[USA-MEXICO] The hype that accompanies this rivalry isn't always followed by exceptionally entertaining soccer, but the USA and Mexico served up a thriller in their 2-2 tie on Wednesday. Amid the drama, here are a few things we learned from the clash in Arizona.
BRADLEY’S BETTER THAN EVER. So much for the Eurosnobs’ ridiculous notion that Michael Bradley would forget how to play soccer by returning to MLS. He scored the go-ahead goal, set up the USA’s second, won balls in midfield, and -- although mainly in the first half -- created a rhythm to the U.S. game in a playmaker's role.
WONDO’S STILL IN THE RUNNING. Not having been a factor in World Cup qualifying, scoring against the archrival is exactly what Chris Wondolowski needed in his quest for a ticket to Brazil. His strike, thanks to astute anticipation, gives him three goals in his last two appearances for the USA, having scored twice in February’s 2-0 win over South Korea.
DONOVAN’S NOT 100 PERCENT. Jurgen Klinsmann decided not to start the greatest player in U.S. history because he hadn’t performed optimally in practice. Landon Donovan, who has been bothered by knee problems, did come on in the 59th minute. Will that be his role at the World Cup? As a second-half joker?
TWO FORWARDS ARE BETTER THAN ONE. Playing with a pair up front -- Wondolowski and Clint Dempsey – was a key reason why this was not only a more enjoyable team to watch but why it was able to keep Mexico on its heels for most of the first half. Mexico may have been the better team in the second half, but the USA attacked with vigor late in the game and came close to getting the win.
EDDIE’S AN ENIGMA. He seems to have lost his scoring touch in MLS since wigging out in Seattle and moving to D.C. United, his first touches off the bench against Mexico were awful, but then Eddie Johnson scored with a sweet strike for what would have been the winner but for the AR’s hair-trigger flag.
CENTER D IS A CONCERN. Last month against Ukraine John Brooks and Oguchi Onyewu were hapless. On Wednesday, Omar Gonzalez raised his arm in a ridiculous plea for offside instead of staying with Alan Pulido on Mexico’s equalizer and looked weak while screened to allow Rafa Marquez head home Mexico’s first goal.
THERE ARE OPTIONS AT OUTSIDE BACK. Surprise starter Tony Beltran at right back did well enough defensively and constantly attacked, delivering the cross that Bradley relayed to Wondolowski for the second goal. Left back Michael Parkhurst also was constantly in Mexico’s half and played with poise defensively. The youngster DeAndre Yedlin stormed down the wing a couple times and set up Dempsey for good chance.
THE NEW GERMAN INTRIGUES. Julian Green came into the game after the tide had turned for the Mexicans. But he hinted that he could be a dribbler the USA could use when he nearly drew a penalty kick.
Overall, the game revealed not so much what Klinsmann’s World Cup roster will look like but that the process will be more difficult and possibly more entertaining than we expected.
April 3 in Glendale, Ariz.
USA 2 Mexico 2.Goals: Bradley 15, Wondolowski 28; Marquez 49, Pulido 67.
USA -- Rimando, Beltran (Yedlin 72), Besler (Goodson 59), Gonzalez, Parkhurst, Beckerman (Edu 72), Bradley, Zusi (Green 59), Davis (Donovan 59), Wondolowski (E.Johnson 64), Dempsey.
Mexico -- Munoz (Talavera 46), Layun (Ponce 68), Rodriguez, Valenzuela, Chavez (Aguilar 63), Marquez, Zavala, Fabian, Pena (Jimenez 46), Brizuela (Montes 57), Pulido.
Referee:Roberto Moreno (Panama).