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United States 1-1 Mexico: The Next Chapter

No one should have been looking for redemption in Wednesday night’s friendly with Mexico. The next chapter in US Soccer’s metamorphosis was opened instead, as Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad fought back from an early hole and drew Mexico at 1.

Still fresh in many minds was the four-goal collapse against El Tri in Los Angeles a few short weeks ago. A devastating injury to Steve Cherundolo threw a serviceable backline into frenzy, and the resulting debacle hastened the organizational reboot of the Men’s National Team.

As the United States took the field, you could already see a couple of changes. Numbers ran from 1 through 11, and no names were present on the shirts. Even with Klinsmann stating after the match there was little significance to these items, you sensed that it would bring a different dynamic to the squad.

The friendly, in front of a modest-but-raucous crowd in Philadelphia, started inauspiciously for the Americans. In the 17th minute, a cross from Andres Guardado off of a short corner was fortuitously redirected by Oribe Peralta past Tim Howard. Michael Bradley was marking the Santos forward, but Peralta’s waist-high foot was enough to put Mexico ahead.

The first half was not pleasant for United States fans, but after the match Klinsmann stressed a desire to work on key components throughout the match. One in particular was defensive posture. Starting with two young defenders, left back Edgar Castillo and center back Michael Orozco-Fiscal, there may have been cause for concern in the defensive third. “I think the task in the first half was difficult, to maintain defensive shape and to keep the high-pressure Mexican side away from goal. Besides that surprising goal, they didn’t have many real chances.” The Peralta goal was the only attempt by Mexico on goal all night, which speaks to the performance put in by the back line as well as holding midfielders Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones.

The overall shape for the United States wasn’t much different to the final matches of the Gold Cup. The most obvious role change was Michael Bradley, typically a deeper player, working as an advanced attacking midfielder. His presence in the middle wasn’t bad, but coupled with Edson Buddle as a target forward, he didn’t have enough forward intent to provide the forward an outlet. Jose Torres played in left midfield, but came inside quite a bit. While Klinsmann remarked postmatch about Torres’ ability to cross from that left wing, opportunities for those deliveries seemed rare. Generally speaking, the Americans were so focused on defensive stability and careful possession that they were starved for real chances. By far the most opportune first-half chance came early, as Jones failed to connect in close with a 7th minute Cherundolo cross.

After the intermission though, a marked change in intensity came about for the Americans. With the likes of Jones and Beckerman, you figure that some steel is bound to come through. As they took a more aggressive, physically dominating tone in the match, Mexico withered. A 57th minute corner was perfectly played to Carlos Bocanegra, but his strong header was parried clear by Guillermo Ochoa. That was just the beginning.

As Mexico relented to the United States’ grit, key substitutions made their mark in a huge way. Buddle made way for Juan Agudelo, and Jones came off for Brek Shea. This allowed Bradley to move back to a more familiar box-to-box midfield role. Torres slotted into the center of the attack, which allowed Shea to work the left wing as he does in Dallas.

The equalizing goal came after Robbie Rogers replaced Bradley and pushed Donovan from the right into the central midfield. Off a 73rd minute throw in, the ball found Agudelo, who got the ball to Shea breaking down the left against a defender. Shea’s cross eased through the 6 yard box out of the reach of Ochoa, and Rogers stuffed it home to even the match.

The remainder of the match was the Americans to win, and they poured it on. A long through from Donovan came right to Shea in the 82nd minute, but Ochoa dove to get fingers on the low shot to the keeper’s left. Then, the in 86th minute, Mexican defender Gerardo Torrado hauled down Rogers as he broke through the defense onto a ball. The clear goalscoring opportunity was denied, but Torrado only received yellow. The match ended at 1-1, a tie that opened a new era with a pleasant taste in the mouths of United States supporters.

