U.S. victory ends decades of frustration

A goal by Michael Orozco Fiscal enabled the United States to win its first game ever against Mexico in Mexico, 1-0, Wednesday night. Here are some quick observations of how it was done and what it means.

MINDSET MATTERS. Though the Americans struggled through most of the first half to get and keep the ball, they seldom panicked or let the Azteca aura intimidate them. They stuck to their defensive shape and relied on the aerial prowess of centerbacks Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron to clear the crosses that came in from the wings. Late in the first half, when left back Jorge Torres Nilo got to the byline and tried to cut the ball back, keeper Tim Howard sprawled at his feet to block the ball out for a corner,

Mexico knocked the ball between and behind midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones numerous times but struggled to supply that final pass for a clean chance at goal. As the second half dragged on without a goal, the Mexicans' hurried attacks broke apart in the middle third, and the Americans gained a foothold through the work of Graham Zusi and DaMarcus Beasley, who had replaced Danny Williams and Landon Donovan, respectively.

Brek Shea's entry in the 77th minute immediately re-energized the team, and two minutes after his appearance he drove to the byline and clipped a low ball to fellow substitute Terence Boyd, whose back-heel rolled for yet another sub, Orozco Fiscal, to poke into the net.
MEXICO FLAT, HOWARD SHARP. The squandered chances of Javier Hernandez helped the USA pull off its historic win, yet Chicharito wasn't the only Mexican player guilty of subpar work.

Pablo Barrera, scorer of two goals in last year's 4-2 victory in the Gold Cup final, was replaced at halftime, and though Elias Hernandez (no relation to Javier Hernandez) got around USA left back Edgar Castillo repeatedly, the opportunities he created were either put wide of the target, cleared by the USA defenders or saved by Howard.

Winger Andres Guardado got into good spots but either shot horribly or mis-hit his crosses. Central mid Angel Reyna got a lot of touches but also labored before being replaced by striker Aldo de Nigris.

Chicharito evaded Cameron to meet a Hernandez cross but his header missed the far post by a couple of yards. Another shot hit Edu and wrong-footed Howard, but the keeper dove back to his left and managed to parry and then smother the ball.

In the final minutes Howard pulled off a world-class reaction save to deny Chicharito from point-blank range.
HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE. In 24 matches in Mexico prior to Wednesday's win, the Americans had lost 23 times and earned a 0-0 tie in the Azteca during the Hexagonal qualifying series of 1997.

At Azteca, opened in 1966 as the major soccer venue for the 1968 Olympic Games, Mexico had lost just eight of 119 internationals. The last defeat was to Paraguay in 2007.

Friendly results can be overblown, and the Azteca crowd was well-short of capacity and its broiling intensity, but not only did the Americans beat their archrival in its feared fortress, they did so without Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey and most of their regular starting defenders.

A hobbled Landon Donovan (tight hamstring) left at halftime. Only three players -- Donovan, Howard and Beasley -- had played for the USA against Mexico in the Azteca, yet those who earned a famous victory Wednesday took a huge dose of confidence that will be needed when they head back there next year for the Hexagonal.

16 comments about "U.S. victory ends decades of frustration".
  1. Wayne Root, August 16, 2012 at 1:16 a.m.

    What does Paul Gardner say about this? Wasn't he saying that the US had to use Mexico as an example of how to do it right?

  2. Mario Cesarone, August 16, 2012 at 7:42 a.m.

    Ok it was a win. However we need some balanced viewing of this game. To put it simply, Mexico was really bad. They turned over the ball as often as we did. The number of mistakes and unforced turned overs were very high. Admittedly our Team had many players who had not played to gether much. Lets be happy with this win but at the same time beware it does not go to our head.

  3. Kyr-Roger St.-Denis, August 16, 2012 at 7:55 a.m.

    Yes, this match was a little different from most Mexico-US matches at Azteca: for one thing, the players seemed to treat each other with respect. Never seen that for 90 minutes at Azteca. Yes, Mexico had a young, relatively inexperienced squad, but so did the US, with only two of its top players on the field (and one of them for only the 1st half). And yes, the only real significance of the result is that a hex may have been broken.

