The Jurgen Klinsmann era has now officially been logged into the history books. Although the US did not really do anything of substance in the first half, an influx of youthful subs in the second half put Mexico back on their heels. The US would find an equalizer, and were really unlucky not to get the win. They saw a few quality chances saved late in the game that were tantalizingly close. Still, overall US fans should be please with the result. For those worried about the first half, remember the US did not have the full "A" team. And they are trying to adapt to a new coach. If anything, US fans should be beaming this morning due to the fact that MLS players came in and pushed the US to a tie. I am pretty confident that most people wouldn't have expected Brek Shea and Kyle Beckerman, along with Robbie Rogers, to have the impacts they did. Follow me after the break for a recap...The US deployed an expected 4-2-3-1 formation. However, the Americans were out of sync and looked disjointed, having trouble stringing anything together in the first half. Michael Orozco Fiscal and Edgar Castillo were two unfamiliar starting faces to most fans. While I wouldn't consider their performances a disaster, they clearly had trouble with Mexico's speed. Thankfully, our backline, anchored by Steve Cherundolo and Carlos Bocanegra, did a fine job all night against the speedy Mexican side. Kyle Beckerman also greatly impressed, as he played his role well and effectively diffused many dangerous situations.
Mexico would strike for the lead in the 17th minute, as Andres Guardado took a short corner kick and fired a cross into the box. Oribe Peralta was in the middle of the box, with Michael Bradley draped all over him. That didn't stop him from sticking his foot out and getting a re-direct on the ball. The ball rolled just inside the far post for a 1-0 Mexico lead. It was definitely an odd goal. I don't think anyone expected the flick on, including Tim Howard. It's just one of those goals that you tip your hat and move on.
Although the US would not put much together in the first half, the game got chippy and physical. This is a hallmark of US/Mexico matchups, but it was even more intense than usual given the fact that this was a friendly. Around the 30th minute, Cherundolo brought down a Mexican player just outside of the box. The Mexican player got up, threw an elbow at Steve, and then two of his friends also came in and pushed Steve around. Yet no cards were shown. I realize that both teams were physical, but the ref was letting everything go and not caring too much about keeping a lid on things. Lots of tripping, pushing, and shoving would commence by both teams. But, more on the ref in a bit.
The US would go into the half down 1-0, and things were looking grim at that point. Mexico had controlled the entire first half, so normally conceding only 1 goal would be a lift. Given the nature of the US play in the first half, not even tallying a shot on goal, many fans wondered how in the world we would pull out a draw, let alone a win. Fortunately for the US, our youth players came through to push the US on. Considering many worry about our youth developing enough to take over for the veterans in a few years, last night was truly a sign of hope. Whether they can keep it up remains to be seen, but I think we have something special in Juan Agudelo and Brek Shea.
The Americans would come out and start to look better early in the 2nd half. In the 56th minute, they nearly tied it. Landon Donovan swung a beautiful corner kick into the box. Carlos Bocanegra was just outside the 6 yard box, and skied in the air to put a powerful header on goal. Unfortunately, the ball went right to Guillermo Ochoa, who made a beautiful save. The ball bounced around the box, but the US couldn't control it, and the score remained 1-0 Mexico.
Jurgen Klinsmann would then pull the strings and make 2 HUGE subs in the 60th minute. Juan Agudelo came on for Edson Buddle, and Brek Shea entered for Jermaine Jones. And immediately the US attack would kick into gear, with Shea and Agudelo creating havoc and chances. Landon Donovan also picked up his play even higher, creating dangerous opportunities for the US.
Robbie Rogers would enter for the USA in the 72nd minute for Michael Bradley, who had an underwhelming game overall. One minute later, the US would shock Mexico and send the pro-US crowd into a frenzy by tying it. Juan Agudelo took a throw in, hit a one timer to Brek Shea, who kept the Mexico defenders at bay and pushed the ball near the endline just out side of the 18 yard box. Robbie Rogers was unmarked in the center of the box, and Shea hit a beautiful cross on the ground between the Mexico defense and keeper Guillermo Ochoa. Rogers had an easy tap in and fortunately did not miss the sitter a la Chris Wondolowski. The game was tied, the US had momentum, and they pushed forward after this even stronger looking for the winner.
Shortly after the tying goal, Jose Torres had a shot from just over 20 yards but it went wide. Landon Donovan was taken down in the box in the 77th minute, but of course no penalty was given. In the 82nd minute Brek Shea was played through on a beautiful ball from Landon Donovan. Shea smartly took a quick look up to see the position of the keeper, and as he was running slightly away from the goal, fired a shot with his left foot at the lower right corner of the net. Ochoa would come up with another big save, pushing the ball away from danger. The US was that close to taking the lead but were denied again.
In the 85th minute, horrible reffing would rear it's ugly head again. Juan Agudelo played a ball over the top of everyone, and Robbie Rogers turned on the afterburners. He outran the Mexican defense and looked to be headed in on goal. However, it was not to be as Gerardo Torrado blatantly grabbed Rogers jersey and pulled him down about 35 yards from goal. Since he was the last defender impeding a scoring opportunity, any ref in the world should show red. Not this referee. Jamaican referee Raymond Bogle only showed a yellow. Everyone was flabbergasted. That's a red in any league in the world.
The game would end in a draw, but after our second half showing, I think most US fans are happy with this result. Our young players stepped up, showed fight, and didn't back down in a very physical contest. Overall, it was a good first game for the USMNT and Jurgen Klinsmann.
I want to hit on my final thought, and that was the horrible ref. It was beyond bad. It made MLS refs look wonderful. This guy should have his badge pulled for awhile, if not permanently. He didn't just make a controversial or bad call. He made an absolute train wreck of the game. Klinsmann was not happy, and neither was any US fan, and for good reason. I know it's a friendly, but the ref lost control of the game. I like a good, physical matchup as much as the next guy, but when you let play like that go and don't control it, then it gets dangerous and players get hurt. The lack of showing red at the end is just completely stupefying to me. I am assuming the ref was thinking it was a friendly so he didn't want to be too harsh, but if he thought that he shouldn't be a ref in the first place. Friendly or not, if a red card or yellow card foul is committed, it needs to be called. Plus there was at least 1, if not 2, legit penalties that should have been given that weren't. Overall, it was a pitiful job by the ref.
The Klinsmann era has started well. Let's hope the US can continue to build off the momentum. The USMNT is back in action on September 2nd vs. Costa Rica at the Home Depot Center. They play again on September 6th vs. Belgium at King Badouin Stadium in Brussels. It will be interesting to see who is selected for the squad and how much progress the team can make with a little more time under Jurgen. I would expect to see a lot of US based players in the Costa Rica match. I expect the Belgium match to feature more European and international players since travel for them will be a bit easier than flying all the way back here.