Saturday, March 30, 2013

Better Lucky Than Good: USMNT 0 - Mexico 0

photo by Gilles Gonthiervia PhotoRee

Scott checks in with some thoughts on a valuable point at the Azteca for the Americans:

That's exactly how I would describe the USA's performance against Mexico last night - very lucky and not good offensively at all.  Despite seeing more possession than normal in the Azteca, which is a separate issue and very encouraging, the USA lacked any real threat on the attack, mustering only one shot all day - a feeble miskick well wide of the mark.  Luckily, the yeoman's work performed by Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez in the central defense, augmented by the excellent pairing of Michael Bradley and Maurice Edu in the middle, was enough to deflect the multiple waves of Mexican attacks that powered down the flanks and flashed across the mouth of Brad Guzan's goal.  The 'keeper, too, must be credited for a few key saves and his brave work on crosses, corners and a particularly dangerous high through-ball.  Guzan continues the proud American tradition of world-class goalkeeping that stretches back through Tim Howard, Brad Friedel and Casey Keller.  By the way, what is it about American goalkeepers and hairless pates?

Despite the lack of offense, a point away to Mexico is as good as a win and all of US soccer fandom should rejoice, after recovering from the 4 minutes of agonizing stoppage time during which Mexico seemed to get 12 of their 15 corners of the game.  While needing desperate defending on several occasions, the US also saw prolonged periods of significant possession and, in the 39th minute, even managed a rare foray deep into Mexican territory where it took a late sliding tackle on Bradley to prevent an excellent scoring opportunity.  Sadly, that was not only the highlight of the US offense, it was nearly the only highlight.  Instead, Lady Luck and Tenacious Defense are what carried the day for the Americans.  Graham Zusi also impressed with his back tracking, getting a timely header on a cross that seemed to be goal-bound from the impending shot.

The match was not without controversy, most notably Edu's challenge from behind in the box in the 76th minute.  At full speed it looked like a clear penalty that was denied by the ref, despite much Mexican wailing and gnashing of teeth. In slow motion, the contact looked minimal but still enough for a foul that should have been called.  Lady Luck favored the Americans two other times also when Chicharito missed both tap-in opportunities at the goalmouth.  Difficult as the chances were, a striker of Little Pea's caliber would be expected to convert at least one of those.

Much was made by the commentator, Alejandro Moreno, of the "push" by Bradley on Chicharito in the box, away from the ball, in the early minutes of the game, which Chicharito made a 7 course meal of, beginning with the lobster bisque and ending with profiteroles.  Moreno's comments were ridiculous as it was plain to see, at any speed, that, while the American midfielder did have two hands on the Mexican forward at one point, the most condemning assessment of the action would be to call it a nudge.  This isn't pee wee soccer, Alejandro, there is some bumping that goes along with this big-boy soccer stuff.  And Mexico got plenty of other calls such as the phantom push by Geoff Cameron as he headed his 15th minute effort just wide.

What to make of DaMarcus Beasley at left back?  At times the twiggy veteran, playing out of position, was completely worked over by the Mexican forwards and midfielders.  But there were enough key moments, when his speed allowed him to nick in for a critical touch to disrupt a play, that overall I would have to rate his play as fair over this game and, especially, last game.  Built like a leaf and brittle as a cracker, there is no way he can be a long-term solution, but I must tip my hat to his effort and effectiveness. 

Lady Luck and Tenacious Defense conspired to gift the Americans a hard-fought, but probably not deserved, win to keep them in second place in the group.  With June offering Jamaica away followed by Panama and Honduras at home, the stars (and stripes) are aligned for a very good summer.

This is Farlieonfootie for March 30.

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