    The real importance of this result is to show that Klinnsman was right to concentrate on getting the US defense to play with composure, while all around him were fussing about a lack of goals. It worked again last night.

  4. Bob Escobar, August 16, 2012 at 9:03 a.m.

    this was a terrible game, watching two "out of tune" teams playing wasn't what I expected...but kudos to the US, winning in Mexico City is not easy, not only for a US team, but for any other team in the world...lets wait and see how we play in the World Cup qualifying games, then we can judge our progress, if any.

  5. mark courtney, August 16, 2012 at 11:27 a.m.

    Trust me ... the frustration is far from over !

  6. David Sirias, August 16, 2012 at 11:34 a.m.

    Out of tune was exactlly what I expected with a young Mexican team and an experimental USA squad. USA got very lucky. This easily could have been 3-2 Mexico. But that's not the point. The point is JK exponentially increased the team's confidence and that of those who need to be key for play and depth in qualifying: Cameron, Edu, Shea, Castillo, Johnson, Beckerman. Notice that Klinsmann has all but decided that the 4312 is the way to go against good teams. The system works. Last night luck was required. But insert better personnel and Klinsmann is onto something:

    1. The no brainer is Dempsey in place of Torres, who is not and never will be a creator up high. He is a deep lying circulatator. He is perfect for certain situations but not last night. That is Dempsey's role.
    2. Bradley for Jones. Jones is overrated and was a turnover machine all night. Jones was almost single handedly responsible for Mexico's high possession % . He is getting old and is a walking red card.

    3. For chimeney sake, Williams is not a wide player and has zero attacking skills and instincts. Williams is faster than Beckerman and should be played as the pure DM. But he might not have Beckerman's brain, which I suspect is why this never happens. Klinsmann is better off playing Torres deep with Williams as DM and letting Bradley play the #8 box to box. OR find someone to replace Williams outright, someine with defensive bite but some level of attack. ( Oh where art thou Stuart Holden?)

    4. Johnson is wasted as RB He is better for the team as a LB or as the left sided mid in the 4312 because of his attacking prowess. We have options at RB to replace Dolo eventually.

  7. David Huff, August 16, 2012 at 1:02 p.m.

    This win is HUGE for the US, I mean HUGE (did I say HUGE?) in that we have finally broken the fortress myth of the Azteca that has lingered over our program for decades. No matter that it was a friendly, or that two undermanned squads were involved. This historic achievement is duly noted now in the annals of US Soccer, in the future our other teams will know that victory in the Azteca is obtainable. I also note that appropriately enough that it was a Mexican-American player that drove the dagger into the heart of the Azteca bubble. A big 'Congrats' is in order to the players and coaching staff for this amazing victory. Ein Volk, Ein USA, Ein Klinsmann! :)

  8. 0 M, August 16, 2012 at 1:18 p.m.

    It's too bad the USA won. Now they have no reason to change anything.

  9. Rudy Espindola, August 16, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.

    The show wasn't worth the price of the ticket. I have alwayas respected JK but
    yesterday he placed his team to play on one third of the field only. Mourinho does that when he plays against Barca. Cheap soccer by Mr JK. Congrats to the US fighters they did a good job and made history.

  10. David Huff, August 16, 2012 at 5:23 p.m.

    @Rudy, sounds like sour grapes from you after your El Tri team failed to perform in humiliating fashion. For myself, I would personally frame a ticket from that game in a matted box frame w/gold border lining to commemorate the day that Fortress Azteca fell to the conquering Yanquis. :)

  11. Barry Ulrich, August 16, 2012 at 8:13 p.m.

    No one has commented about Howard's green laser treatment. When will security ever be of primary concern at every soccer stadium and fans who "shower" players with objects and lasers will be effectively removed from the venue and restricted from ever again getting tickets?

  12. Rudy Espindola, August 17, 2012 at 12:49 a.m.

    @ Mr huff: sour grapes from me? i said congrats to the US!!! I really enjoyed watching jk playing many many years ago, the way he positioned his team yesterday didn't show me how he has changed soccer in the us. It looked to me more like a Bradley bunker formation. I am not confident that he will be better than his predecessors. Mr Huff I am not trying to minimize the us victory. Have a good day

  13. Luis Arreola, August 17, 2012 at 1:03 p.m.

    David, it's more a lucky punch with you're eyes closed while ducking the entire fight than a conquering moment. This is the only way USA has a chance vs quality teams like Mexico or Brazil. Just like Chelsea did vs Barca or just like Mourinho vs same team. 9 out of 10 though, Barca beats both of these with Real madrid giving them a harder time because they are starting to play a little more . Klins has tried to play soccer but understands he needs results. It's a shame, really, in the long run. Ugly game. The luckiest team won this one. No doubt. Congrats USA!!

