With history against them, the US went into the Azteca with much to prove. The result revealed even more about the national team than expected, with perhaps the biggest indication of the direction Klinsmann is taking this team. A defensive performance ended with a result, and many questions to ponder ahead of upcoming qualifiers for the mens national team.
On Tuesday night, the United States Mens National Soccer Team made history in Mexico. In a far different environment than snowy Colorado, the US has much adjusting to do. They were able to take only their 2nd ever point in World Cup qualifying at the Azteca. The defensive performance largely outshone the attacking efforts from the United States, but that wasn’t much more than what was expected. Mexico outshot the US 19-1, with stand in goalkeeper Brad Guzan making several notable saves.
Perhaps the two players to benefit most from the qualifier were Center Back Omar Gonzalez and Guzan. Omar Gonzalez continued his solid comeback from a torn ACL with a commanding performance against El Tri. The Mexican attack force, spearheaded by Manchester United’s Chicharito, were unable to break past the 6 foot 5 inch LA Galaxy defender and defensive partner Matt Besler. There is much hope on Gonzalez being ready for the 2014 World Cup as the United States starting central defender, with defensive stalwarts Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundulo only getting older. From this performance, he seems ready to step in, and can only get better with experience. Meanwhile, Aston Villa Goalkeeper Brad Guzan proved he is the right choice as a number two to veteran Tim Howard. Having waited in the wings for so long at Villa, he has made the starting spot his own, and some are questioning whether he merits a more prominent role in the US fold as well. With some great late stops against Mexico, and two clean sheets in two games , Guzan will deserve a look in with Klinssman even when Howard returns.
The problem that still seems to plague the US is their lack of attacking vigor. They only managed one goal against Costa Rica, but against Mexico, the attack was completely stifled. Despite Jozy Altidore returning to the national team fold and in fine form for club side AZ Alkmar, he has not been able to score for the US since 2011. Against Mexico he held up well as a target man, but was eventually withdrawn for Eddie Johnson. The US will need to fix their attacking problems before the next set of Hexagonal games to keep them on track for Brazil 2014.
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