By THOMAS FLOYD
Embattled and undermanned, the U.S. Men’s National Team traveled to the daunting grounds of Estadio Azteca on Tuesday night and secured a valuable road point, fending off wave after wave of Mexican attack en route to the scoreless draw.
The match marked just the second time the U.S. has earned a result in Mexico during World Cup qualifying, after the first came via a similar 0-0 contest in 1997. With the tie, the U.S. improved to 1-22-2 all-time on Mexico soil — and the team is 1-0-1 at Azteca under coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Through three matches in the hexagonal, the Americans sit in third place at 1-1-1, while Mexico is in fifth at 0-0-3.
For the U.S., the heroes were many. The raw center back pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler more than held its own. Backup goalkeeper Brad Guzan delivered a commanding performance. In midfield, veterans Michael Bradley and Clint Dempsey held the ball when the Americans desperately needed to relieve the pressure.
Mexico seized control from the start. By 20 minutes in, El Tri had already drawn yellow cards on half of the American back line, with Besler — earning just his second cap — and DaMarcus Beasley going in the book.
But Mexico couldn’t cash in on its chances. When the referee’s assistant signaled for a penalty kick as Bradley’s challenge sent Javier Hernandez tumbling in the box, the man in the middle waved play on. Later, Hernandez’s header off a goal-crashing run went over the bar.
After halftime, it was more of the same. As Mexico created chance after chance, it was the physicality of Gonzalez and the anticipation of Besler that snuffed the opportunities, keeping the home side off the board despite the defensive duo’s inexperience.
In the 76th minute, Mexico again appealed for a penalty as Maurice Edu appeared to take down Javier Aquino from behind. The referee ignored penalty appeals a corner kick, and U.S. breathed a sigh of relief once more.
When the U.S. in the fourth minute of stoppage time steered away Mexico’s 15th corner kick of the match, the result was secure.