The man of the match was Shea, though. While Torres was OK on the left, Shea continued his emergence in the American soccer landscape by creating the lone US goal as well as injecting energy, pace, and attacking mentality to the squad. This from a guy who started the season for F.C. Dallas as a center back. I asked Shea about his progression this year, “From center back to left back to left midfield, I think when you play the defensive position, you gain a lot more respect from the attackers. When I had the chance to go back up there, I just wanted to make the most of it, and I’ve been building off of that ever since.” Shea’s stock, both in MLS as well as internationally, continues to rise, and Klinsmann will enjoy finding ways to utilize his combination of size, speed, and skill.

And enjoyment is what Klinsmann seems to relish. His press conference after the match was one of delight. He spoke of fun, perhaps something that the team has lacked in recent years. “We wanted them to express themselves, and have fun.” The Klinsmann chapter has opened, and it appears that creativity, fun, and defensive determination will be hallmarks of the months and years to come.

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  1. casualfan

    August 14, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    I guess we’ll find out against Costa Rica and Belgium in a Few weeks.

  2. Andre

    August 12, 2011 at 12:20 am

    I didn’t see this mentioned today, because he wasn’t on the team, but isn’t Edu our best Defensive MF? Out of all the guys who play there with the exception of Beckerman, he’s the only one who is constantly getting games. Plus isn’t this the role he plays for Rangers?

    He seemed to do well in the World Cup whenever he was brought in. I will admit, he didn’t look good this summer, but after that terrible line up Bradley put out v Spain, he really didn’t get much time this summer.

    • Clampdown

      August 12, 2011 at 10:26 am

      I’d like to see him get a chance again, too. I like him better than Bradley or Jones. Plenty of people will disagree with us, though.

      • casualfan

        August 12, 2011 at 2:45 pm

        Yes, I disagree. Everyone is bashing Jones and I honestly don’t know why. He has the ability to thread pinpoint passes through defenses and has a killer long ball. I know he hasn’t been the most exciting player, but I believe he has more potential than Beckerman, Bradley and Clark combined. Edu is a good sub for him.

        • Charles

          August 13, 2011 at 7:44 pm

          the ability to thread passes ? He can start any time now.

          I like how we have people with soccer opinions on this site….not sure how we turned the courner there.
          Unfortunately for you ( and Jones ), he is done.

          You do have to agree with that ?

  3. WSW

    August 12, 2011 at 12:00 am

    So the final round qualifiers start in Feb, so their go our MLS players…..

  4. SSReporters

    August 11, 2011 at 2:24 pm


    Can anyone explain WHY ESPN:

    1.) Used three commentators in the booth a la the Dave O’Brien/Balboa/Wynalda era?

    2.) Missed our equalizer live? This coming after the Mexico goal wasn’t seen on ESPN2 because of the baseball game running over.

    3.) Continues to employ John Harkes? Anyone notice that Ian Darke had to kindly interrupt Harkes in the middle of him saying “Brek Shea takes too many touches to get the ball in” to notify the viewer that the US had scored? What a terrible analyst.

    • Short passes

      August 11, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      SSReporters — totally agree on Harkes. He constantly blathers on through possible scoring sequences. It seems that he feels that every second of air time must be filled with his constant xxx’s and ooo’s discussion. I am totally convinced that he has no appreciation of the beauty of skillful play. Maybe NBC/Versus will dump him — we ca only hope.

  5. Charles

    August 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    I have a hard time believing those posts are from Robert and Alex.
    Are you guys really talking soccer ?


    I agree with you guys. Clark and Jones are done for NT. Clark has a bad pass that cost us aWCup, wasn’t playing much at the club level and then last night. Sorry Clark, don’t see it happening.
    Jones, I have never really thought he should be on the NT. I doubt he gets another chance.

    The biggest question for me, is where do we get a back line ?
    LB obviously a huge concern.
    Are last nights guys going to be good enough ?
    Ream is not, IMHO.

    • Robert

      August 11, 2011 at 2:08 pm

      Clark I always love talking soccer I just can’t stand MLS. You should know that already. Well, whatever happens at LB is going to be exciting. We are going to have 2-3 guys fighting for that starting spot. Funny how Promotion/Relegation in a roster makes people play better! HAHAH jk Charles.

      • Robert

        August 11, 2011 at 2:13 pm


      • Charles

        August 13, 2011 at 7:42 pm

        We agree on Pro/Rel in the US !!?!

