considering how ineffective Angel Reyna was. That said, there was still enough of a representation of Mexico's first-choice team to make Wednesday's victory an impressive one for the U.S., and not one that Mexican fans should be trying to dismiss.

Make no mistake though, reinforcements are on the way for Mexico. That gold-medal winning Mexican Olympic team is loaded with talented young players who are on the verge of jumping into the senior team mix, and many of them should take over starting jobs by 2014. Players like Marco Fabian, Hector Herrera, Hiram Mier and Jorge Enriquez. Yes, Mexico is still in the midst of a golden era, and are only getting stronger. That doesn't mean the USA won't still be able to make things tough, and it doesn't mean the U.S. won't still find ways to beat them.

===========

Landon Donovan was largely ineffective before leaving the match at halftime with hamstring tightness. Having just played on Sunday night, it is clear Donovan wasn't 100 percent. I wouldn't start calling for him to be benched from the first team just yet. He will still be key in the upcoming qualifiers against Jamaica.

===========

Not sure why there were so many critics of Kyle Beckerman's play. I thought he was steady, moved the ball around well, and aside from one or two untimely turnovers, the RSL mdifielder handled himself very well. He also sent the pass that started the sequence that eventually led to Orozco Fiscal's goal. Does this mean Beckerman should start on a full-strength first team? I won't go that far, but he handled himself well at Azteca and merits more looks

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Danny Williams defends well at right midfield, but provides little else at the position. He's a viable option in games where Jurgen Klinsmann wants to neutralize an opposing left winger, which he wanted to do to Andres Guardado, but there is no getting around the fact that Williams is useless getting forward. In fact, the only attacking play Williams pulled off successfully on Wednesday was a throw-in. Yes, he is hampered by the fact that he is more a true defensive midfielder, and even more a right back, than right midfielder, but he can play the role of right wing destroyer relatively well. That comes in handy against certain opponents, though it comes at the cost of less offense from your midfield.

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Jose Torres had a bad night. There's no getting around it. He was largely invisible and lost the ball half the time he had it. It wasn't as if any attacking players really stood out among the starters, in part because of the U.S. strategy to focus on defending against Mexico's dangerous attack, but Torres clearly struggled to make an impact and he lost the ball to easily when he was able to gain possession. Losing the ball repeatedly can't just be chalked up to teammates not being there for him. It wasn't an issue for Beckerman, who completed 25 of 30 passes (all but one of which were forward passes) so it shouldn't be an excuse for Torres' lackluster night. It might be time to start asking whether Torres will ever be well suited for that kind of attacking role. It's not one he plays for club side Pachuca. He's better suited as a deeper-lying distributor, someone who cleans things up in midfield and circulates the ball to the attack. Unfortunately for Torres, that's a place where better options reside right now for the USMNT.

===========

Torres wasn't alone in being sloppy in possession. Jermaine Jones coughed up unforced turnovers repeatedly, and gave up the ball in his own half of the field a half dozen times. His work rate is impressive and he ran all over the field on Wednesday night, but he must be more careful with the ball at times because far too often he gets careless with the ball and puts his team in position to be punished for it. That didn't happen on Wednesday night, but it's something Jones needs to clean up.

===========

Lastly, it wasn't a pretty game by any means, and Mexico did enjoy the bulk of possession and controlled the game for long stretches, but for the U.S. to come away with a victory despite missing so many key starters is a major accomplishment. Yes, when these teams meet again in a year both lineups will look different, but just as Mexico will be stronger, a U.S. lineup with Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore (and a healthy Landon Donovan) will be much stronger. Mexico will probably still control possession, but the head-to-head match-up when the sides meet at full strength will be much closer than some realize.

===========

What did you think of the match? Who, aside from obvious selections Cameron and Howard, impresed you on Wednesday night? Will you be planning to take the trip to Mexico City when the U.S. returns in 2013?

Share your thoughts below.

147 comments
  • Jb

    Thought beckerman was great last night. Again. Only Bradley can play that position better, and even then not as consistently. I have never understood why people fail to see his importance. Keep ballin Kyle!

    Like

  • Dennis

    Great win in a very tough place, but not pretty soccer. The USA used 3 defensive mids (or at least Beckerman, Jones and Williams all thought that was their role).

    The surprise with Fiscal’s goal was that he got forward ahead of the midfielders. It was a gamble by Fiscal when he saw Shea with the ball and it was clear that Shea was going to dribble in. Had Shea lost the ball, Fiscal was in no position to defend, going forward on what was just a hope was a decision that seemed to fly in the face of the conservative approach Klinsmann apparently had his backs taking. I’m glad Fiscal took the gamble. I did not see the positions the rest of the US took up and they might have been covering for Fiscal, but in all the excitement of the goal, I failed to notice.

