FAMILIAR FINAL AS US DOWNS MEXICO
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Bradley celebrates second goal
Michael Bradley scored the only two goals of the game as the home team defeated 10-man Mexican in Columbus, Ohio on Wednesday night to open the World Cup final round qualifying hexagonal.
Head coach Bob Bradley filled out the lineup card with no real surprises in the starting eleven for the Americans.
Brian Ching and Landon Donovan started up top and were supported in the midfield by the younger Bradley, Sasha Kljestan, DaMarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey. The line in front of starting goalkeeper Tim Howard included European based Heath Pearce, Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu and Columbus' own Frankie Hejduk.
Howard was called upon to make the first big save of the game in just the third minute when Nery Castillo slipped through the sloppy defense only to be stoned by Everton's starting 'keeper who was happy to get in to the action early.
"It always helps when you have the opportunity to make a save early in the game," Howard told YA after the match. "You don't want to, but if you can, it helps keep you in the game."
The flow of the game was in the Mexican's favor for the first 15 minutes of the game played before 23,776 souls who braved the peculiar mid-February weather but that would start to sway just after the 20th minute.
Donovan's former teammate with San Jose, Ching was hauled down to the ground in the 21st by Mexico defender Aaron Galindo. Donovan and Beasley hovered over the ball before the on-loan Bayern Munich forward struck the ball mere inches wide of Oswaldo Sanchez's post from 18-yards.
It was Dempsey with the chance 10 minutes later when he lined us a shot after the cross by Beasley was headed down by Donovan in to the path of the onrushing Fulham midfielder. Sanchez was up to the task and made the save, which made for groans of disappointment from the home fans.
The first sub of the match came in the 34th minute when Castillo, who pulled up lame with an apparent hamstring injury moments earlier, was replaced with Israel Martinez by head coach Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Bradley's first goal came two minutes before the end of the first half. Beasley's far-post corner bender found Donovan who headed the ball back in to the box where a scrum ensued following a header on goal from Onyewu.
Bradley was the man in perfect position to clean up the slop in the six-yard box and he emphatically smacked the ball in to the back of the net to give the chilly fans supporting the Red, White and Blue a highlight entering the break.
Neither head coach made any changes at the half, Bradley stuck with the eleven that started the game while Eriksson hoped his team would come out of the break looking to even up the score.
Just three minutes in to the half Bradley would play a perfect through-ball that Beasley raced on to - unfortunately for him Sanchez was up to the task and raced off his goal line to scoop up the ball seconds before the left midfielder.
Midfield Alberto Medina was replaced by Antonio "Zinha" Naelson in the 60th minute as the Mexicans looked for any kind of spark to get them back in the game.
The game changed just five minutes later when Mexico captain Rafael Marquez added to his straight red card collection with a terrible challenge against Howard. The former Red Devil stayed on the ground for a minute grabbing his knee while the Barcelona defender was shown to the exit.
It was a terrible sequence for the Mexicans as it appeared moments earlier that Carlos Ochoa was going to score from inside the six-yard box. He was denied after he redirected a glorious free-kick by Pavel Pardo that lead to the scramble in the box and the studs-up flying challenge on Howard that led to Marquez's red card.
The Mexicans continued their search for the right combination on the field when Omar Bravo came on for a fairly ineffective Giovani dos Santos seven minutes after the Marquez ejection.
The Americans controlled much of the play after the ejection, although Mexico wasn't afraid to attack even down a man. The guests won a corner kick in the 80th minute and just a minute later Howard had to come out strong and claim a cross from defender Carlos Salcido.
American head coach Bob Bradley made his first substitution in the match in the 83rd minute when teenager Jozy Altidore replaced Ching, and then three minutes later Kljestan was replaced by Houston Dynamo midfielder Ricardo Clark.
The second goal from the Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder was a dipping strike from 28 yards that seemed to catch Sanchez napping and skipped up over the flailing arms of the Mexican net minder after a ball laid off from Donovan.
"Jozy and Landon made a good play to get in behind their defense," Bradley said after the game. "Landon cut back and I went forward, took a shot on target.”
"I'm happy we won. We got three points and we beat Mexico so that's important."
The US will continue with qualifications when they travel to El Salvador on March 28th. They will unfortunately be without starting 'keeper Tim Howard after he picked up a yellow card for time wasting during the match, his second in qualifying which results in an automatic suspension.