    • SSReporters

      August 11, 2011 at 2:19 pm

      This. Clark is terrible and so is Jones. I’ll give Jones a chance ’cause he’s young but oh my god Rico Clark cannot pass. He had 3 US player ahead of him when he was on the wing and crossed behind everyone in the box. Useless.

      • Rafael

        August 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm

        Jermaine Jones is 29. He is nowhere near young anymore. Jones should be out of the picture. I can think of 3 DMs that at this point, who are ahead of him for that spot.

        Ricardo Clark should never play midfield for this team ever again. However, I would be willing to experiment and give him one shot at playing CB. This is the position he is now plaing at Frankfurt in Germany.

        • SSReporters

          August 11, 2011 at 3:09 pm

          Damn I thought he was younger.

          Anyone else think Castillo was really really bad last night?

          • casualfan

            August 11, 2011 at 4:55 pm

            Awful. The whiff in the second half summed up his performance to a T. I doubt he’ll be back.

    • Alex

      August 11, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      I agree with Clark I disagree with Jones. Jones is good I feel he can establish himself at the team. My only concern with him is that he’s slow. I feel well see more Latin and German influence in the team. I’m sure jurgen knows his potential after all jurgen coached bayern while Jones was still with shalke. If Jones can find some speed he will truely be a asset.

      Can someone tell me who the hell was suppose to be the LB? I did not see him the entire game and its costing us

  6. Alex

    August 11, 2011 at 12:58 pm

    while i was hoping for a win i think Klinnsman accomplished what he set out to do with this game: to have everyone leave everything on the pitch. its hard to criticize him when he only had 10 days with the team but after the second half USMNT really did pick up steam.

    the first half though was unbareable. Mexico dominated 80% of the whole game. the first half looked as like the MLS all stars, it looked like no one has every played with each other before.

    but as bad as it was to watch it i sort of expected that, not cuz USMNT sucks, but cuz Klinnsman is still fresh with this team. i think the game changer was when Robbie Rogers and Shea were subbed in. while Agudelo has raw talent he still shows a lot of lacking skill to keep up. he has good ball handling but he jumps on the gun to fast as evident when he had a clear shot on goal from the box but tripped up and left the ball behind him. anyways Brek Shea was IMO the MVP of the game. he really did take control of his position, smashed some skulls (i am ecuadorian-mexican american but i dont ever take pride in being half mexican, especially when the team plays. Zinha and Perlata were real assholes to Cherundolo.) and gave the assist to Rogers. For a MLS player i was real impressed with Rogers. Im calling him to be more a part of the USMNT he displayed lots of speed, dribbling and of course his goal.

    the two players i had issues with during the game were Beckerman and Castillo (also Clark, JOse torres was solid the whole game i disagree with Klinsman in subbing him for Clark. Clark wasnt good at all). as much as i wanted Castillo to do well in the game to establish himself in the MNT (i have seen him play with Club America, hes really good) he really lacked poise the first half. he chickened out on a easy block to the cross that gave Perlata the goal, had a couple of whiffs and gave the ball away to Mexico. (but then again that was also the whole team the first half). second half Castillo displayed more quality. he and Orozco are true assests to Klinsman. Beckerman on the other hand, while had a good game, he was more wreckless, rough-n-tumble and alittle slow. he got a couple good blocks but untill Gonzalez comes back to the squad i think Beckerman is better off watching from the sides, and same goes to Agudelo. he definately needs more training, he’s good but he just cant mesh up with the rest. thats why he is not a starter with NJRB anymore either. he gives the team some speed and balance as a sub which is what we need. he’s better off coming in the middle of the second half.

    • Robert

      August 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

      Castillo started off in the few minutes showing that he could go up the wing but, he lost the ball in one of those runs and I believe Bradley had to bail him out. After that play Castillo was flat and extremely nervous. I’m glad he got the full 90 and Jurg let him play through his nerves to build some confidence. I would like to see Castillo again at LB considering he is still young and very talented.