    Like

  • Dennis

    The USSF 2012 MNT Media Guide says the USA beat Mexico 2-1 to win the CONCACAF qualifying for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics in Mexico City. This was the first year the Olympics was a U-23 tournament.

    March 25, 1992 vs Mexico + @ Mexico City.: 2-1 Friedel Rast Lalas Lapper-1 Imler Burns Henderson-1 Reyna Jones (Allnutt) Washington Snow

    Like

  • GW

    Don’t worry, you’ll be off the bandwagon soon enough. “Fans” like you always are.

    Like

  • Old School

    …I think JK has figured that out. He gave him a shot, though…which is what a manager is supposed to do.

    Like

  • GW

    Torres never got the ball.

    This was partly because of how the team was set up for the first 20-40 minutes. And when he did get the ball his options were extremely limited.

    You all should stop with the Bradley references. Bradley is an excellent coach but he did not invent defensive football. Every tactic he ever used was old and proven when he broke them out.

    He did not figure out that when you are away and playing a skilled side like Mexico you shut them down and try to not let them play too much and blow you out. Teams have been doing that for over 50 years. If you want a recent example just watch Manchester United.
    This was the most disciplined, controlled and entertaining performance I have seen from a JK US team.

    Like

  • Shawn

    RLW:

    You’re confused for the same reason Mexico’s MF is still trying to figure out why he was unmarked.

    Interchange of positions between the Back and MF is normal on a throw-in. Mexico ‘ought’ to have marked Furcal. Failing to do so, he did the right thing and made them pay by going for the spot every player should be taught to look for ‘junk.’ The back post.

    Like

  • dgoshilla

    Defensive strategy worked. This was Barcelona v Chelsea. It wasn’t pretty but that goal sure was. One of the glaring things for me was the SIZE of the US team. This had to be one of the biggest teams we’ve put out on the field. Usually the US is the smaller team on the field, particularly overseas. Glad to see Klinsman looking to some size to change things.

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  • Stan

    Mexico was not all that up after their Olympic success, the US played well, Howard played super, Chicarito messed up several chances and the US made one good play offensively that turned into a goal. Nice that they won one down there but Mexico clearly still has the better program.

    Like

  • Shawn

    There was nothing “fluky” about that win. You beclown yourself with that term alone.

    A fluke would be if Mexico had dozens of Grade A chances that they somehow spurned, and the US converted their 1 and only chance all night.

    In truth, the US had a solid shout for a penalty in the opening minutes, and when they could go forward, made Mexico’s defense look shaky. Meanwhile, Mex had 0 quality chanced for all their possession. It was a spoiling game, but it was played to perfection.

    In the 2nd half, the best chance for Mexico before the goal was a missed FK, which was no closer than Beckerman’s sliding chip effort. Let me put this in context: for 84 minutes, in Azteca, *I* could’ve been the goalkeeper for the US, and the score would’ve been exactly the same.

    Howard made 2 good saves at the end–though I think he might’ve made the 1st harder on himself by overcommitting in the first place–the second was a thing of beauty w/o doubt. Until then, he was irrelevant. And you expect a quality keeper to make 1 or 2 good saves a match.

    The US goal, while not a thing of beauty, was an effective counter attack. There were no deflections or odd bounces. It was a clean shot, from short range, by an unmarked player, following two lovely bits of skill and a quality pass from Beckerman.

    So while it was a defensive shell of a game, there was nothing “lucky” about it. Mexico didn’t have enough quality chances to say they “deserved to win.” And the US executed their game plan effectively. Not stylish, but a beautiful result.

    Like

  • JRP

    If you want to get technical it started when the ref blew his whistle after dropping the ball at the center point of the field.

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  • GW

    There is a lot of merit to what you say except for the parts where you are wrong.

    The recent Mexican dominance of the US began with the 2009 5-0 pasting in the Gold Cup final.

    Even though it was a Gold Cup final it was as meaningless as last night’s game. There was no Confederations Cup ticket attached to it. Also that was Mexico A versus US B but I don’t think the Mexican’s noticed. All they knew was that they massacred us in our house (admittedly it was in New Jersey but that is still the US).

    It also helps that Mexico have had their Golden Generation but Mexico has almost always had more talent than the US. But ever since that game the US senior team has gone into games with Mexico a little spooked.

