The United States had something to prove against Mexico on Wednesday night at Aztec Stadium, where the national team had never come out victorious. In fact, the U.S. was 0-23-1 all-time against Mexico on the road, but no longer is the team winless.
Despite Mexico riding their Olympic gold medal high from London last week, the U.S. was able to beat their southern neighbors 1-0 – the first win for the U.S. on the road against Mexico in nearly 75 years. For the U.S., the outcome of the contest served as a reminder to that rest of the world that even though it didn’t qualify for the Olympics, they're still a big contender for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
“I think it’s huge. It’s historic. This is an amazing experience for the players,” coach Jurgen Klinsmann said after the win.
Things didn’t start off well for the U.S. – who were without Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Carlo Bocanegra because of injuries and the start of the European club season – as just 45 seconds in, the team gave away a dangerous free kick that luckily forward Angel Reyna put into the wall, rather than the net. But with both teams feeling each other out early on, there was little to get excited about, which was evident in the fact that goaltender Tim Howard didn’t have to make a single save in the first half.
After a gold medal celebration in front of a surprisingly unfilled stadium, Mexico came out in the second half and dominated the opening minutes, applying plenty of pressure. Defender Geoff Cameron even saved a goal thanks to a heads up play in front of Howard, but how many breaks would the U.S. get?
A lot, apparently.
The U.S. withstood Mexico’s pressure – including a tough header by Chicharito that would have gone in almost any other day – and hoped to take the ball down for a quick score. Well, the plan worked. In the 80th minute, midfielder Michael Orozco left footed a shot into the bottom right corner, giving the U.S. an improbable lead.
Mexico wasn’t done though, taking the next 10-plus minutes to continue to pressure the U.S. and Howard, but the Everton goalkeeper proved to be too much, stopping anything in his sight, including two that we will be shown on every highlight reel for days to come. With time running out and the natives getting restless, the U.S. did everything necessary to hold onto the win. It might not have been pretty but they don’t have to be.
Hard to believe that a relatively unknown substitute scored one of the biggest goals in United States soccer history in a game the team was hoping to just walk away with a draw.
“We know we still have to improve in many, many elements but I think this gives us a lot of confidence,” Klinsmann added.
Photo Credit: Getty