Mexico boss Manuel Jose de la Torre made one change from Friday’s draw in Honduras, inserting the impressive young Diego Reyes in at centre back for the suspended skipper, Francisco Rodriguez. Reyes, on his way to Porto in the summer, is a player I have watched for some time and he certainly is no drop off from Rodriguez.
Jurgen Klinsmann was forced into two changes from Friday’s 1-0 win over Costa Rica, with the injured duo Clarence Goodson and Jermaine Jones being replaced by Matt Besler and Maurice Edu.
- The national anthems bellowed around Estadio Azteca, both sides desperate for their first win of the Hex set up, the game kicked off and then things changed.
- It immediately didn’t feel as hostile. I wasn’t inside the stadium but even watching on television I could sense it. The crowd didn’t seem behind their team as much as they usually are and although Mexico dominated the early period of the game they didn’t really threaten Brad Guzan’s goal. What they did do was get early yellow cards for Matt Besler and DeMarcus Beasley, thanks to excellent runs by Javier Aquino and Giovani Dos Santos.
- Aquino had a fine game, sticking to the touchline to stretch the field, being a good outlet for Carlos Salcido’s long balls and causing Beasley numerous amounts of problems with his positioning. The young winger was actually a rare bright spot for a Mexican team having many issues in the final third.
- The support given to Javier Hernandez was very poor. American defenders Besler and, in particular, Omar Gonzalez were excellent but, in truth, Mexico’s qualities weren’t on show to test them fully.
- You could of course take the line that an American team, stacked with MLS players, were outstanding in defence and that, perhaps, is very fair and certainly Klinsmann found out things about some of his players today, but I still felt Mexico’s issues were more to do with their own problems rather than any caused by their opponents. They were a team very easy to defend against and that is very unlike Mexico at the Azteca, with one of the game’s best finishers in their side.
- Giovani Dos Santos is a very frustrating player. When the team is flying he can be the real leader of the orchestra, pinning passes into key spaces and dribbling by opponents, but when things get tight he disappears. His overall showing in this game highlighted just why he has had a difficult time taking over club matches. Playing off the striker, for long periods, he drifted out of the game, picked up the ball in deep areas, was poor with set piece deliveries and didn’t make it hard defensively on either Edu or Michael Bradley.
- With 18 minutes left, the pressure on Dos Santos to create was eased when left back Jorge Torres was withdrawn for forward Angel Reyna and he immediately made a difference, opening up an American defence before Edu chopped down Aquino in the box for what appeared to be a penalty. It wasn’t given.
- The US were always going to need some luck as well if they were going to avoid losing in Mexico for a World Cup qualifier for just the second time and that was it.
- As the clock ran down the Americans actually defended as a unit even better. They got deeper, naturally, but stuck to their task very well and only really came under threat from a couple of corners (of which Mexico had 15!). Their second ever away point against Mexico is a massive bonus for the team inside an extremely competitive Hex. They are far from guaranteed a spot in Brazil but this will be a big boost for them and, perhaps more importantly, their coaching staff.
- Mexico are far too talented to make qualification too difficult. Three points and no wins from their first three games is a major surprise and it will be interesting to see what the reaction will be to two more dropped points. de la Torre is under big pressure to keep his job and it won’t have been helped that his team was booed off the field at the end. He may focus on the non-penalty call but, deep down, he is sure to have a lot more than just that on his mind right now.