  14. David Huff, August 17, 2012 at 1:21 p.m.

    @ Mr. Espindola, you are trying to talk out of both sides of your mouth. It's disingenious when you say that "The show wasn't worth the price of the ticket" and "JK but yesterday he placed his team to play on one third of the field only" and "Cheap soccer by Mr JK" followed at the end by the belated "good job". However, I understand why you are uncomfortable. Despite the great strides Mexico's football program has made in the last 10 years you are now hearing footsteps from your rival in El Norte, this brought about the evolving changes taking place under Klinsmann's tenure and the USSF bowing to the inevitable that UK "boomball" style of play is not a successful formula for WC purposes. Klinsmann's chief contribution will be to help develop a successful US hybrid style of play that draws from German, Dutch and Latin roots. When you say that "I am not confident that he will be better than his predecessors." you have already lost credibility where Klinsmann has achieved something that NO OTHER US COACH/TECNICO has have ever done before, winning a game in the Estadio Azteca. The aura of invincibility associated with the Azteca has now been destroyed forever. Klinsmann, and the staff that he has assembled, are light years of what the US has previously had before and you are right to fear it because those "footsteps" are coming right at El Tri. I look forward to seeing your team at the new Estadio North Slope Alaska in January. :)

  15. David Huff, August 17, 2012 at 1:42 p.m.

    @ Luis, I know what you are saying in terms of the need for continuing improvement in the US football program, as we start to move away from the failed UK "boomball" model that we have slavishly followed for decades and develop our own US style that draws from both Euro and Latin roots there will be positive long-term results. As you indicate, Klins's keen understanding of the game also takes into account the need to be able to point to significant achivements along the way. I agree, not a pretty game, but Klinsi had his team positioned to where they were still in the game and could have a chance to win which is what they did in an opportunistic fashion. I disagree though that the goal was lucky, the Shea-Boyd-Orozco combo displayed a high level of skill on the scoring play and it also exposed the Mexican back line's frailty. The big deal here though is the symbolism associated with the Mexican defeat in the Azteca, the seemingly perpetual aura of invincibility connected with that venue is now gone. It gives hope to all future US teams playing there that they can pull out a win (ugly or otherwise) despite being an underdog. Note: I am not so crazy as to say that we now "own" the Azteca, far from it, there is a reason why Estadio Azteca is one of the most respected venues in football - given the extremely favorable record that Mexico has compiled while playing there. That said, I would prefer that every time that we play Mexico that it be in the Azteca, because of the challenge that is posed by playing there. The US-Mexico rivalry is an excellent one for the benefit of strengthening both countries football quality given the steep dropoff of quality competition found in CONCACAF.

  16. Luis Arreola, August 17, 2012 at 4:56 p.m.

    David, spokenlike a true competitor. This rivalry will mostpy be played in Usa mostly because of money. If Klins is planning to mesh both styes and has the freedom to 100% pick his tye of players there is no doubt Usa will see great improvement. I did not mean the goal was lucky. What I meant was Usa was fortunate to score on its only real scoring opprtunity with such a low posession % when compared to Mexico. Had Shea started we would have seen a better game as Mexico would have had to ake changes quicker. Shea is a presence who only needs to be more cnsistent and that will cpme with more callups. Concacaf is improving though. Honduras did much better than expected in Olympics and countries like Panama, El Salvador and Canada are showing signs as well. Costa Rica has never been a pushover. Guatemala just tied Paraguay. We shiuld celbrate Usa grat win but should always demand more fom our style of play. The problem with these type of wins is too many people will feel cofortable with the style as only pption. I am sure Klins did what he did in hpes of this recult for morale. Mission accomplished. I am also sure he wants Usa to evolve to a better quality of play with tecnical ply.

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