Mexico Diary: Success but 'not pretty'

By Mike Woitalla

After the 0-0 tie, the first question asked of the U.S. coach, by a Mexican journalist in Spanish was, “Jurgen, is this result a victory for you?”

“No, it’s a tie,” Jurgen Klinsmann said with a smile and produced chuckles from the media corps.

“We came here believing we had a chance to win this game but are very pleased,” Klinsmann continued. “Mexico gave everything they had. They put us under a lot of pressure. And the way our team was organized, how we stayed connected, how committed we were -- it was unbelievable and our players deserve a huge, huge compliment.”

Captain Clint Dempsey said, “It wasn’t a pretty game. They had most of the ball. We had to grind out a result. It wasn’t pretty, but credit to the boys. We were difficult to break down. We conceded a lot of free kicks and corner kicks, but we still did a good job of preventing them getting a goal. Four points from two games, and looking where we are in the table, is great.”

No, the USA did not play anything near brilliant soccer at Azteca nor in last Friday’s 1-0 over Costa Rica. But both times the Americans had an excuse. The win over the Ticos came on a field made unplayable by snow. Mexico losing a World Cup qualifier at home is so rare -- it’s happened only once in 74 games since 1949 -- that ties are celebrated. (As Jamaica did after a 0-0 in February.)

“I don’t think people realize how tough a place this is to play at,” said midfielder Herculez Gomez. “We did something not many teams do. ... This is our second point in World Cup [qualifying] history at Mexico, so yeah, it does feel like a victory.”

The USA also managed a tie at Azteca in 1997, en route to qualifying for the 1998 World Cup under Coach Steve Sampson, who was Tuesday's game working for Mexican television. The Tuesday tie keeps Klinsmann undefeated against the Mexicans after a 1-1 tie in Philadelphia in his debut game in August 2011 and a 1-0 friendly game last summer.

For Gomez, who plays in the Mexican league for Santos Laguna, and also played in last August’s win, it was especially sweet.

“My teammates go home, back to MLS, back to the English Premiership, back to the Bundesliga,” said Gomez, who has been playing his club ball in Mexico since 2010. “I’m taking an hour flight tomorrow back to Torreon, and I’m taking a lot of bragging rights with me. I’m still undefeated against Mexico.”

The Americans were outshot, 17-1. They gave up 15 corner kicks and only earned two. But the Mexicans, despite coming close a few times, and perhaps unlucky not to earn a penalty kick, simply couldn’t unlock the U.S. defense. In the first half, the Mexicans focused on going wide. They hit a surprising number high balls into a central defense with 6-foot-4 Omar Gonzalez and 6-0 Matt Besler.

“We didn’t want them to play out of the back,” said Klinsmann. “We didn’t want them to combine through the midfield. So we hoped they would hit those long, diagonal balls. Still, they created their chances. They had opportunities. But we did close down the spaces and didn’t allow them to play their usual combination play.”

Brad Davis came in for Gomez at wide midfield with 20 minutes left and ending up defending on both flanks as Mexico tried desperately to get a goal.

“We had to grind it out together,” he said. “But we got the job done."

They'll be plenty of opportunities this summer -- friendlies and three homes World Cup qualifiers -- for Klinsmann's men to prove they can do more than grind out wins that aren't pretty.

“We have a simple goal, which is qualifying for the World Cup,” said Klinsmann. “And we want to improve this program one step at a time."

Some sparkling soccer this summer would be a nice next step.


27 comments about "Mexico Diary: Success but 'not pretty'".
  1. Walt Pericciuoli, March 27, 2013 at 9:03 a.m.

    All said and done, we would have all taken 4 pts after 3 games before this all started. getting a result at Azteca is not easy for any Nat. team. The fact that we did it with the players we had out there shows that the depth chart in the US program may be deeper than we thought. Shouldn't we thank Klinsi for that?Great job boys all the way around. Credit to Klinsi for still trying for the 3 pts with the late subs rather than trying to bunker in with all defensive minded subs.

  2. James Froehlich, March 27, 2013 at 9:12 a.m.

    Several weeks ago this web site's columnists and many of its followers were calling for JK's headshould he not get "results" from the next two games. Well he's gotten the "results" and now we have complaints that it wasn't "sparkling" enough. C'mon Woitalla, Mahoney, Kennedy, there's still time for JK to screw up and make your day!!! In your followup analysis don't forget to mention the number of veterans and starters that weren't available for these games. Personally, I wanted JK as coach for the purpose of improving our style of play and expanding the player pool to include more skillful, creative players but I always knew that those objectives would ultimately have to take second place to the need to qualify. Bunkering to win is not my idea of success but if it keeps the columnists and some fans happy with the "results" I'm happy to endure it as long as the REAL objectives continue to be pursued --- and in that area there is some promise -- the U20's; the attempt to play out of the back; and the sporadic appearance of some neaty passing in midfield.

