After the US Takes First-Ever Lead at Estadio Azteca, Mexico Comes Back to Post
MEXICO CITY — The U.S. Men’s National Team took its first-ever lead at Estadio Azteca in the ninth minute, but Mexico quickly tied the game before striking for the game-winner in the 82nd minute in front of a sold-out crowd of more than 100,000.
U.S. forward Charlie Davies scored nine minutes into his first FIFA World Cup qualifying start, but Mexico came from behind with a rocket of a goal by Israel Castro in the 19th minute and an 82nd-minute strike from substitute Miguel Sabah.
“It was a tight game and a fair score,” U.S. head coach Bob Bradley said. “It’s a tough loss to have so many guys work so hard and then give up a late goal. The feeling inside is one of great disappointment, because the idea that you could still walk away today with a point after everyone gave everything they had is important for any team.
“Overall, our defending was very good. On the other side, I think we could still connect some more passes and hold the ball a little bit better. I think that probably was the area that let us down the most.”
With two of the MatchDay 6 games yet to conclude tonight, the U.S. is still in second place with 10 points from six games, while Mexico has passed Honduras for third place with nine points. Honduras hosts Costa Rica and Trinidad & Tobago hosts El Salvador in the other matches.
Mexico’s win means that the teams have now split their final round qualifying games in each of the last three World Cup cycles. Dating to 2001, the U.S. has won the home leg 2-0 while losing by one goal on the road for the third consecutive game. The U.S. is still seeking its first road win against Mexico, falling to 0-23-1 including 0-9-1 at Estadio Azteca.
Mexico got the action started in the second minute when Andrés Guardado let a 23-yard shot fly at Tim Howard in the first of seven shots on goal on the day for Mexico.
The only U.S. shot on goal on the day was the Davies tally in the ninth minute, and with the strike he joined Willie Roy, Rick Davis and Eddie Lewis as the only U.S. players to score against Me xico at Estadio Azteca.
The scoring play started with a clearance by Howard that a Mexican defender headed back to Clint Dempsey. Dempsey touched the ball back behind the midfield stripe to Michael Bradley, who took a touch before playing the ball to Donovan. Donovan came back to receive the ball at the front edge of the center circle, and quickly turned inside Guardado and dribbled forward. He looked up and found Davies behind the left side of the Mexico defense. Davies sped in on Guillermo Ochoa’s goal and coolly curved a right footed shot around the Mexico goalkeeper from 16 yards.
The first ever lead against Mexico for the U.S. at Estadio Azteca lasted just 10 minutes, as Castro hit a bomb off the underside of the crossbar in the 19th minute.
Castro tackled the ball away from Donovan in the U.S. defensive half and popped up quickly to play the ball to Guardado. He played the ball to Cuauhtemoc Blanco on the left wing, and Blanco brought the play inside where he drew the attention of both Bradley and Ricardo Clark. Blanco then found Castro wide open 28 yards from goal in the middle of the field. After one touch, he blasted a shot off the underside of the crossbar that bounced across the goal line.
Five minutes later, Mexico nearly went ahead as Giovanni dos Santos played a one-two with Guillermo Franco and shot just wide of the post, but Franco was correctly flagged offside.
For the remainder of the first half, Mexico put on most of the pressure and referee Roberto Moreno from Panama showed the U.S. three yellow cards. Oguchi Onyewu will miss the next U.S. qualifier after a handball in the 27th minute, and two minutes later Jay DeMerit was booked for a late challenge on dos Santos outside the U.S. penalty area that led to a Blanco shot on goal that was saved by Howard. In first half stoppage time, Carlos Bocanegra went into the book for a tackle on dos Santos at midfield.
In the second half after Mexico coach Javier Aguirre replaced Blanco with Carlos Vela in the 56th minute, the U.S. countered by brining in Benny Feilhaber for Brian Ching and Stuart Holden for Ricardo Clark. For holding, it was his first career appearance in a FIFA World Cup qualifier.
Each team’s defense continued to stand strong, as they had for much of the first half. Mexico had pair of chances from dos Santos in the 59th minute. On the first, Guardado crossed to a wide-open dos Santos outside of the far post, and his hard shot was saved by Howard at the near post. On the ensuing corner, the 20 year old again tried to find the near post but his rolling shot was picked up by Howard.
Later, Davies injected himself into the best two chances for the U.S. in the second half. The first came when he was called offside as a pass from Bradley came just as Davies passed the last Mexico defender, and the second coming as he narrowly missed a diving chance as Holden sent in a driven cross from the right wing.
After a Mexico free kick in the 75th minute, Davies went down injuried with leg cramps and while on the ground was confronted by Mexico captain Gerardo Torrado. Feilhaber came to Davies’ defense, shoving Torrado away, and both were shown yellow cards as Davies was carted off the field and replaced by Jozy Altidore.
The Mexico game-winner came in the 82nd minute with Mexico switching fields to find Efrain Juarez on the right wing. Donovan gave chase and Juárez passed Bocanegra on the way to the endline, where his pass into the middle deflected off DeMerit attempting a slide tackle and found Sabah. The Mexico substitute, who had come on just three minutes earlier, crushed a shot into the goal over Howard from close range.
Mexico held on down the stretch, with Donovan’s only corner of the second half punched away by Ochoa in the 88th minute.
The final round of qualifying resumes on Sept. 5, when the U.S. hosts El Salvador at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, followed four days later by a trip to play at Trinidad & Tobago. Tickets for the El Salvador match, which kicks off at 6 p.m. MT, are on sale now at ussoccer.com. ESPN Classic and Galavision will televise the game live, and fans can follow online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker.
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