With the United States and Mexico preparing for their World Cup qualifying encounter in Mexico City June 11, FrontRowSoccer.com is looking back at some of the most memorable matches between these two archrivals. Today, we look back at a qualifier in which the U.S. earned a rare point in Mexico City.
MEXICO CITY — A scoreless draw felt more like a moral victory for the United States Tuesday night, March 26, 2013.
The Americans pulled off a rarity at Estadio Azteca, leaving the enemy ground with a vital point in World Cup qualifying in the CONCACAF hexagonal.
It was only the second time the Americans managed a result in a qualifier here, having played to a goalless tie in a 1997 qualifier. The U.S. has never beaten the Mexicans in qualifying here with a 0-13-2 record.
The draw improved the U.S.’s record to 1-1-1 and four points, while the disappointing Mexicans played their third consecutive draw in as many games in the CONCACAF hexagonal round, their second successive 0-0 tie at home.
“Tonight it was an amazing team effort,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann told ESPN. “Tactically, we were organized. . . . The guys were outstanding.”
U.S. striker Herculez Gomez, who plays professionally with Santos Laguna in Mexico, agreed.
”Many people said it couldn’t be done,” he said. ”We showed just a tremendous attitude, a tremendous willingness to sacrifice for one another.”
The Americans had number of challenges on and off the field, including injuries to several key defenders and a story in The Sporting News that brought up problems within the team.
“We had so many challenges over the last 10 days in terms of injuries, in terms of players not available,” Klinsmann said. “After the Costa Rica game they were completely exhausted from playing in the snow blizzard. Then we had another two players out [in Jermaine Jones and Clarence Goodson]. So this group has shown they are ready for those challenges and they deserve a huge compliment.”
The result could call into question the job security of Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre, who had guided El Tri to a 6-0-0 in the semifinal round, but has underachieved in this round.
“There are 21 points left. The leader has five; we have three. It*s tight,” de la Torre said. ”It*s close, and of course we are not where we wanted to be. Our obligation is to win at home, and we have left points behind.”
Mexico will have to wait more than two months to accrue points as it will play its next two qualifiers on the road — at Jamaica on June 4 and at Panama on June 7.
The United States will visit Jamaica on June 7.
The Mexicans enjoyed a 17-1 shot advantage attempted 15 corner kicks against the U.S. defense that bent, but never broke.
El Tri felt they should have been awarded a penalty kick, when Javier Aquino was fouled from behind by Maurice Edu in the 76th minute.
Striker Javier Hernandez, who has never scored against the U.S., although he came close to breaking the ice when he sent a corner kick over the crossbar in the 87th minute.
The U.S. did not have many serious scoring opportunities, but did enough to frustrate the Mexicans, who had a solid first half, but seemed to lose their focus on attack in the beginning off the second half.
There was little doubt that the Mexicans owned the opening half. Slowly, but surely the hosts penetrated the the U.S. midfield and backline, taking particular advantage of the right flank and left back DaMarcus Beasley. Beasley, a midfielder and the Americans’ emergency choice at left back, but the Mexicans continually exposed him.
Beasley’s effectiveness was restricted by an eighth-minute yellow card for fouling Aquino.
Central defender Mike Besler, making only his second international appearance, also was booked for a foul on dos Santos in the 20th minute.
The Mexicans’ first scoring opportunity came in the 16th minute when dos Santos fired a shot wide right.
Five minutes later, dos Santos tried to test U.S. goalkeeper Brad Guzan from distance and the U.S. goalkeeper easily handled the shot on one bounce.
But Mexico refused to give up. Moments later Chicharito was fed from the right side by Aquino, but his header traveled wide right.
Chicharito tried again to get the hosts on the scoreboard in the 28th minute, but he sent his close-range shot over the crossbar.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, Carlos Salcido launched a chip pass into the penalty area. Guzan collided with Jesus Zavala as nothing came of the play.