It wasn’t pretty, but the US managed a 0-0 draw with Mexico in a CONCACAF World Cup qualifier on Tuesday. The Azteca is an notoriously difficult place to play and the Yanks have seen little success there. In fact, this draw was only the second point the U.S. has ever earned at the Azteca in World Cup qualification.
With a win and a draw in its last two matches, the U.S. now sits in third place in CONCACAF with four points with seven matches to go. Mexico, meanwhile, is in fifth with three. There’s still a lot of football to be played and this whole qualification process is guaranteed to get interesting before things wind down. The top three teams advance to the World Cup in Brazil while the fourth place team has a play-off against Oceania champ New Zealand.
Thoughts and observations on the game in no particular order:
- Brad Guzan has shown that he is more than capable of replacing Tim Howard in net. Two shutouts in two starts this campaign, including one away to Mexico? Not too shabby. With some question marks still surrounding the defensive unit, it’s nice to have someone reliable between the sticks.
- Definitely think that was a penalty on Maurice Edu when he took out Javier Aquino late in the game. Despite massive protests by the Mexican players, it wasn’t called. It’s surprising to see the U.S. get the benefit of the doubt on a call like that on the road.
- The U.S. has to do a better job maintaining possession and creating chances. The Yanks were lucky that poor touches and off-target passing in the midfield didn’t result in a Mexico goal. They can’t afford to give the ball away so much. That said, it’s near impossible to create any decent opportunities when you can’t hang onto the ball. The U.S. only managed one shot and didn’t force Ochoa to make a single save or big play. The off-ball movement going forward was lacking and often midfielders didn’t have much of an passing option.
- I was surprised to see Javier Hernandez miss a couple golden opportunities in front of the net. Those are the kind of goals he regularly scores for Manchester United and it was odd to see him go so off target from three yards out.
- The U.S. defense bent, but didn’t break. Despite coming under significant pressure towards the end of the match, the U.S. defense managed to keep Mexico at bay. For an inexperienced back line (with the except of Beasley), this was a huge performance. To come into a place like the Azteca and earn a shutout will definitely give them confidence going forward. Omar Gonzalez is looking much more confident and Matt Besler did a decent job in place of the injured Clarence Goodson. Beasley looked a step too slow against Aquino down the flank, but Mexico was never able to take advantage.
What did you think?