      • Abram

        August 11, 2011 at 1:46 pm

        I’m sure Castillo will be back. We just don’t have a really good –forget about great– LB. It will probably be a continual fight between Castillo, Lichaj, and possibly even –gasp– Bornstein for the spot. Maybe another LB will pop up, or maybe there will be some experimentation with Shea there.

        • Robert

          August 11, 2011 at 1:49 pm

          That is what the US team needs and glad Jurg made the point that nobody’s spot is safe. Players fighting for positions will only improve the team. Under Bradley you could name 80% of the starters even before it was released. Under Jurg I was shocked to see so many new faces. Plus Bradley was subbed off!

        • Rafael

          August 11, 2011 at 2:36 pm

          I don’t think we will ever see Bornstein suit up again for the National Team under Klinsmann. Besides Lichaj, Bobby Convey might be another LB that gets the shot.

  7. Alan

    August 11, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    When was the last time Bradley was ever subbed off? Just wondering.

    • Alex

      August 11, 2011 at 1:02 pm

      i bet he’s missing his daddy. IMO bradley was poor the entire game. he stayed on the ball too long and let defenders hover him like vultures. if theres one thing US needs to work on is quick passes and finding open spaces. the Mexican team were schooling USMNT in that field and i noticed whenever US had the ball, two defenders were always on him. US players i found during the game cant handle that pressure. Bradley was one of them

      • Robert

        August 11, 2011 at 1:18 pm

        Did you notice once Donovan/Torres/Shea were kick passing to each other that’s when the game opened up? I’m so glad to see Bradley Jr. being pulled off. He played every single game and was always underwhelming at best.

      • casualfan

        August 11, 2011 at 4:52 pm

        I’m glad I’m not the only one that feels this way.If you look at the replay of Mexico’s goal, Bradley isn’t even looking at the ball which is why Peralta was able to sneak that cheeky little flick in there. If he’d have been paying attention, he might have been able to put part of that massive globe of his on the ball to deflect it away.

        Anything Bradley can do, Jones can do better, especially in terms of providing service out of the back.

    • Abram

      August 11, 2011 at 1:43 pm

      Against Guadeloupe in the Gold Cup, Bradley was subbed out.

  8. Rafael

    August 11, 2011 at 11:55 am

    The first half showed that Bradley is not an attacking midfielder and played poorly in that role.

    He played the entire first half out of position in that no one could tell what position he played. He tries to do way too much and has to learn to stick with his position and defined role. He was all over the field. On the left and the right, up, and down. It must have been confusing and frustrating for the other midfieldes that Bradley was always running everywhere and in their space.

    The defense was ok and I was surprised to See Orozco playing CB, but he did good. Bocanegra’s age is starting to show as he was a step to slow at times. Castillo left much to be desired and was not that good. Too many bad passes and give aways. I hope this was just nerves and one bad game. If he plays poorly again, Orozco or Pearce should get a look at LB.

  9. Charles

    August 11, 2011 at 11:12 am

    I like the formation better than the 4-4-2 we are usually playing.

    That being said I think that it caused the lack of offense in the first half. Jones and Bradley didn’t get forward quickly enough, plus being out of position and Buddle was left by himself.
    Second half different players, completely different. Shea is a monster. I think the JK knows that, at halftime he said it would be different and we would push forward better in the second half…and it happened.

    • Earl Reed

      August 11, 2011 at 4:05 pm

      The 4-2-3-1 fits us well. We need that attacking midfielder though, and I’m not sure if Holden’s that guy either. It’s not going to be an overnight process, because I don’t think we’ve been developing players in that mode. Holden and Bradley both fit better in a box-to-box role in the formation. If Adu can grow into the CAM/2nd Striker role, then great.

      I’ve kinda wondered if Klinsmann intentionally started the forward players out of position to prove a point. It reminded me of an optometrist dialing a patient in for a prescription. He was like, “Is it better with Torres on the left? In the middle?” Then, “Which is better? Buddle up front, or Agudelo?.”

      • Robert

        August 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

        I’d rather see 4-3-1-2. Two Strikers and Donovan behind them with Torres playing CM and Donovan playing off of Torres.

