U.S. takes down El Tri for historic first win on Mexican soil
Michael Orozco Fiscal delivered the U.S. its first win at Estadio Azteca.
By JACK FEELEY
Six months ago, Jurgen Klinsmann took his U.S. squad into Italy and shocked the world by beating the Azzurri, 1-0. Last night, Klinsmann took a less than full U.S. squad into Mexico and did it again, shocking El Tri and stealing a 1-0 victory at Estadio Azteca.
The victory ended 75 years of frustration for the U.S., giving the team its first ever win inside Estadio Azteca. Michael Orozco Fiscal -– who plays for San Luis in Mexico -– got the game’s only goal in the 80th minute when he finished off a lovely combination play between Brek Shea and Terrence Boyd.
Coming into the match, every soccer fan knew Mexico would control the tempo and it did in the opening half, holding possession for long stretches of the game. But El Tri wasn’t able to connect in the final third.
Mexico was unlucky not to get a goal in this game as several first half chances from winger Andres Guardado missed the mark, while Jorge Torres Nilo’s long range blast in the 28th minute went surging wide.
Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron, playing for the first time together on the back line, played the game of their lives. Using their height and strength, they dominated in the air and came up with several game-changing clearances, especially Stoke City-bound Cameron. Had it not been for Cameron’s head, Hernandez would have had a definite goal in the 56th minute when a cross was touched over by the tall, rangy defender. Stoke manager Tony Pulis is getting a quality defensive-minded player in Cameron when the English Premier League starts this weekend.
Edu had been deployed as a center back before on national team duty (against Poland in 2010), but this was his first true test against a quality opponent, and he made his case for a starting position very loud and clear. This game displayed his versatility and willingness to play anywhere on the field.
Mexican keeper, Guillermo Ochoa, didn’t have much work to do throughout the match, but reacted well to save Herculez Gomez’s 61st minute free kick. Ochoa put himself in hot water seconds later when his clearance was intercepted by Kyle Beckerman, whose deflected shot had Ochoa scrambling back on his line before seeing it sail over the net.
Guardado had another chance to put this game to bed only minutes later when his left-footed free kick from just outside the area flew inches wide of the far post, causing U.S. keeper, Tim Howard, to be at full stretch. Hernandez pushed a header wide in the 76th minute, the first of his three golden opportunities. ESPN commentator Ian Darke said it best: “Well, he has those for breakfast when he’s on form.”
This game looked to be heading towards a draw until 10 minutes from time when newly-inserted Brek Shea corralled a pass on the left side and nutmegged Severo Meza, before his cross found fellow substitute Terrence Boyd, whose clever backheel to Michael Orozco Fiscal was tapped home, sealing his place in U.S. soccer history.
Then it was Howard time. The keeper was undoubtedly man of the match, making several crucial, acrobatic saves in the closing moments to seal the victory. Howard robbed Hernandez in the 85th minute when the U.S. skipper changed directions like a cat and stuffed the forward’s bid for an equalizer. Howard pulled off the same magic four minutes later when he rejected Hernandez on a header, sending many U.S. fans into cardiac arrest while preserving the victory; Team USA’s first ever south of the border.
Now, granted, this was an international friendly, but both sides knew that it was more than just an exhibition match. Mexico had been on fire, while the U.S. team was searching for its identity. And while this win may not fully shift the momentum, it looks as if Klinsmann and his squad are on the right path.
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Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez –- who has long been an enemy to several U.S. back lines — was caught offsides several times in the opening half and picked up his play in the second half, but always remained closely monitored by the U.S. defense.