  3. Paul C, March 27, 2013 at 11:31 a.m.

    @James Froehlich....You are spot on.

  4. Luis Arreola, March 27, 2013 at 2:04 p.m.

    Get used to this bunkering for a few more years boys. Klins gave up on attacking style for this W.C. run. As good as this Hex is this year USA will stick to what has helped them historically. Cant wait for U20's. This should be a lesson to all those that think a Great Coach can just come in and change everything for the better. nope, this is more of the same, unless Klins is somehow influencing in the recruitment and development of our younger teams like the U20's. Even though it looks to me that each USA coach picks it's own brand of players and style. The U17's do not look like the U20's.

  5. David Mont, March 27, 2013 at 2:14 p.m.

    Walt, how was that not bunkering in? I don't think we had a shot on goal all game (in spite of officially being credited with one), and no scoring chances. Moreover, the team just wouldn't go forward even when an opportunity presented itself.

  6. Bill Anderson, March 27, 2013 at 2:16 p.m.

    Der Kaiser ist wunderbar, und der Nationalmamnnschaft ist sehr gut. Konnen sie sagen "USA - USA - USA"?

  7. Valerie Metzler, March 27, 2013 at 2:28 p.m.

    Ja! Ich kann!

  8. charles davenport, March 27, 2013 at 2:35 p.m.

    Sorry, Alexei Lalas, but "classicallY" USMNT defense stinks, sucks, rots. Good News: the back four performed well by all accounts, including JK's, last nite. Bad news: 1.5 penalties could have been called, constant 2nd half Mexican pressure, and a Chicharito miss that normally would have been in the net. Good News: offenders on the uncalled penalties were not from the back four. Good News: JK has made it his first duty to organize the defense, without which advancement in the World Cup final is not possible; without defense, an offense comprised of any number of Dempseys and Donovans goes nowhere. Good News: The USMNT will qualify; I will be watching the defense next year against european teams in the pre-World Cup friendlies. If the defense is solid, the possibilities are great.

  9. soccer talk, March 27, 2013 at 2:46 p.m.

    No bunkering! We tried to steal 3 points w/ late subs. Mex kept us back on our heels, not by US design. We do not have the attcking style players, so it is hard to apply such a game plan w/out the pieces. Even in the grand USA soccer is still, although rising, a 4th ranked sport! We somehow need to get those poor kids that can't afford academy and play tremendous soccer in there barrios. Mix the talent w/ the academy talent as well. U have start from early. I would be a rich man and US would be much improved if I could consolidate such a plan. GO USA!!!

  10. Bryan Kempf, March 27, 2013 at 2:55 p.m.

    Prior to last nights game, I was guilty of saying that I'd be happy getting "a point" in Mexico City last night. But when I saw how much space there was in the midfield, how surprisingly flat Mexico looked going forward, and how disinterested JK was in taking the ball inside the Mexican final third... The game was there for the taking. The few Mexican chances were a result of the US defending for 90 minutes. So now, we are sitting in the third and final spot in the hex, instead of leading the group.

  11. Mike Murray, March 27, 2013 at 3:29 p.m.

    I'm a bit late with this but would like to spark some comment on the absence of the German-American players. It seemed to me that the US line-up against Mexico was noticeably smoother and better coordinated than it is with our German cousins on the field.

  12. Chris Sapien , March 27, 2013 at 3:36 p.m.

    Reposting my take from another article, especially for you Bryan....."All posters, do not forget the big picture, Klinns and the US Nat.s know they are the only nation in the Hex that play four of their final six games at home, while Mex, Hon, CR, & Jam split their last six and Pan only have two home games!! Getting the away draw was crucial to keeping that scheduling advantage! In addition we will have two weeks between our 4th game and our 5th in Jamaica to prepare, while Jamaica has to play us only three days after its home game vs. Mexico. I see that as an advantage since we will be determined to take points in Kingston where we didn't last year. Bottom line, we accomplished what was necessary, we didn't stretch our shape and we kept mexico at bay. Let them and Luis wallow in it!!"

  13. David Mont, March 27, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.

    Mike Murray: I've made the exact same observation. It certainly isn't surprising.

