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Tuesday’s big U.S. achievement took a bit of luck, too

Mar 27, 2013, 1:50 AM EDT

Mexico's Hernandez reacts during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match against the U.S. in Mexico City

It takes some luck to prevail inside the intimidating cauldron that is Estadio Azteca, and the United States did find its share of good fortune in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw with suddenly beleaguered El Tri.

Two penalty appeals were denied and Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez missed twice from in close – the kind of chances “Chicharito” generally finishes with ruthless efficiency, which is why he went to Manchester United at such a young age.

To be sure, the young United States back line (well, three inexperienced defenders plus converted midfielder DaMarcus Beasley) were generally in the right spots and almost always accurate in the challenges. Michael Bradley did good two-way work, identifying the vital passing central lanes to screen out much of the danger and then assisting the United States in possession.

The Americans never moved enough men forward to bother or test Mexico’s back line, but those useful moments of possession were critical in taking just enough pressure off the back line and pushing the Mexicans back.

For the second consecutive contest, goalkeeper Brad Guzan did everything he needed to do. Surely U.S. fans who fretted last week about a U.S. goal unguarded by trusty Tim Howard are feeling better after seeing Guzan calmly go about his chores over two memorable nights.

Still, Klinsmann’s men needed a break here or there to draw a point out of Azteca, a place where Mexico has traditionally been so stingy with them.

(MORE: United States fights to a scoreless draw)

In the first half, Bradley raised two hands and pushed Chicharito in the back as the Mexican markman streaked into the 18, looking for a ball off Giovani dos Santos’ foot along the right. The nearby referee’s assistant raised his flag to indicate a foul but Guatemalan referee Walter Lopez ignored the waving yellow flag.

But the refereeing choice  that will surely drive Mexican fans even more nutso – when they aren’t debating the job status of increasingly embattled José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre – was a 76th minute penalty kick appeal unheard by Lopez. Edu bundled aggressively into Javier Aquino from behind as the Mexican attacker prepared to shoot.

The visitors from up north definitely got away with something there.

(MORE: Mexico’s turn to defuse crisis)

As for the missed shots:

In the 28th minute, Chicharito went high with a header from inside the six – but the sequence perfectly illustrated how so much of the night would go.  Mexico’s Jorge Torres Nilo was able to scoot free along the U.S. right side; there was quite a bit of that Tuesday, especially early. But U.S. center back Matt Besler got just enough of a body on Chicharito as they both sprinted toward goal, so the Mexican striker didn’t have anything uncontested.

Later, Chicharito missed from even closer; that one was something that looked like genuine serendipity.

Of course, the United States made some of its own luck. Prime example, Graham Zusi’s tremendous tracking in the 72nd minute, a 30-yard dash to heroically head away a ball and prevent a point blank header from Angel Reyna.

Besler and Omar Gonzalez were ball-clearing beasts – which was absolutely no luck at all. That was on Klinsmann, whose choice to start the LA Galaxy center back to begin the final round looks like the right one now.

(MORE: Man of the Match, Omar Gonzalez)

  1. docstraw - Mar 27, 2013 at 9:15 AM

    I can’t believe how careless Edu was with the ball. Talk about luck, the US is lucky they didn’t get punished for his ridiculous dribbling out of the defensive third. Perhaps there was no viable outlet but he needs to have better awareness.

    • Steve Davis - Mar 27, 2013 at 10:10 AM

      I suppose you’re right. Edu’s defensive work (which is why he was in there) was fine. But with the ball, he definitely was a costly turnover waiting to happen. I was more focused on the Mexican missed ops, but you are correct that some fortune found its way to the USA here, too.

  2. manchestermiracle - Mar 27, 2013 at 11:45 AM

    Luck, and the ball, bounces both ways. A couple early yellows for the U.S. seemed to set the tone, but the Mexicans kept retracting the landing gear and flopping to the turf every time a U.S. player got close. That influenced the ref and he stopped giving them the benefit of the doubt.

    If Edu “bundled aggressively into” Aquino then why did Mexico get a corner kick? Edu got the ball and that negated the contact. That non-call might have gone differently if Mexico hadn’t been trying to draw calls by falling down all night. The U.S. made their own luck and, apparently, so did Mexico. The ref’s attitude seemed to be, “You want this game, take it. I’m not going to give it to you.”

  3. docstraw - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:20 PM

    With the US having been on the wrong end of suspect CONCACAF officiating too many times to count, I have no sympathy for Mexico in this instance. I thought the ref was actually pretty good overall.

    • mornelithe - Mar 27, 2013 at 1:30 PM

      Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. There’ve been plenty of articles regarding US losses, that were straight up bad calls. So…would their opponent then have been lucky? Or did the US get robbed? Either way, as you say there’s been plenty of suspect calls against the US in the past. Not saying this rights it or anything, but bad calls happen. Each team needs to take it in stride and not leave it up to the Refs.

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