Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
GLENDALE, Ariz. — A dominant and aesthetically-pleasing first half had the U.S. Men’s National Team looking primed for an easy victory.
The second-half was a different story, with a pro-Mexican crowd being treated to a rousing comeback against an American defense that looked
The U.S. were forced to settle for a 2-2 draw with El Tri at University of Phoenix Stadium on Wednesday night after letting a two-goal, first-half lead slip away. Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski had the Americans sitting pretty after scoring in the first 28 minutes, but a flat Mexico came to life in the second half and erased the lead quickly.
“We learned a lot from tonight,” said U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. “It was an exciting game. It was a game with a couple of different faces. I think Mexico started well the first 15-20 minutes and then we took over. We really had it under control, scored the goals, 2-0 up at halftime.
“We told the players to be right alert from the first minute on (in the) second half, but they were not. It took them too long to get back into the game and then some mistakes that you can’t make in terms of how you concede the goals. You take that away, you know you have to work on those things.”
Despite allowing their southern rivals to get back into the game, the Americans appeared to have secured a last-minute winner from substitute forward Eddie Johnson, but the would-be goal was negated by a questionable offside call.
Rafa Marquez started the comeback for the Mexicans, who had the majority of the support from the 59,066 fans in attendance, in the 49th minute. Alan Pulido then tapped in the equalizer in the 67th minute after a shot that caromed off the post fell to him.
The friendly also saw Julian Green make his much-anticipated U.S. debut just two weeks after he filed his one-time change of associations to FIFA. The 18-year-old Green came off the bench in the 59th minute, replacing Brad Davis on the left wing.
Green also looked to have drawn a foul on a play near the penalty area three minutes from the final whistle, but Panamanian referee Roberto Moreno allowed play to continue.
“We should’ve gotten the third goal, the clear goal from Eddie. We should’ve gotten a clear penalty on Julian Green, but it’s actually not that important,” said Klinsmann. “All the players that were here today gave everything they had and understand that a game goes at least 90 minutes, maybe in a World Cup it goes 120 minutes, and we don’t have those 90 minutes yet. We have maybe 55-60 maximum on that level.
“It’s not enough. so that means we have a lot of homework to do.”
It was a bright start for the U.S., who came out in a 4-4-2 formation that saw Bradley play atop of a diamond in midfield. Those changes quickly paid dividends as the Americans showed quality passing and movement in the attack and disciplined and swarming defense.
That led to the game’s opener in the 15th minute. After Mexico goalkeeper Moises Munoz pushed away an Omar Gonzalez header, Graham Zusi whipped in a corner kick that founding a streak Bradley at the backpost for the easy finish.
Thirteen minutes later, a well-worked sequence that was among the most beautiful ones that the U.S. has had in recent memory led to Wondolowski’s goal. Clint Dempsey received a pass with his back to goal and hit it one-time into space despite facing pressure, and Tony Beltran raced onto it before hitting a corner that Bradley flicked into the path of Wondolowski.
“The first half, as a group we played well,” said Bradley. “The mobility was good. I felt we played at a tempo that htey were uncomfortable with. We were able to close them down, we were able to be aggressive and even if the first guy didn’t win the ball, the next guy was there. We were stepping and really pushing the tempo in a good way.”
The U.S. continued to dominate for the remainder of the first half, but that was far from the case after halftime. Mexico looked like a revitalized side from the start of the second half, and Marquez started the rally when he headed home a Marco Fabian corner four minutes after the intermission.
Marquez broke free of Gonzalez’s mark and headed home with ease past a helpless Nick Rimando, sending the pro-Mexico crowd into a frenzy.
El Tri continued to attack while the U.S. looked a shell of the team that controlled the proceedings in the first half, and the Mexicans found the equalizer when Pulido tapped home a rebound from two yards out.
Gonzalez was caught ball-watching on the initial shot that hit the post, and that allowed Pulido to bury the golden opportunity.
“If we learned anything it’s that when you have them on the ropes, you’ve got to keep your foot on the pedal and I think our attitude, our mentality and just our shape was too timid in the second half,” said Landon Donovan, who did not start and came off the bench in the 59th minute. “We dropped off too much and we allowed them space and more of the ball. We didn’t do that in the first half, they couldn’t breathe, so if you have a game 2-0 you’ve got to finish the game.”
Mexico kept piling on the pressure, and would’ve taken the lead if not for Rimando making several key stops, but it was the Americans who nearly found a winner.
Johnson finished a shot into the bottom right corner in the 85th minute after the U.S. strung together some passes but he was deemed to be offside when he made his run in on goal to received the feed from Clint Dempsey.
Green was then involved in his own bit of controversy, as he looked to have been fouled just inside the penalty area on an explosive dribble that signaled one of his better moments in the match. No call was made, however, and the two rivals settled for a draw.
“You look at it from a bigger picture in the sense that was a good game, great atmosphere, good for the fans and a good test for us as we move forward towards the summer,” said Bradley.
The Americans’ attention now turns completely towards Brazil. Klinsmann is expected to name a preliminary 30-man World Cup roster in mid-May before trimming it down to 23 in early June.
What do you think of the USMNT’s 2-2 draw with Mexico? Who impressed/disappointed you? What did you think of Green?
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