USA 1, Mexico 0: A Look Back

USA 1, Mexico 0: A Look Back

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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