The US Men’s National Team ground out a scoreless draw in Mexico, earning a valuable away point at the Azteca to take one step closer to World Cup Qualification.
The US Men’s National Team set out with their strongest available lineup to take on their fiercest rival, hoping to win, but but trying not to lose in the final stages of World Cup Qualifying.
The opening 15 minutes was end to end with Mexico getting a clean look from a cross down the right flank for a snapped header from Montez from 12 yards out, but Zack Steffen equal to the task. Less than 60 seconds later Memo Ochoa was called into action as Anthony Robinson skipped down the left flank and his cross fell to Yunus Musah, his shot palmed wide for a USA corner.
Christian Pulisic’s first moment of brilliance came down the left flank where he faced up Herrera to dribble one-on-one through the heart of the Mexican defense, eventually being hauled down by Edson Alvarez, who was shown a yellow card. Weah followed up that down the right flank before being fouled. Neither free kick resulted in anything substantial for the US.
Mexico responded with a pair of solid attacks, one forcing DeAndre Yedlin into a reckless challenge, earning him a yellow card. Both players were ruled out of the next game due to card accumulation.
The US had their first big scare just before the half hour mark as the Mexican attack found their way into the US box, but a heavy touch saw Steffen comfortably clean up the attack. The best chance of the first half fell to the Pulisic from ten yards out, but the American talisman hit his shot straight at Ochoa.
There was a potential flare up right in front of the Mexican team bench as Weah had a high boot which resulted in a yellow card for dangerous play, the card ruling him out of the next game against Panama. Both teams found space inside of the 18-yard box, but the shots ended up in Row Z, at either end of the stadium.
The first half ended in a stalemate, with the game entirely in the balance for the next 45 minutes. The US opened the second half on the front foot, with Pulisic forcing Ochoa into a save just three minutes after the restart. The play went back and forth, and the US made the first substitutions around the hour mark, bringing on Gio Reyna and Jordan Pefok, replacing Weah and Ricardo Pepi.
The pair linked up in the 72nd minute for one of the best chances of the game. Reyna was found on the right side of the goal, and his cushioned pass back to Pefok was mishit well wide of the goal, much to the agony of American fans.
Reyna had another bit of brilliance in the 77th minute, skipping past several players to advance from deep in the USA’s defensive territory to near the Mexican area, but his Maradona-esque escapade ultimately amounting to nothing.
The next batch of subs came on in the 80th minute, what would have seemed to be a more defensive reshuffle, as Yedlin was subbed out for Erik Palmer-Brown, while Aaron Long replaced Adams. That being said, Jordan Morris was brought on in the 84th minute for Pulisic.
The Mexican team thought they had a penalty kick in the 91st minute after pressure from Jordan Morris on Alexis Vega, only for Vega to be shown a yellow card for simulation.
The final stages of the game saw the US decide to defend deep, often putting ten men behind the ball and absorbing pressure. The substitutions and formation changes signaled the approach, and the team saw the mission out, holding onto the scoreless result.
“I’m proud of the boys and proud of the resilience of the boys” Kellyn Acosta said after the game. “Missing Weston was a big loss, but we stepped up and clogged it and made it difficult for them. Everyone was pushing for a goal (in the last 15 minutes), and it was a hard earned point. We turn our focus to Panama.”
With Panama only drawing at home against Honduras and Canada losing on the road to Costa Rica, the result moves both the United States and Mexico to the cusp of qualification. The Americans still hold second place on goal differential, but more importantly maintain the three-point gap ahead of the fourth-place Ticos heading into the final two games.
They will be back in action on Sunday night when they host Panama.