MEXICO CITY — There were hairy moments, but a composed and collected US national team earned its second-ever World Cup qualifying point on Mexican soil with a 0-0 tie at the Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night.
The tie boosted the USMNT's record in the CONCACAF Hexagonal to 1-1-1 (4 pts.), while Mexico remained stuck on its third straight draw in three matches (0-0-3, 3 pts.).
The scoreless tie was only the second World Cup qualifying draw for the USA in Mexico (the previous a 0-0 draw in Nov. 1997) and lifted their record to 0-13-2 in World Cup qualifying matches in Mexico, 1-8-2 all-time at the Estadio Azteca and 1-23-2 all-time on Mexican soil.
But Mexico will surely have their gripes on two penalty kick claims, the first coming early as the 13th minute when the assistant referee flagged a Michael Bradley off-the-ball push in the back on Mexico's Javier "Chicharito" Hernández who was streaking into the penalty area. But referee Walter López ignored the signal and let play continue.
Mexico turned up the pressure shortly thereafter and the US were under siege for the next 15 minutes with wave after wave of Mexican attacks down the wings and Giovani dos Santos featuring prominently. El Tri will rue missing the mark on four headed chances by dos Santos (16th min.), Jesús Zavala (27th min.), and a pair by Hernández (21st and 29th mins.).
The effort seemed to take a lot out of Mexico, who lost their edge for the rest of the first half with two lengthy injury stoppages preventing any momentum.
Mexico began the second half on the front foot but their crosses and shots missed the mark. The US were also helped by two defensive interventions by Omar Gonzalez, who snuffed out two dangerous attacks with timely moves. Gonzalez and center back partner Matt Besler enjoyed composed, standout showings in the Azteca pressure cooker.
There were more desperate stops. In the 69th minute, it was Besler who saved a goal with a block on a Carlos Salcido shot destined for goal and minutes later Graham Zusi beat substitute forward Ángel Reyna to a header in the box.
Reyna's insertion came for left back Jorge Torres Nilo, as left winger Andrés Guardado moved to left back in the most significant tactical shift of the second half by either team.
In the 76th minute, Mexico had a second legitimate penalty kick appeal when Aquino was ready to tee off on a pass in the box, only for Maurice Edu to challenge him from behind and clear the ball. The Mexicans vehemently protested with the referee to no avail, while Aquino had to eventually come off injured.
In a nervy ending to the match, Mexico found opportunities were few and far between, coming closest when Hernández just missed on connecting cleanly at the far post on a Reyna corner kick.
USMNT boss Jurgen Klinsmann made two changes to the squad that beat Costa Rica 1-0 last Friday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park with Edu coming in for the injured Jermaine Jones (left ankle) and Besler filling in for Clarence Goodson who suffered from a hamstring strain but still made the 23-man roster.
Mexico made just one change with Diego Reyes slotting into the center back spot vacated by the suspended Francisco "Maza" Rodríguez.
The result meant that Klinsmann also remained undefeated in seven all-time matches as a manager and player against Mexico.
Both sides will be back in CONCACAF Hexagonal action in June with three matches each between June 4 and June 18. Mexico are away to Jamaica (June 4), away to Panama (June 7) and home to Costa Rica (June 11). Meanwhile, the USA are also away to Jamaica (June 7) and home against Panama (June 11) and Honduras (June 18).
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Omar Gonzalez||He has arrived. All the excitement over 2011 Defender of the Year came to fruition at Azteca – simply magnificent.|
|2||Matt Besler||The finesse to Gonazalez's brute force, 2012 Defender of the Year was equally effective in shutting down Chicharito.|
|3||Brad Guzan||Only credited with three saves, but Tim Howard's understudy didn't make a single mistake all night.|