    After last night that will change.

    We should be able to qualify for the World Cup even if we lose to Mexico twice but it is still a good idea to have a little something to hold over your biggest rival. It should also be noted that their talisman. Chicharito, had a snake bit night and it looks like his time at Man U is not going to be pleasant going forward. I happen to like him a lot and root for him when he is not facing us. He seems like a great guy but obviously the more out of form he is the better for the US.

    Also for JK it buys him a little time. The next time the US draws 0-0 with some alleged minnow the bloodlust howling will begin again but for now JK has some quiet time to do his job.

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  • GW

    How do you know an error was unforced?

    Maybe the manner in which the US set themselves up caused the Mexicans make a bad pass. Maybe they thought they saw something that was not there or maybe the target of the pass was so well covered he never got to the pass.

    Great defense, which the US played, is as much mental as physical.

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  • GW

    I disagree that the US goal was not a thing of beauty.

    It was well executed by everyone who had a hand in it, the only exception being that Fiscal kind of “shinned’ it in. But then again he showed such excellent instincts to be there in the first place, certainly better than the defender who should have picked him up. Intelligent play is beautiful.

    Like

  • GW

    The second you start thinking that way, that is when upsets start to become possible.
    Jamaica is perfectly capable of beating the US; never doubt that for a second.

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  • GW

    I didn’t realise Torres place depended on him winning some sort of election.

    He will play as long as JK wants him to.

    Like

  • GW

    Cameron was great last night in part because Edu, his fellow defenders and his midfielders play such stifling defense that they did not need a lot of backup from Cameron.

    This allowed him to play “center field” to such great effect
    .
    Castillo has a very , very good night and earned a lot more call ups.

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  • GW

    Fiscal swtiched and someone( I never figured out who) was covering. Just can’t bear to let go of the notion that he sucks can you?

    Like

  • Call Up Lichaj

    No, he is absolutely a RB first. He said in interviews that he much prefers playing RB and that they don’t require the same skills.

    Having said that, I think his dropoff from RB to LB is much less pronounced than Chandler’s.

    Like

  • Lost in Space

    Personally if all are healthy, in form, and willing I think the best possible lineup we could field would be something along these lines:
    —————Jozy/Boyd——————-
    ——Dempsey————–Donovn———-
    —-Jones——-Bradley——Holden——–
    -Johnson————————–Chandler-
    ————Boca——–Cameron————
    —————–Howard——————–

    Jozy & Boyd are about equal & fill a target role at the head of the spear
    Shea, Gyau, Adu as possible subs to Clint
    Gomez, Corona, Gatt as subs for Donovan
    F. Johnson, Williams, Torres subs for Jones
    Edu, Williams as subs for Bradley
    Williams, F. Johnson, Zusi subs for Holden
    Lichaj, Castillo subs for F. Johnson
    Lichaj, Dolo subs for Chandler
    Ream, Edu, Hines subs for Boca
    Goodson, Edu, Gonzalez subs for Cameron
    Guzan, TBD subs for Howard
    Depending on availability, and health IMO this represents the top 30 US players and where/how they could be used. These 30 give great flexability and cover…giveing leadership/experience while grooming the next generation.

    Like

  • Tonyt

    If Dos Santos would have played, game over for US. Just saying.. no matter who the US has playing in the game Gio makes a huge impact just as Barcelona is not the same power without Messi, same goes for Mexico. I know truth hurts… either way great win for us. And for all the people that read too much into my comments…no I’m not saying Gio is as good as Messi…. haters!

    Like

  • beachbum

    Torres got the ball plenty, and lost it often

    I respect that you are a defender of the team at all costs, but your lack of accuracy in reporting does no one any good

    as for Bradley, the reason people bring him up is because the USA would play like this with tactics like we saw last night, win, and then he’d get run over because of the tactics his team used to win. Do you understand now?

    it’s interesting because JK uses these similar tactics, wins, and he’s praised (as he should be) but Bradley basically got screwed and thrown under ALL THE TIME because of the same things

    Like

  • Shawn

    GW,

    I was referencing the sloppy finish by saying it wasn’t a thing of beauty. I did say the build-up was lovely. And I agree, his instincts were superb. He recognized he was unmarked and went precisely where a player should, far post, as far forward as the defense lets you.

    Like

  • Shawn

    We’ll see. Santos has been up and down vs the US. I think his status as a ‘killer’ is overrated. I won’t be surprised if he’s invisible in the next installment of the “Cold War” to be sure. Azteca might be different. Or maybe the US starts playing like they know they can win there every match from now on.

