Highlights and talking points from last night’s draw at Azteca

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When the games ends as it started, there usually aren’t many highlights, but when you lump all of Mexico’s chances together in a six-minute clip, you realize all the things that had to go right for the U.S. to get out of Azteca with a point.

The first thing that went right was their effort, from the Man of the Match to players like Matt Besler and Graham Zusi, who showed stark improvement as the game went on. But beyond that effort, you really have to look at the places Mexico failed to convert.

Some other talking points:

  • We forget that the U.S. actually had some nice forays forward in the first half, with combination play through the middle forcing corner kicks, one of which Geoff Cameron almost converted. They didn’t offer much, and they finished the game without having tested Guillermo Ochoa, but particularly in the 10-12 minutes before halftime, the U.S. showed some sparks.
  • Carlos Salcido had far too much time on the ball. Starting with an eighth minute diagonal that forced a yellow card-worthy foul from DeMarcus Beasley, the defender-cum-midfielder strung together a number of long passes that made you wonder: Where’s Clint Dempsey? Perhaps the plan didn’t call for him to come back on Mexico’s last midfielder, but with a second half chip over the U.S.’s defense, Salcido nearly made the States pay for giving him time to execute.
  • Giovanni Dos Santos could have really broken this match open, but it would have required him to be Gold Cup Gio, not the guy we saw last night. It’s not that the Mallorca man was bad, but particularly in the first half when he was running in behind  Cameron, Dos Santos had his chances to craft something dangerous. A few times he did, but against a U.S. defense that grew stronger as the match went on, Mexico needed their stars to shine.
  • Speaking of dimmed stars, Javier Hernandez has reason to dwell on a couple of last night’s chances. The first half cross from Jorge Torres Nilo? That second half corner that bounced over his foot? “Chicharito” has to finish those.
  • The Maurice Edu second half foul on Javier Aquino was horrible. And it looks worse every time you see it. Terrible decision by Edu. Worse non-call by the official. You could say something trite like “that’s a penalty seven days a week and twice on Sunday,” but it wasn’t a penalty on Tuesday. Remarkably.
  • As for Aquino, it’d be fair to say the U.S. had no answer for him. The States didn’t miss Fabian Johnson on Friday, but boy was he missed on Tuesday. Nice effort from Beasley, but just like on the right, the U.S. needs their left backs healthy.
  • Angel Reyna really gave Mexico a spark in the second half. His efforts may have stymied any intent the U.S. had of using the substitutions of Eddie Johnson, Brad Davis, and Brek Shea as cause to go for three. Instead, thanks in large part to Reyna in the middle, the U.S. were left to hold out.