U.S. And Mexico Share The Spoils After Frantic 1-1 Draw At The Azteca

Michael Bradley gave the U.S. an early lead, but Carlos Vela equalized for Mexico in an entertaining 1-1 draw at the Azteca.

The United States escaped the Azteca with a valuable point thanks to a sensational goal from Michael Bradley before Carlos Vela leveled for Mexico, the match ending in a 1-1 draw after 90 thrilling minutes in Mexico City. The result saw the U.S. climb to third in the Hexagonal table, and Mexico further solidified their spot at the top.

With eight points from their last four matches in qualifying, Bruce Arena has restored America to an automatic qualifying position with only four matches remaining. For Mexico, a spot in Russia is all but assured — they’ll simply regret not being able to defeat their greatest rivals on home soil. 

The talk before the game was centered on Arena and the seven changes he made to the side that defeated Trinidad and Tobago on Thursday in Colorado. Brad Guzan replaced Tim Howard in net, a switch to three at the back saw 35-year-old DaMarcus Beasley come into the lineup as a wing-back, 21-year-old Kellyn Acosta was placed in the midfield and Bobby Wood was given the responsibility of leading the line with both Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore taking seats on the bench.

Juan Carlos Osorio made four changes to the team that defeated Honduras, but they were largely expected with Hector Moreno, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Marco Fabian all starting after being rested on Thursday.

 

A stirring rendition of the Mexican National Anthem, belted out by nearly 87,000-strong in a charged Azteca, followed by the referee’s whistle for kick-off shifted all the focus onto the pitch.

Carlos Salcedo set the tone within three minutes by landing blows to the faces of both Beasley and Wood, and the elbow to Wood’s face could’ve easily resulted in a red card for the defender. However, he escaped without picking up a booking.

The next piece of violence was delivered by Michael Bradley. The U.S. captain picked up the ball in midfield and created space for himself with a clever touch. He then looked up and spotted Guillermo Ochoa well off his line before clipping an otherworldly strike from nearly 35 yards out.

You could’ve called it a dream start for the U.S., but only the disturbed would be capable of thinking up reveries like that. It was unbelievable.

 

The U.S. lead would only last 17 minutes. Some great work from Chicharito allowed Vela to receive the ball in space on the right-hand side. He beat Beasley on the dribble, and support never really arrived for the Houston Dynamo defender. Vela laced his effort inside Guzan’s near post and it was game on.

The second half saw each side send a spectacular effort crashing off the frame of the goal. In the 71st minute, a beautifully struck free kick from Hector Herrera beat Guzan but came rebounding off the bar.

In the 74th minute, Michael Bradley absolutely murdered a half-volley that cracked off the right post. Javier Aquino fluffed a good chance in the 79th minute, and Christian Pulisic had viewers on their feet after creating some space for a shot at the top of the box, but his right footed effort curled harmlessly wide.

 

The match ended with Mexico clearly frustrated at being unable to find any sort of rhythm. They landed only one shot on target and were on the receiving end of 21 U.S. fouls.

For the States, Arena was justified in his decision to play with three at the back. Bradley will earn the plaudits because of his wonder goal, but Geoff Cameron was near-perfect in the heart of defense.

What’s more, the likes of Acosta (21), Pulisic (18) and Paul Arriola (22) held their own in the most difficult arena in North America. The World Cup will begin just over a year from now (June 14, 2018), and the wait is going to be unbearable.

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