      • Short passes

        August 11, 2011 at 6:03 pm

        Earl — same thought occurred to me. Playing Beckerman, Jones, and Bradley seemed strange to say the least!!

  10. Roger

    August 11, 2011 at 4:14 am

    I think any forward will do bad with the USNT. They still don’t have that providing figure to feed the forwards. Altidore has a great, powerful shot but most of his goals are either error or luck. Klinsmann should teach the providing/ball-feeding tactics. Any forward will thrive if he does, even Wondo if Klinsmann see’s the potential.

    • Robert

      August 11, 2011 at 10:10 am

      Yah, I don’t blame Buddle at all for his first half performance. He had zero delivery and was taking on 3 defenders every time he got the ball. It’s a shame but we are going to have to find another player like Donovan since he is going to be passed his prime for WC 2014.

      • casualfan

        August 11, 2011 at 10:15 am

        I think Holden could assume that role. He’s not exactly the same type of player as Donovan, but he’s got good vision, nice service and he’s a dangerous attacker in his own right.

        • Robert

          August 11, 2011 at 10:58 am

          The problem with holden is his luck. He seems to be always hurt and never really got to see him play. Hopefully this cycle he will play a more featured role.

    • Alex

      August 11, 2011 at 1:07 pm

      definatley right, US during the first half had ZERO shots on goal. they had a hard time getting the ball across the halfway line. i cant blame Klinsman for experiementing players with new positions but Torres belongs in the center and jones i think should move alittle more up top then back in defense. i have been seeing Jones hanging around in the back and he’s just too slow to be there. I think Jones has a good eye for finding players he can give the ball to Buddle.

      • Robert

        August 11, 2011 at 1:16 pm

        Jones has played himself off this team.

  11. Rafael

    August 11, 2011 at 2:00 am

    This game was was won when Jones and Bradley were subbed off. The youth and attacking of Shea, Rogers, and Agudelo turned it around.

    The U.S. cannot play with two defensive midfielders. Play improved greatly with Beckerman playing as the lone defensive mid.

    Torres belongs in the center, not on the left. The same goes for Donovan who plays better in the center underneath the FW instead of being isolated and doing nothing at RM.

    • Clampdown

      August 11, 2011 at 7:20 am

      I agree, Rafael. I’ve been beating that drum for a long time. The two defensive mids is a losing strategy for the US. With Holden out of the lineup I’d prefer to see Torres paired with Jones in the middle and Landon in a linkup role.

      I’m not a fan of Beckerman but he was OK last night.

      All in all, not a bad match. Or at least the second half. Glad to see Shea get a shot.

    • Casualfan

      August 11, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Trying not to pass judgement on this experimental side, but Torres must have lost the ball on 80% of his interactions in the first half. Hope it was his unusual positioning.

      • Robert

        August 11, 2011 at 10:08 am

        Torres is a center-mid/center attacking mid and being played on the wing is a totally new position. Its like having your first basemen play third base. Or right fielder play second base. Its unnatural

  12. Alan

    August 11, 2011 at 1:47 am

    Subtle differences were noticed, and this I think is a good building block. Brek Shea, Robbie Rogers, and Juan Agudelo are going to be great for the team if they are developed right. I have confidence that Klinsmann will do just that. Beckerman looked decent too. Torres shows promise. Jones and Bradley were OK.Honestly, the best players on the field were the MLS players.

    I hope to never see Ricardo Clark again. We definitely need to get some more defenders as Bocanegra and Cherundolo will be 35 come World Cup time.

    • WSW

      August 11, 2011 at 11:11 am

      It’s only first game and friendly, so we can’t analyze if MLS players are better than US players who play abroad.

      • Alan

        August 11, 2011 at 12:26 pm

        So……I can’t say that the best players on the field that performed the best last night were MLS players? You are right, I need to see 5 more games to be able to tell that the best players last night were MLS players. Makes perfect sense.

        Anyway, the point was that there might be some untapped potential there that given a couple of years and the right coach and experience might surprise us. That doesn’t mean that our international players suck. It just means that last night they were the ones that shined overall, at least in my opinion.

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