11
Feb
09

Red, White and Blue take first round against Mexico

usa-national-anthem

The first game in a 10-game, round-robin, CONCACAF tournament to decide who gets the bids for the 2010 World Cup showcased Team USA and Team Mexico. This match featured two talented teams who flat out don’t like each other.

The first half started a little slow, with play taking place on both halves of the saturated field. Mexico had a big chance early after a missed clear by the U.S. but Dos Santos Ramirez Giovanni couldn’t get enough on it and the States’ Tim Howard made a big save. Just as the 20th minute began, the U.S. squad started to take control. Landon Donovan took a free-kick from about 23′ and just barely missed wide left. Then in the 31st minute, Mexican goaltender Oswaldo Javier Ibarra Sanchez made a big save after DeMarcus Beasley centered a ball into the box that was headed by Donovan back to Clint Dempsey, who fired a rocket from just inside the 18′.

Mexico would suffer a major loss in the 32nd minute when forward Nery Castillo would go down with a hamstring injury, causing him to come off for the match. Howard, who had been the key cog for the Red, White and Blue during the first half, made another big save in the 36th minute when Mexican forward Alberto Medina had a shot in the box.

The U.S. finally broke into the scoring column during the 43rd minute. Beasley took a corner and sent it through the box to the back post. Donovan wisely headed the ball back into the box. After a header attempt by Oguchi Onyewu was saved by Sanchez, Michael Bradley slammed the rebound into the back of the net, giving the lead, and first half to the North American squad.

bradley-goalThe second half started much the same as the first, with play going between the two ends. It was another good start of the half for Howard. He made a big save on a Mexican free-kick in the 47th minute and stopped a number of outlet passes that Mexico continued to miss. Dempsey stole a free ball in the 53rd minute and ran to the 18′, but a lack in support coupled with a good Mexico recovery, and the U.S. could not capitalize.

The 65th through 67th minute had the most action early on in the second half. A Dempsey foul gave Mexico a free-kick just outside the 40′ which was taken by Pavel Segura Pardo. Pardo centered the ball which was attempted on by Ricardo Mendoza Osorio. The ball traveled across the goal mouth to Israel Martinez, who had subbed-in earlier in the match for Castillo. As Martinez sent the ball back to the opposite side of the net, Osorio, who had fallen down, was laying on the ground and kicked at the ball, just grazing it, making it ricochet off the post and out the the 18′. Giovanni would fire a shot back towards the net, however it was blocked into the air and Howard made a play for the ball. While in the air, Howard was taken out by Mexican midfielder/defender Rafael Marquez, who received a Red Card for jumping and leading with the spikes of his boots, before knocking Howard hard to the ground. After this, things got a little more chippy. Frankie Hejduk made a hard slide tackle in the 68th minute, before Brian Ching was wacked in the face while being tackled in the 69th minute.

red-cardThough Mexico was down a man for the remainder of the match, you would have never known by ball control. The Mexican team played even harder as the minutes ticked down, putting plenty of pressure on Team USA and goaltender Tim Howard. Howard continued his stellar play, making a key save in the 80th minute to releive steady Mexican pressure.

howardBoth 19-year-old striker Jozy Altidore and midfielder Ricardo Clark would check into the game at the 83rd and 86th minute respectively. Altidore would make his presence known in stoppage time. During the 2nd minute of stoppage time, Altidore would find Donovan on the outside. With four green jerseys between him and the net, Donovan would find an old friend, Bradley, streaking down the center of the pitch. Bradley fired a blast right at Sanchez. Bradley’s cannon, coupled with some fairly strong english on the ball, caused the shot to drop at the last second, sneak under Sanchez and find the back of the net to put the match on ice. For Bradley, it was his 2nd goal of the match and his 4th in seven career qualifiers.

bradley-goal-2The U.S. moves to 41-0-10 against CONCACAF teams since 2001. For Mexico, a 2-0 shutout may put coach Sven-Goran Eriksson’s stint with the team in danger. Though he has a contract through January 2010, his 4-5-1 record has put him in hot water with both team officials and fans.

Despite not having young midfielder Freddy Adu, Team USA gained it’s first victory in the 10-game, round-robin tournament. It is yet to be seen if Bob Bradley will add the 19-year-old to future games, but what is known is that Team USA is playing hard and will look to get on a roll heading into the 2010 World Cup.

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