Mexico earns Confederations Cup berth by winning thriller over Americans.
By Robert Wagman
PASADENA, Calif. (Saturday, October 10, 2015) -- In the end, the better team won. Mexico’s 3-2 victory over the United States men tonight gave them the CONCACAF Cup and earned them a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup as the Americans failed for a second and last time to earn a spot in the increasingly prestigious international affair.
On the night, Mexico was more offensive-minded, more aggressive and simply more talented at almost every position than were the United States men. Defender Paul Aguilar scored twice, including in the 118th minute, with two minutes remaining in a second and final 15-minute overtime and 10 minutes after the U.S. had equalized for the hard-fought win before a record 93,723 at the sold-out Rose Bowl, where maybe two out of three fans were wearing Mexican green,
From the opening kickoff, Mexico was on the attack. More and more, as the game wore on, the U.S. found itself on its heels and playing defense, hoping for a goal from a set piece or a counter.
The Mexican strategy, devised by interim coach Ricardo Ferretti, was quickly apparent. Using short passes, he tried to shift his attack wide from side to side, hoping to overwhelm the American defense. It worked to perfection and in the 10th minute, when Oribe Peralta spun away from a pair of defenders and sprinted into the penalty area to take Raul Jimenez’s slick back-heel pass. Peralta then pushed the ball across the front of the six-yard box to Javier Hernandez, who put it past goalkeeper Brad Guzan for a 1-0 lead.
The U.S. did not panic. Five minutes later, midfielder Michael Bradley was awarded a free kick in Mexican territory. He put the ball onto the head of defender Geoff Cameron, who beat his marker to the near post and his sharply struck header found the high left side of the net to make it 1-1.
The score remained 1-1 and the match went into a 30-minute overtime. Six minutes in, Peralta ran on to a ball lofted in front of him. As U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones closed on him, he passed the ball to Aguilar. When U.S. defender Geoff Cameron reacted slowly, Aguilar pulled the ball back to the middle where Peralta ran onto it and put the ball through the legs of a sliding Guzan to put Mexico ahead 2-1.
Then came American striker Bobby Wood’s surprising goal that again leveled the match at 2-2 in the 108th minute.
Ten minutes later, Two minutes before the contest would have gone to tiebreaking penalty kicks, Raul Jimenez, with his back to the goal in the right side of the U.S. penalty area, laid the ball into the path of Aguilar, whose hard volley beat a lunging Guzan to give El Tri the 3-2 triumph.
There were few surprises in Jürgen Klinsmann’s starting lineup. He opted for veterans over players with lesser international experience. For instance, in the center of defense were vets Matt Besler and Geoff Cameron, chosen over relative newcomer Ventura Alvarado. One exception in the starting side was newcomer Gayasi Zardes in the midfield.
It’s interesting that it was two of the youngest players on the bench, DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood, who almost saved the day for the U.S. at the end.
“I’m very happy for everything. “I’m very happy for everything. The boys did a great job. It’s a result we earned.”
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan - 6.5 He had a very busy night. He could do little on Mexico’s first two goals, but might have done better with Aguilar’s winner His best saves were on Raul Jiménez’s shot in the 47th minute and on a hard shot by Oribe Peralta in the 103rd.
Defender DaMarcus Beasley - 4.5: This was an experiment with very mixed results. He added a bit on offense, but his defense was poor. All three goals came down his side of the field.
Defender Matt Besler - 5.5: A good and bad performance for the Major League Soccer-based defender. He was at fault for being out of position on Hernández’s goal. He made big blocks early in the second half and avoided a hand-ball in the penalty area late in the second half.
Defender Geoff Cameron - 5.5: Hero and goat. He was a hero for scoring the opening U.S. goal but, at the end, he reacted too slowly on Aguilar’s winner. Overall, though, he had a strong performance.
Defender Fabian Johnson - 5: He did not match the level of performance he has enjoyed this season for his Bundesliga team. He had a solid match, but did not add much to the offense.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman – 5.5: At times, he was very good, making defensive blocks, but at other times, he seemed to disappear with the pace of the game being too much for him.
Midfielder Jermaine Jones - 6.5: During regulation, he was the most active U.S. player. He made key defensive stops and also was a threat on attack, but he seemed to run out of gas in overtime. It looked like he went as hard as he could for as long as he could.
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7: Once again, he was the best American. His free kick was spot on and resulted in the first goal. He worked hard all the way through 120 minutes without fading.
Midfielder Gyasi Zardes - 5.5: The youngest American starter looked overwhelmed early, but gradually came into the match and was a threat after the initial half hour. He is the future of the national team.
Forward Jozy Altidore - 4.5: He had a high work rate, but did not accomplish much. He received almost no service out of the midfield and had to drop back to even touch the ball, adding little to the U.S. effort.
Forward Clint Dempsey - 4: Dempsey was as absent from the action as he ever previously had been. Mexico obviously concentrated defensively on him and was completely effective. It was among his worst international performances.
Midfielder DeAndre Yedlin (77th minute for Zardes) - 6.5: He took some time to settle in, but then he was able to add a great deal to the U.S. effort. He assisted on Wood’s goal.
Forward Bobby Wood (98th minute for Altidore) - 7: He had an instant effect on the U.S. attack. His goal was certainly unexpected and he looked to be a Landon Donovan kind of savior. Look for him to have a growing role on this team.
Defender Brad Evans (111th minute for Fabian Johnson) - no rating: Came on when Johnson asked to come off.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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