Chris Wondolowski scored vs. Mexico in 2014, but the USA could not hold onto the lead. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The United States squandered a two-goal halftime advantage and was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw with archrival Mexico in an international friendly on Wednesday night, April 2, 2014.
Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski tallied for the USA in the opening half while captain Rafa Marquez and Alan Pulido found the back of the net for the Mexicans in the final 45 minutes at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Because the match was not played on an official FIFA international date, both teams were dominated by players from their respective domestic leagues.
“Mexico got a little confidence and the crowd gets into it and they become a good team,” Bradley told ESPN about the USA comedown and the Mexico comeback in the second half.
Neither starting lineup deployed the first team for either side as most of Mexico’s starters were performing in Europe. The most familiar player in El Tri’s Starting XI was captain and central defender Marquez, a former Red Bulls player who might be best known for his physical confrontations with U.S. players. His targets have included Landon Donovan, Tim Howard and Cobi Jones.
Donovan, the USA’s all-time leading goal-scorer, started the game on the bench as U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann gave several players on the bubble to show their wares for the last time before May training camp. Among those still trying to impress the coach were several starters, including right back Tony Beltran, midfielder Brad Davis and Wondolowski.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who is expected to be the No. 3 man behind Howard and Brad Guzan, backstopped the team.
There was little doubt that this was a game of two halves.
The Americans dominated the opening half and drew first blood in the 15th minute.
A minute prior, Davis’ free kick from the right side caused the Mexicans to sweat as goalkeeper Moises Munoz managed to palm a loose ball in the penalty area out of bounds.
Graham Zusi, whose goal in the USA’s 3-2 qualifying win at Panama gave the Mexicans a lifeline to reach Brazil, sent his corner to the far right post. Bradley beat his man, Jesus Zavala, and the former MetroStars midfielder boosted the ball home off a bounce from point-blanked range for a 1-0 lead. It was Bradley’s 12th international goal and fourth against the Mexicans.
“A good ball came in,” Bradley told ESPN. “I was able to get free and I put it in.”
Wondolowski staked his claim to a ticket to Brazil with a goal in the 28th minute as he shook his defender, Rogelio Chavez as Beltran crossed the ball from the right flank that Bradley flicked off his head to the San Jose Earthquakes striker, who knocked it home from five yards at the left post for a two-goal advantage.
Mexico came out stronger in the second half as Marquez sliced the lead in half in the 49th minute as he managed to work himself free before he headed in a corner kick from seven yards past Rimando as the Mexicans broke a 393-minute scoreless streak against the Americans. It was Marquez’s 15th international goal in his 120th appearance.
Marquez came close to equalizing four minutes later when Rimando was forced to parry another header over the crossbar.
Rimando was called on again in the 61st minute, as he dived to deny second-half substitute Raul Jimenez’s attempt.
Bradley tried for a brace five minutes later, but the Toronto FC midfielder fired his effort wide right.
Mexico, however, equalized in the 67th minute. Second-half sub Paul Aguilar rammed a 15-yard shot off the left post and Pulido swept in and slotted home the rebound for a 2-2 deadlock. Pulido has tallied four goals in only three international matches.
Second-half sub Eddie Johnson thought he had scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute, but he was called for being offside.
“It looked good to me,” Bradley told ESPN. “Obviously some of those go for you and so of those go against you.
“Still a good night. A lot of positives.”
Bayern Munich midfielder Julian Green, who declared his intentions to play for the U.S. last month, made his international debut for the hosts, coming for Davis in the 59th minute.
“I think it’s exciting,” Bradley told ESPN, “a young kid like that, so much talent, so much ability.”
A minute later, Miguel Ponce came back and drilled a shot that Rimando tipped over the net for a corner kick.