Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez may have fewer than 10 international appearances between them, but their central defense combination helped the US claim a valuable point away at Mexico. Playing at Estadio Azteca, a place where the US has never won a competitive match, Besler and Gonzalez commanded the back line like veterans and kept the game level at 0-0 from minute one to minute 90.
Geoff Cameron patrolled the flank as right back and performed well, while DeMarcus Beasley struggled all night as the replacement left back. He was cautioned in the eighth minute for tackling Javier Aquino and was exploited on the left side for most of the game.
Besler and Gonzalez were able to cover for Beasley while Brad Guzan, who replaced the injured Tim Howard (neck), made two saves on the game and confidently dealt with every cross that came his way.
Guzan and his defense were able to thwart Mexico's potent offensive weapons that include Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez, Giovani Dos Santos, and Andres Guardado. The trio helped earn Mexico a 14-1 edge on shots over the US, plus 15 corner kicks.
That Guzan made so few saves is an indicator that Mexico's finishing was off. By the time the half hour mark arrived, both players and spectators started getting impatient. Mexico tried to force the perfect play, though the US was equal to challenge every time on defense.
Mexico also had two good shots for a penalty kick, one in each half, both of which were denied.
The result leaves Mexico's team scratching their heads. They walked into the game with a 13-0-1 record against the US at the Estadio Azteca, but couldn't create the decisive play. They are also now winless through their first three games of the final stage of World Cup qualification, sitting next to last in the six-country group with three points.
Meanwhile, the US will be celebrating a hard-fought point and will move into third place behind Honduras and Panama. The top three teams qualify automatically for Brazil 2014, with the fourth place team going to an intercontinental playoff with New Zealand for a spot at the World Cup.
The result also provides the US team with the sense that they're on the right path, especially after last week when it was leaked that some players were frustrated with Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann for his tactical and game time decisions. Klinsmann appears to have silenced his critics for the time being, though there are still seven games to go.
For the players, the result will bring confidence and a sense of belonging. Talk of no Howard, Landon Donovan, and Carlos Bocanegra made it seem as though this young group of players were like sheep without shepherds. But despite their youth and inexperience, players like Besler and Gonzalez were excellent in a difficult situation. Guzan filled in honorably for Tim Howard. And Clint Dempsey seems to be settling into the captain's role in the absence of both Donovan and Bocanegra.
The teams will play each other again in Columbus, Ohio Sept. 10. Their next game is June 7 at Jamaica.
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