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Fab Five of talkers from a huge U.S. win over Mexico

Aug 15, 2012, 10:52 PM EDT

United States v Mexico - International Friendly Getty Images

It has come to the point now where, when talking about “signature wins under Jurgen Klinsmann,” you’ll need to be pretty specific.

Previously, we would all have circled a 1-0 result in Italy. But Wednesday’s 1-0 win in Mexico stands every bit as momentous. No, Mexico doesn’t have the World Cup trophies or global chops of Italy, but El Tri is the predominant regional rival.

The United States had never, ever won in Mexico City – but has now. Don’t underestimate the psychological impact of this one when Klinsmann and Co. inevitably return for World Cup qualifier fun.

Here are five talking points from Wednesday’s history maker at Estadio Azteca:

Outstanding defense

Distribution out of the back was nothing special, but the defending was just this side of flawless.  Considering the alarming lack of experience in this one (and that two of the foursome were playing out of position) this was a remarkably focused and tight effort.

Geoff Cameron (pictured) was the best of the foursome, dominating everything that came his way. But Edgar Castillo – let’s go with the “much-maligned” Edgar Castillo – was a wonder along the left side. He didn’t do much on the attack, but that’s not what this night was about for the outside backs. His one-on-one defending particularly stood out.

Fabian Johnson did what he needed on the right, and makeshift center back Maurice Edu channeled his inner Carlos Bocanegra and manned the right center back spot like someone who had been there for a decade.

Others with nights to be proud of:

source: Getty Images

Start with Tim Howard, whose two remarkable second half saves – one of composure and physical balance, the other of world class reflexes – helped preserve the U.S. smash-and-grab. That man continues to be one that you absolutely, positively want on your side.

How about Kyle Beckerman? I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many fans have such a problem with this guy. The RSL man has figured out exactly what Klinsmann wants from that holding midfield spot and delivers it perfectly. He finds good defensive positions and keeps the ball moving. (As opposed to Jermaine Jones, who always needs two beats to find a pass rather than Beckerman’s one.) It’s a simple game; Beckerman sees it that way.

Some that needed better:

You have to think that Jose Torres is just about out of free passes under Klinsmann. The ever-candid U.S. coach said he needed more consistency from Torres, which is code for “get it right, or we move on.”

Here’s the thing: in a game where the United States will spend most of its time on defense, the guy is lost. He tries, but he’s just not good at it, not the tracking, the tackling or interrupting of passing lanes. So then he’s left to go find the game – except that he’s not very good at that either, apparently. When the game is settled and balanced, with at least half the possession going the U.S. way, Torres serves a valuable function. Otherwise? Not so much.

Danny Williams was poor, but playing a nominal central role in a 4-3-1-2 was a big ask for the young man.

DaMarcus Beasley was better once switched to the right, but his entrance at halftime was wrought with tracking failures and inability to produce much with the ball.

Formation and tactics

A knock on Klinsmann has always been his alleged flagging tactical acumen; I’ve never been sure about that one. Personnel and program management are his forte, but I doubt he needs help sorting his wingbacks from his wide midfielders or whatever.

Either way, the U.S. coach sure nailed this one. The slightly more aggressive 4-3-1-2 wasn’t working, so they wisely downshifted into a 4-4-2 with Landon Donovan and Torres interchanging between the left and withdrawn forward spot.

Recognizing that his team wasn’t going to get much possession, the best chance of success was going to be through tight defending and good shape with the extra man in midfield, all while trying to steal a goal. Which is precisely what happened.

As for personnel, summoning Brek Shea for the 22-man roster proved a master stroke. He produced immediately, aggressively running at goal to create the scramble that Terrence Boyd helped along and Michael Orozco Fiscal put away.

(By the way, last year in Klinsmann’s U.S. debut, a 1-1 draw with Mexico, it was Shea’s aggressive dribbling along the left, just like Wednesday, that made the goal.)

Bottom line and overall assessment

The United States was generally awful in possession, but held up in defensive shape and demonstrated extraordinary belief. Everyone loves Tim Howard, and rightly so, and Geoff Cameron is progressing at international level at a pace that can only be labeled “exceptional.” Remember, he was a national team curiosity at best coming into the January camp just a few short months ago.

  1. tylerbetts - Aug 15, 2012 at 11:08 PM

    Well … if you really want to know why some fans aren’t on the Beckerman bandwagon, look no further than his huge gaffe in the first half where he needlessly handed Mexico a free corner.

    But, I’m not here to talk about Beckerman and the complaints about this game.

    I’m here to celebrate.

    I was pessimistic about this game from the day the US squad was announced. I was willing to call a 2-1 or 3-1 loss a result I could live with, as well as some future pieces showed up.

    Man, did we get more than that.

    Brek Shea – welcome back to the land of the loved.
    Michael Oroszo Fiscal – welcome to the land of legends. You’ll probably never be one of the greats, but you will always be a legend for scoring that game-winning goal.
    Timmy Howard – I love you. You know. That is because you are more awesome than Han Solo.
    Terrance Boyd – My Mancrush is starting to develop hardcore. I don’t know that the misses is going to love my new found need to follow the Austrian Bundesliga.
    Jurgen Klinsmann – Wow. Let me never doubt you again.

    It’s not quite Cloud Nine – that was the Donovan goal against Algeria – but it’s the next best thing.

  2. footballer4ever - Aug 15, 2012 at 11:33 PM

    Not to diminish the win at Azteca stadium, but we won’t dwell on this friendly victory. This is just another step and another barrier brought down on a bigger cause to grow and become a consistent and powerful national team. Great job, boys and Klinsmann. We are on the right path.

  3. jamesbrayssfc - Aug 16, 2012 at 12:12 AM

    Fun Fact: Brek Shea was also part of the first American club team to win in Mexico when FC Dallas beat UNAM Pumas last year in CCL group play.

  4. bigdinla - Aug 16, 2012 at 12:15 AM

    The only thing you can say about Beckerman is that he was not as bad as Jones. Neither pass well and both make poor challenges. I would be very happy if neither played for the USMNT again. Enough negative! Hell
    Of a win in that crap hole of a stadium surrounded by a mass of classless fans.

    Timmy Howard blocking shots and lasers all night! Hope this is a rebirth for Brek!

  5. ndnut - Aug 16, 2012 at 12:20 AM

    This probably shows my relative youth in both life and following soccer, but I have wanted to see more of Kyle Beckerman since starting to follow the game (WC 2010, hiatus until middle of EPL season last year and start of MLS this year). The man can pass as well as being pretty darn good on defense. This kind of makes me wonder about what will happen should Osvaldo Alonso be granted the right by FIFA to play for the U.S. as he plays the same role as Beckerman, who is already pressed for playing time.

  6. nodindenver - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:02 AM

    Outstanding job by the guys. Howard’s saves while fending off the laser were epic and he showed that he is still frustrated with last years mess in LA where English was a second language. I sure hope this country figures out that soccer is a sport worth supporting because these guys look to be reckoned with!

  7. theboysofdallas - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:03 AM


  8. theboysofdallas - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:03 AM

    And did anyone else see that laser in Howard’s eyes the whole game

  9. seanb20124 - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:23 AM

    Looked like a green square on him, and big square at that.

    • Steve Davis - Aug 16, 2012 at 9:25 AM

      Look at the second picture in this post (right up above). You can see it on Howard’s face.

  10. metroplexfrog - Aug 16, 2012 at 10:52 AM

    Great win, Howard was great and Shea brought an energy to the team nice finish by Orozco.

  11. jimeejohnson - Aug 16, 2012 at 1:23 PM

    Machismo is seriously overrated.

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