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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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


  1. You could pencil in Cameron as a starter too bad his club wants to put him In mid. I’m afraid he’ll just be ok like Spector in the Mid. Edu could be there if he ends up at Valencia as a cb. His passing is not as good as Reams but his defense is better than Ream despite not playing there. Shea is also a great option off the bench. A 6 foot plus attacker running at you with good pace is never good for defenders with tired legs.
    However almost time to end the Torres, Williams, And Castillo experiments

  2. Sorry, bud. Nothing about that win was “flukey.”

    Let’s not forget that Howard is a member of the team too, and his contributions count.

    The U.S. scored off of a definite passing sequence, not a Mexico OG or a PK. Mexico couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net.

    End of story.

  3. False… it’s a laser pointer from the stands.

    For some reason, however, the fans were shining it on their own players, too.

    They were definitely aiming for Howard’s eyes though.

  4. Great:
    Cameron, Howard

    Johnson, Fiscal (for the goal), Shea, Boyd

    Beckerman, Edu, Castillo (1st half), Gomez, Donovan (thought he was dangerous with the ball), Beasley

    Needs Work:
    Torres, Jones, Williams

    Zusi, Corona

  5. » Shea is better suited for a super sub role at this time, especially if we need to score.«

    Don’t we always need to score?

  6. This is like Tores third game with the nats in teh past couple of months where most writers have stated. Wel Torres didn’t have a good game. How many more times do we and Klinsmann and the caoching staff need to seriously see of Torres?

  7. And yeah, Olympic Qualifying and all, but a win would have been, well, a win, especially considering an Olympic qualifier might mean more than a friendly 2 years out from a WC. Just sayin.

  8. Agreed. I think Torres should be shelved. i have seen more from Freddy Adu’s pinky toe than I have ever seen from Torres for the National team.

    Klinsmann stated that Torres needed to have a good game last night, and Torres stunk it up once again. I think Klinsmann will be looking at other options from here on out.

  9. Still riding high after this one, but I keep hearing the following: US 2 – 1 Mex @ Azteca during 1992 Olympic qualifying. I’ve done a few google searches… nothing except people in comment sections typing this stuff.

    So is there an asterisk on this “First Ever” win, or are these simply trolling comments?

  10. uhm, I think it’s anti-torres. Which I agree Torres has never looked good for the USMNT, and it’s time people realise it.

  11. I think Torres has had ample enough looks in our starting XI. I’m okay with not seeing him in the national side ever again.

    On the flip side, I am always really impressed with Gomez’s workrate and ability to draw fouls, and get into good positions.

  12. I agree.

    This was actually the most amicable and friendly game I have ever seen between the two sides.

    People helped each other get up and patted each other on the back.

    It was sort of weird to see such a professional encounter between these two rivals.

  13. Disagree with your calling where the US is at a plateau, not so much because I think we have the next generation of Messi’s Xavi’s and Ronaldo’s in our midst, but because we are in the midst of creating a system of development and a style where talented and motivated players are brought to the top of their potential and effectiveness as a unit by being given clear roles and the tools necessary to execute those roles. I think that is going to significantly lift the collective quality pace and IQ of the NATS side.

  14. I don’t know whether it was by an accident or clever design, but Klinsmann with his pre-game statement that there is “a gap between Mexico and USA, though we came here to win” (something like this) took a sting out of Mexico’s aggressiveness and added confidence to his team. Moreover, US players seemed to disarm their opponents even more by showing them unusual respect during the game. Just a psychological observation.

  15. Yup he was solid and did start the play – good catch. Also, how epic would it have been if he had scored that fluke goal when he hit the ball from ~40 yds out and slipped when Ochoa was off his line?!?!

  16. Perhaps you have never played competitive sports. Psychology is a pretty important characteristic. Winning in a place that you haven’t won in 75 years is not overstated whatsoever, whether it be A team vs. A team or 15 drunken idiots playing on the field.

    I think the only viable thing Twellman said last night is to wonder why Mexico agreed to play the US at the Azteca. There was no winning solution. If they won, big deal – their A team beat our B team in a place our A team had never won. If they failed to win, it gave the US organization a huge mental lift.

  17. Lesson is the same lesson Brazil learned in the Olympic final. At this level, you can win every now and again with inferior talent if you have a reasonably good set of defenders, park the bus, hope the goalie has a good night, hope the opponents attackers can’t unpick the lock for this particular 90 minutes, and maybe scrounge out something yourself. Klinsman wanted to win an away game at an impossible place against better talent, so he picked the best strategy and it won. On a different night, who knows?

  18. +1
    Any doubt that team can beat Jamaica ? I am not thinking they were world beaters last night, but they shut down Mexico in Mexico.

  19. ya thats not the first time.. i really think that concacaf/fifa ought to force the FMF to put nets/chain-link up around the goals and corners to stop things from being tossed on the field as well as deal with lasers etc…

    funny how I remember when MLS fans were throwing stuff at Beckham there was discussion about that. I think everyone in concacaf would appreciate this or is that just the “charm” of playing in azteca

  20. Cameron better not go down after leaving Kinnear and playing time.

    We could have used Bradley last night.

