This year’s Hexagonal is closer than in year’s past. There is no shot that after three games any of you reading this would have placed Panaman atop the group and Mexico currently out of Brazil 2014.I bet you didn’t have Jamaica at the bottom either. This year’s Hex will have no shortage of drama down the stretch. But that is down the road. I’m here to discuss the masterclass that wasn’t and the pesky Americans that went into the Mexican version of a gladiator arena and came out alive and unscathed.
A point is a point is a point. Expectations going into Estadio Azteca are always hindered by a multitude of factors including projectiles thrown from the crowd, high altitude and a Mexican team that is virtually untouchable at home. But the USA caught them at the right time. Mexico has zero wins and zero losses coming into this game. After a less than impressive performance saw them draw a not overly impressive Honduran that fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take a point at home. The USA found themselves riding high after a spring blizzard found the Colorado air and propelled them to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. It was not a pretty victory but it didn’t have to be. Anything to get the USMNT a vital three points.
So move on to match day and three hundred questions remain lingering in the air. Who will the back four be? Who steps in for injured Jermaine Jones? Will the incrdible run of injuries in the USMNT be too much of a challenge? Can Guzan be the man of the hour? When will Jozy Altidore get off the mark for his country? And lastly, will Landon Donovan suddenly parachute into Azteca for the start of the match and score the game winner? (WE ALL HOPED THAT HAPPENED)
And there it is, the whistle blows and off goes the madness. 100,000 screaming fans counting the passes of a Mexican side that enjoyed incredible spells of possession especially in the first half and a USA that looked better. I use such an awful, undescriptive word because that is excellent what they were. The USMNT were organized, they were relatively disciplined and they didn’t try to fight fire with fire. They weathered storm after storm after storm and took solace in whatever possession they were given. I think it was obvious that Mexico was looking to expose Beasley early and often. They might have had success had Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler been out to lunch but they were locked in and smart in their movement. The coverage they provided as a unit was impressive and integral to the USMNT backline suring up any mistakes from the midfield.
Alas, Mexico was clever in the attack and decisive with their movement, something that is difficult to cope with for an inexperienced backline and especially impossible for an inexperienced backline trying to defend the likes of Chicharito and Giovanni Dos Santos. But as of late, Mexico has had trouble finding the all important match winner as in apparent in their recent record. This was largely due to timely interceptions and blocks from my Man of the Match Michael Bradley.
Michael Bradley must have felt that his father was about to win a WCQ with an Egypt national side that has dealt with more adversity than half of the rest of the world’s international teams combined. Bradley’s time at Roma has helped him mature as a player and that is exactly what the USMNT needs. He is mature beyond his years and showed it last night with simple passing that helped keep the US team in possession. He made timely tackles and was the most consistent player on the pitch. His role as a back four buffer and combining midfielder were played to a T. He was a major reason the USMNT found a draw last night.
Lastly, Brad Guzan is on fire. He always seemed to be in excellent position. His feet were quick and his hands even quicker. When called upon he was absolutely stellar.
Even though this was a makeshift squad for the United States, some performances will not help make Mr. Klinsmann’s job any easier. These performances helped the USMNT to a week that they needed, a week that saved Klinsmann’s job and kep the USMNT at the forefront of qualifying for the next world cup.