BRENT LATHAM - Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Mexico vs United States
World Cup Qualifying - Wednesday August 12, 2009
The United States let an early lead slip away and conceded a late goal to fall once again at El Azteca and left themselves in the thick of the battle for qualification to the 2010 World Cup.
The Americans came out in a similar lineup to the one which brought them Confederations Cup success in South Africa, as head coach Bob Bradley included nine of the starters from the historic semifinal victory over Spain in Bloemfontein.
Veteran Steve Cherundolo reclaimed his right back spot from Jonathan Spector, and Brian Ching replaced Jozy Altidore alongside Charlie Davies in the attack.
The Mexicans looked dangerous in the very early going, with young Giovanni Dos Santos making a weaving run into the American half before being halted at the eighteen by defender Oguchi Onyewu.
But the Americans were the first to break through in the ninth minute, when Landon Donovan put his stamp on the match. The LA Galaxy midfielder collected a loose ball inside the Mexican half and threaded an inch perfect pass through the Mexican defense to a streaking Davies.
The recent Sochaux addition touched into the box and outran the closing Mexican defense to the eighteen, where he rifled the ball past Guillermo Ochoa into the back of the Mexican net, giving the Americans their first ever lead at El Azteca.
The lead would be short lived though, as just ten minutes later Israel Castro found space 25 yards from the American net and slammed a shot past a diving Tim Howard and off the bottom of the crossbar, tying the game.
Mexico continued to apply pressure, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco ended over a dangerous free kick when Jay DeMerit earned a yellow card on a foul just outside the box. Howard managed to punch Blanco's winding service away.
In the 34th minute the Americans had their next chance, as Cherundolo was tripped on an overlapping run into Mexican territory, giving Donovan a free kick 40 yards from goal which Onyewu just missed getting on the end of.
The half ended with Mexico streaming forward again and Dos Santos sending a ball down the right side for Castro, whose cross was dealt with nicely by Onyewu.
The second half would be much of the same, with Mexico applying pressure throughout, and the Americans growing progressively more tired in the thin air of Mexico City. After just ten minutes, Mexico coach Javier Aguirre went to his bench, bringing on Carlos Vela and Nery Castillo to liven up the attack.
Bradley countered immediately, replacing Ricardo Clark with Benny Feilhaber, and sending Stuart Holden on for Ching, with Clint Dempsey sliding up front next to Charlie Davies.
The substitutions steadied the weary Americans, but Dos Santos nearly managed to put the Mexicans on top in the 68th minute when Andres Guardado got free down the right side and crossed into the American area, where the former Barcelona playmaker controlled, only to see his shot turned away by Howard.
Three minutes later, the visitors nearly snatched the lead when Holden was sent down the right side and swung in an inch perfect ball for Charlie Davies, but the former BC Eagle lost the ball in the afternoon sun and was unable to get his head on it.
Just a minute later Davies had the ball in the net, but the goal was waved off when the assistant referee raised his flag for offside.
As the Mexicans became desperate for the go-ahead goal, the Panamanian referee began to lose control of the game. With Davies down on the ground with cramps, a number of Mexican players gathered around and pulled on him, instigating a fracas. Despite violent aggressions of the Mexican players, Moreno carded Felihaber and Castillo, and waved the game on.
With just minutes remaining, Mexico finally got the goal they so desperately needed. Dos Santos beat Bocanegra and Donovan down the right side and sent a dangerous ball into the six yard box. Demerit managed to deflect it, but the loose ball fell to substitute Miguel Sabah, who easily placed a shot past Howard and into the roof of the net.
"Imagine if we hadn't gotten the result today what the press would have said," Mexican forward Guille Franco told YA after the match. "They have been very hard on the team lately, and this result helps get us back in the fight for qualification."
Despite the loss, midfielder Michael Bradley said he didn't the loss was a letdown by the United States, but rather the Mexican team getting done what the needed to.
"I don't think you can call it a letdown or anything like that," said Bradley. "This is a hard place to play, we came in knowing that, and it's not anything you're not ready for."
Bradley said the US could have taken more advantage of their early lead, but the they did well to control the flow of the game in the second half.
"After the goal we let them in a little to quick, and the second half they had possession of the ball, I thought we did a good job controlling that."
The US now finds itself in a difficult situation in World Cup qualifying, in third place following Honduras' thrashing of Costa Rica Wednesday night, with Mexico also hot on their heels.
"You know coming in that these ten games are going to be hard games," Bradley said. "You know that you have to play well for ten games to get in the World Cup. It's not anything that we didn't expect coming in and now we come back in September for two more games."
The US next takes the field in mid September at home against El Salvador. Mexico will host Honduras that same day.