    Edu was not as good as this author made it out to be, not saying CB isn’t going to work, just last night was more failure than success.

    Great to see MLS players really play well. Relying on Europe to push borderline guys has been spotty at best in my opinion. Long term, I think it is hopeless without MLS being good. Maybe you are in the camp that a Clark type wasn’t NT material, fine, fair enough, but they were going in the right direction at least.

  21. Both St. Pauli and Hamburg SV need defenders. St. Pauli would be a great fit for Edu. I would love to see it. Their CB Carlos Zambrano is going to Eintracht Frankfurt, the team that took a look at Carlos Bocanegra a couple of weeks ago at the recommendation of Klinsmann..

  22. Excellent! the Gooch-Boca pairing was a very professional line up but neither of them can dominate the insanely quick jumbled attack that concacaf teams bring. im not sold on any particular set but Edu and Cameron had great games.

  23. Agreed, a legendary play, but should read…

    1.) ***BECKERMAN to*** Shea to Boyd to Orozco Fiscal – instantly a legendary play that will be shown over and over

    Let’s give credit where credit is due. If a certain other midfielder who was absent last night had made the pass that Beckerman did to Shea, some folks would be ooh-ing and ah-ing about how great he was to have made the pass. Beckerman will always be remembered for setting that wonderful play in motion and he deserves the recognition. He was strong all night on defense, and in the last 30 minutes of the game was making some dam good passes.

  24. i would also like to see Boyd and Jozy on the same field, but i wouldn’t put Gomez in midfield.. id leave that spot to Jones.

    Jozy has developed into a good lone forward but he can do so much more when there is a second striker. Gomez, Dempsey, Boyd, Donovan all can certainly fill that role.

    most of all i agree on loading up the attack vs. Jamaica and other smaller concacaf foes.

  25. Good point by Troy up above about needing the younger guys to make the breakthrough. I pose a question: Would we have won last night had Carlos Bocanegra, Steve Cherundolo, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Clarence Goodson be in the starting line-up? Maybe, and then again, maybe not.

    To me the big lesson learned from the win is that this USMNT roster of players has grit and heart and determination and that there is not one single player or even handful of players that are essential for success. I don’t ever want to hear again, please, that the USMNT must have Player X on the field to be successful or Players X,Y or Z are crucial for a win. The win last night came without six veteran starters and I will bet anyone 25 cents that they will regret missing that match for the rest of their lives. I would also bet that those guys will not miss another USMNT camp between now and WC 2014, unless they are truly suffering a major injury, if you know what I mean. But the question is, after the performances last night by the B-team, will Klinsmann be inviting all those guys listed above for future camps. I have a sense we might see some changes sooner rather than later, possibly as soon as Jamaica WCQ’s in three weeks.

  26. Shea is better suited for a super sub role at this time, especially if we need to score. Torres is another that is better suited as a sub, especially when calm on the ball is needed to hold possession to protect a lead and keep the ball away from an opponent needing to score.

    I think JK is doing a better job of pushing his new style of play … while adapting tactics maximize our strenghts and trying to minimize opponents strenghts. Probably because at the beginning of his tenure, he was really trying to push his new style and gaining info on where he needs to adapt the tactics based on our personnel and strenghts.

  27. 1.having one guy on your team that sits the bench at Man U doesn’t make you a superior team. What you do in your professional career doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the quality of your national team career.
    2.I’m just glad that Klinsy finally started listening to me when none of you turkeys would.
    3.It’s bitter sweet, but I hope this signals the end for dolo and boca…especially as far as starting in Brazil goes.

  28. Possessing and passing in the opposition half is difficult enough under normal circumstances. To do so with only three players interested in attacking (torres, donovan, gomez) is pretty much impossible.

    So yes he failed to do that. But it was a failure by design. The first 45 min we were clearly set up to defend at all costs. If the front three managed to score some miraculous goal, so be it.

    Not saying torres is the answer in that spot. But I don’t think yesterday provided any meaningful evidence to the contrary.

  29. And this is why we play the games people!

    A few things:

    1.) Shea to Boyd to Orozco Fiscal – instantly a legendary play that will be shown over and over
    2.) Howard reminded everyone that the US does have amazing goalkeepers and that he is still the man
    3.) Whoever was giving me slack on this blog and/or Soccer by Ives for saying USA would win 1-0 – I got a nice plate of crow you can start eating anytime
    4.) If Tony Pulis wastes Cameron in the midfield at Stoke City, that’s a major mistake by him
    5.) I think Edu did enough to at least intrigue Valencia at the prospects of playing him in defense
    6.) Klinsy needs to stop the Danny Williams as a right sided middy
    7.) Does our B- or C team beating Mexico’s A- or B+ team make Klinsy a genius for breaking Azteca’s spell before the meaningful games vs Mexico start?
    8.) Orozco FREIKIN Fizcal – I will follow you at San Luis now
    9.) Timmy Howard!!!!!

  30. I guess we watch diferent games, because I watch plenty of games from Europe (and elsewhere) and I do not recall seeing “the lazer” before. (I did read this past winter about a parent who got tossed from a youth hockey game for shining a laser at the opposing goaltender.) Would you agree that it is unfair and perhaps dangerous?


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