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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Azteca falls and USA defeats Mexico

Photo credit: Getty Images

Today the soccer world witnessed history: the USA defeated Mexico on Mexican soil for the first time in history. The Estadio Azteca will never be the same again for American players or fans of the game. Once a mythical and almost indestructible fortress, now the belief that Team USA can beat anyone anywhere is palpable.

There are some basic things to understand about this game. First, neither team was at "full strength," although Mexico fielded most of its starters except for Dos Santos and Salcido. The US, on the other hand, did not have Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore or anyone from its classic defense: no Bocanegra, Onyewu, Goodson, Cherundolo, Bornstein or Lichaj. Instead today we were treated to the Geoff Cameron show and an unlikely partnership with Maurice Edu. Fabian Johnson, the new left back option, shifted from left to right and allowed for Edgar Castillo to slide in at left.

The defense worked. Maybe it was luck on several chances, maybe Cameron really truly is the real deal, and maybe Chicharito has lost his step. Any way you look at this, it wasn't exactly a game that the Mexicans were looking to lose at any point, not after winning the Olympics and having been unbeaten against the US in 24 tries. No, today the back four held their line well and hustled for every play. And when Cameron didn't get there Howard kept us in the game.

We should also recognize that the offense had its ups and downs and didn't quite work with Torres as the playmaker and an ailing Donovan fresh from a Superclasico win by the Galaxy over Chivas USA. When Beasley and Boyd were inserted into the game, things clicked better but an enabler was still needed. Enter  Brek Shea, and just as he did in last year's game versus Mexico, one play from the flank allowed for a nifty pass from Boyd to an unlikely hero: Michael Orozco Fiscal.

Orozco's goal said it all for the US. This was a team win and it didn't matter who scored the goal. It didn't have to be Donovan or Shea or Gomez or even Boyd, it didn't need to be flashy and over the top. All it had to do was cross the goal line and inflate the net behind Gillermo Ochoa. This was a true American win, a win about team work, about strength and athleticism, about belief in yourself and your companions, about a dream that can be reached.

Mexico will claim that Dos Santos (both of them) along with Oribe Peralta and Corona at goal will make the difference next time these rivals meet. Perhaps, yes, but consider that the USA will also have Altidore, Dempsey and Michael Bradley along for the ride. Hopefully the teams will meet again, twice, if they qualify for the Hexagonal in World Cup Qualifying with a chance to prove it all over again in a competitive match. All of us on both sides of the border can't wait.

Player ratings:


Subs: Boyd (7), Beasley (6.5), Zusi (6.5), Shea (7), Orozco (7), Corona (N/A)


Alastair McCandless said...

I gather this was a friendly? I'm a bit out of the loop.

R. Mera Velásquez said...

yup.. just a friendly but counts mentally because now they know they can win there if they want to.