Three points would have been fantastic for the standings, but as far as mentality and psyche go, the U.S. national team’s 1-1 draw away to Mexico, inside El Tri‘s national house of horrors, Estadio Azteca, will provide so much more than a point for Bruce Arena’s side as they begin the stretch run of 2018 World Cup qualifying.
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The tone was, predictably, made very clear from the outset, as Carlos Salcedo committed a pair of borderline red-card offenses inside the game’s first three minutes — a pair of flying elbows, the first to the head of DaMarcus Beasley, and the second to Bobby Wood.
The Yanks didn’t take the bait, though, and kept their wits about them. Just three minutes later, they went 1-0 ahead courtesy of the earliest goal an American has ever scored at Azteca. Michael Bradley stepped high into midfield to cut out a pass before racing forward and spotting Guillermo Ochoa well off his line. The USMNT captain wasn’t shy to shoot as he let fly from 40 yards out, chipping Ochoa in spectacular fashion (WATCH HERE).
The lead was relatively short-lived, though, as Mexico turned their only first-half shot on goal into an equalizer. The USMNT defense bent but rarely broke during the first 45 minutes, and the 23rd minute was one of very few moments when El Tri‘s dangerous attackers isolated American defenders in open space. Carlos Vela got a step inside of Beasley and fired low past Brad Guzan to bring the hosts back to level terms.
The second half began with the two sides trading 10-minute spells of sustained possession in their opponent’s half of the field, but creating little more than quarter-chances from lofted diagonal balls and crosses into the box.
The bend-but-don’t-break approach nearly collapsed on the USMNT in the 71st minute. After sitting absurdly deep in their defensive half for much of the half, a golden chance or two was always going to fall Mexico’s way. Hector Herrera unleashed a free kick from 25 yards out that had beaten Guzan to his left, if not for the underside of the crossbar denying the Porto midfielder a stunner.
Two minutes later, it was the woodwork on the other end of the field that kept Mexico on level terms. Bradley unloaded a heavy ball on the half-volley from all of 30 yards out. Ochoa was 50-50 to make the save, at best, his left-hand post to thank in the end.
All things considered — questionably one-sided refereeing in favor of the home side, a largely even balance of chances, and the adjustment to 7,200 feet of altitude on two days’ rest — a hard-fought point earned is a fair result for both sides. Delight for the USMNT, disappointment for Mexico.