    Does Dos Santos, in himself, counter 45mins w/o Donovan, no Dempsey, no M. Bradley (who’s scored big goals vs Mexico as well), AND no Altidore? I don’t even buy Mr Messi would count THAT much.

    So frankly, I don’t give a rip about Gio not playing. Mexico was trumpeting their virtual full-strength side going into the friendly. They can suck it up. Their holy sanctum has been defiled, for good and all.

    Like

  • GW

    “as for Bradley, the reason people bring him up is because the USA would play like this with tactics like we saw last night, win, and then he’d get run over because of the tactics his team used to win. Do you understand now?”

    Not really. Your explantion does not seem to square with the facts.

    He’d get run over when his team used those tactics and it lost or drew or did not look good.

    The tactics last night were essentially the same tactics Bradley used against Spain in the US’ 2-0 victory. And he was praised for that. Switzerland used the same tactics to beat Spain in the World Cup and credited Bradley for the inspiration. And it is said that Mourinho modeled Inter’s victory over Barca in the Champion’s League on the US tactics.

    I don’t know about that as, like I said, these tactics preceded Bradley by quite a few years.

    I will say that after a certain point, I don’t know when,it did not matter what Bradley did US fans, blasted him.

    Oh,and I’m not a defender of the team at all costs. I just respond to what people post. If it doesn’t make sense I respond to that. That is simple enough to do.

    It is hard if not impossible to defend the team since in 95% of the cases, if not more, I have no real information on why they did a particular action.

    But an illogical post? That is simple enough to deal with.

    Like

  • GW

    Well bbum, it’s called reading between the lines. Now I may be wrong and if so perhaps Dennis will find it somewhere in his heart to forgive me.

    However, Fiscal has been completely and viscerally savaged by most everyone on this board before last night.

    He has been awarded Bornstien status and prior to last night,for most of you, Fiscal was about as welcome on the USMNT as Michael Vick at a dog show.

    So again, maybe Dennis wasn’t one of those hypocrites and if so I apologise to him but I always find the band wagon jumping a little stomach churning.

    Like

  • GW

    Good thing Gio didn’t play then.

    You kind of wonder how long he can keep this indifferent club form, great national form up though.

    Like

  • biff

    Thanks, NE Matt. Glad you agree.

    And, GW, why do you always get so excited? What I am intimating is not a put down of anyone, it’s just a fact. I have seen times in the past when another midfielder has made a similar type pass and a contingent of fans were gushing. Beckerman does it and is ignored. That’s my point, not a put down. Yes, I respect Beckerman and I think he is treated unfairly by some US fans, particularly those who are strong supporters of his competition for a spot on the team. I made my original statement to NE Matt only because I think Beckerman should receive recognition for his role in that play, which will be legend forever. I think your response is silly and is a indication of a an almost pathological fixation on your end and a total inability to be objective when it come to that player. Get a grip, buddy. Lighten up.

    Like

  • beachbum

    we disagree. I rely on facts man, especially regarding Bradley

    anyway, the destroyer role Coach Klinsmann uses is a difference from before, and the improved passing on the counter is beautiful…it’s a continuing work from a theme from before, as you mention

    Greatest thing in my mind yet has been the ride Coach has taken too better learn the players and tactics best suited to each. He’s adjusted his selections and tactics, tried things that worked and others that didn’t (normal) and I think we’ll see another one of these with Torres. I don’t know that of course, but Coach has been force feeding that advanced mid role to him and there’s lots of evidence to suggest Coach will adjust his beliefs once again.

    Basically I’m digging Klinsmann’s ego…not some barrier we’ve heard about but instead a solid foundation that allows him to evolve

    to me, if one is missing these things as they are happening one is missing the current ride!

    as always, it’s cool to discuss these things with passionate fans like yourself

    Like

  • LoS...

    Sure buddy. Relax; everyone has a right to lose one at home. At least every 80 years. Its not like you just won the Olympics.

    Like

  • beachbum

    you insert between the lines…very different than reading between them. please stop, you’re embarrassing yourself

    Like

  • beachbum

    the criticisms Fiscal received were earned…he hadn’t played so well. that’s not saying he’s a poor player

    ALL coaches have players they believe in and a player can take much confidence from that continued belief. Good for Fiscal! it doesn’t discount that he earned the criticisms from before whether you understand that or not

    Like

  • Marc

    Conacaf players never seem to get their fair shake in Europe. We all know Gio is a baller. This guy should be getting minutes somewhere.

    Like

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