  14. Richard Broad, March 27, 2013 at 4:09 p.m.

    A win is a win. Thankfully, the referee either lost or swallowed his whistle, not once but twice.

  15. Luis Arreola, March 27, 2013 at 4:18 p.m.

    Is there a rule for Concacaf refs to not have smoked crack before a game?

  16. beautiful game, March 27, 2013 at 4:31 p.m.

    I personally don't care who or what "cousins" are on the field; what matters is a team effort and for individuals to step it up. Let's be honest; the team lacks efficacy and ability to make things happen, and there doesn't seem to be any player on the horizon to bring those qualities to the table.

  17. Vince Leone, March 27, 2013 at 4:43 p.m.

    @ Mike Murray: I also thought that the absence of the Germans led to an overall improvement. It will definitely be interesting to see what happens with them. JK seems to love Jones, though I think Jones is a red card waiting to happen--probably at the worst time. Personally, I don't see any of the Germans as clearly superior to their "American" counterparts. Left back is the biggest question mark. If Beasley continues to shine, that could take Fabian Johnson out of the picture. I would also like to see Justin Morrow be given a real chance at the position.

  18. David Huff, March 27, 2013 at 5:05 p.m.

    Interesting result again in the Azteca, Klinsi is now undefeated there two in a row, the mexicans apparently have no answer for "El Aleman". Ein Volk, Ein USA, Ein Klinsmann!! :-)

  19. Nikolaus Gabris z, March 27, 2013 at 6:02 p.m.

    Great defensive effort, best so far!! Where is the attack? There were times where the US put together some beautiful combinations down midfield but as soon as the ball was passed to Altidore, he did not seem to know what to do with it, other than "hold"it. BIG DEAL...I do not understand that after all these years and he is still on this team??? he is not an attacking forward!!! I would rather have JK give a couple of the Under 20's players (forwards) a shot rather then see the same old, same old.. Excellent determination by Beasly!

  20. Bryan Kempf, March 27, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.

    Chris, I appreciate your take on playing 4 of the last six at home. I understand what you guys call "the bigger picture". I just disagree with what the bigger picture is. I think that playing for a draw, when Mexico is so flat, was more costly than not getting a point. My "big picture" consists of taking a team in form to brazil. With strikers (Altidore) that are confident in hostile environments against quality teams. I think the confidence we could have gained if we had pressed and won all three points, is far more important than the one point we got. Especially with 4 of the last 6 at home.

  21. carlos m, March 27, 2013 at 11:01 p.m.

    I would love to see this type of indignity from u luis when the usa gets cheated a game too.... let it go mexico is 5th in the hex deal with it.....

  22. Luis Arreola, March 27, 2013 at 11:59 p.m.

    You will Carlos. I love watching teams play to win. The U20's played Mexico to win and I was heart broken they didn't. I will follow them closely. What I would love to see is fans like you admit that we are getting no where with that style of soccer. The ultimate high will be tying Mexico and that is really sad.

  23. Chris Sapien , March 28, 2013 at 3:11 p.m.

    and that, Carlos, is coming from a guy who attributes mexico fans booing their team as a sign of real loyalty.....go figure?

  24. beautiful game, March 28, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.

    I wouldn't call it a "great defensive effort", perhaps anintense effort. We still need a lot of work on both sides of the ball...the offensive area needs a big boost, from where or whom is the $64K question.

  25. Luis Arreola, March 29, 2013 at 10:12 p.m.

    No, thats a country like Great britian in the Olympics, that doesnt tolerate mediocrity. You should try it sometime. Because that is all a country of our size and stature is right now in soccer, mediocre. Are you offended I spoke about Great britain as well Chris??

  26. Chris Sapien , March 30, 2013 at 11:51 p.m.

    I really don't care who you talk about, nation or otherwise. Why you would think I have any affinity towards GB, oh except that they have been our closest ally for nearly 150 years now, and that the majority of those who fought and won two world wars were American and English, which to this day affords you the freedom and liberty you have. No, I can't see any reason to take exception to that. Besides, you won't convince one person here that booing those who represent your country, is a sign of accepting mediocrity. Looks like the dictionary I recommended you purchase is paying off though.....

  27. Luis Arreola, March 31, 2013 at 11:25 a.m.

    Yea, because they have been "your" closest ally. Its a sign of not accepting mediocrity. Get it right ESE. A man with your education sure makes a lot of mistakes.

Next story loading loading..

Discover Our Publications