USA earn bragging rights after win over Mexico at the Alamodome
As the seconds ticked down, those familiar numbers burned brightly on the scoreboards ringing the Alamodome. This match fell into that pattern to the second half and never deviated. Once again, the United States men's national team defeated Mexico by that fateful 2-0 score.
The stakes on this night did not match the four straight World Cup qualifying triumphs on American soil by that scoreline, but they did not detract from the comfort of its return, either.
Mexico enjoyed the better of the first half, but the Americans took firm control through Jordan Morris’ first international goal four minutes after halftime. Juan Agudelo marked his return after a year in the wildnerness with a tidy second in the final 20 minutes to guarantee the victory.
"Everybody was on the same page: We want to get a result and we want to do well," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. "We want to prove a point because we are just a few months away from a huge Gold Cup that will hopefully take us to the Confederations Cup in Russia. That's what we said the last couple of days. They took all of the stuff that we told them. They implemented it. That's why they deserve a real compliment."
It proved a proper way to end a night when the Americans adjusted better to the awkward task at hand and exhibited their superiority after the interval. Klinsmann leaned on his seasoned figures to overcome this experimental El Tri side, but the displays from Morris on his first international start and Agudelo on his international return offer plenty of encouragement, too.
This examination does not translate neatly given the absences, but it is heartening for Klinsmann and his charges nevertheless. The manner of the victory provides Klinsmann with plenty of information to ponder as he contemplates his CONCACAF Gold Cup options and sets his course for those summer exertions.
Most of the early exchanges reflected the peculiar nature of playing a friendly on such a poor temporary surface. The inevitable bobbles and bounces on the hastily laid sod amplified the inevitable kinks from pulling together these two squads in such a compressed time frame.
Those realities did not detract from the entertainment value with both teams committed to engaging, open fare. Eduardo Herrera scuffed wide from a good position inside the first 10 minutes, while Gyasi Zardes nearly pounced on an ill-advised decision to use Cirilo Saucedo just before the half-hour.
Most of the pressure inevitably built on the Americans as El Tri found ways to play through the gaps in the midfield diamond and set out their stall accordingly. Carlos Esquivel posed a consistent threat on the right side of the Mexican midfield trio by exploiting those spaces, but his endeavor — like the similar forays from his teammates — inevitably ended without the necessary end product.
Herrera posed perhaps the greatest threat when he hit the side netting just before halftime, but the tracking from the imperial Omar Gonzalez left him with little room to shoot. It provided a neat way to sum up the first half and supplied the Americans with a chance to make the changes required to win the game at the interval.
Klinsmann adjusted his diamond and threw Miguel Ibarra into the fray to encourage a better use of the width. The change flummoxed a Mexican side incapable of adjusting its positioning accordingly and paved the way for a bright period as the second half dawned.
Morris provided a tangible foothold with his first international goal. Bradley did much of the heavy lifting in the buildup to spin away from pressure and surge into the attacking third, but Morris made the necessary run to pounce on a kindly deflection into the penalty area. He completed his run with the necessary composure to slot home the opener and underscore the changed dynamic in the affair.
"It's a super emotional time," Morris said. "It's something I dreamed of last night, something I've dreamed about since I was a kid, especially in such a big game in front of so many fans. It was unbelievable. Honestly, I blacked out a little bit. I didn't really know what was going on, it was such an emotional time."
By this point, the Americans were well on top from the run of play. They advanced higher up the field and choked off the supply to Herrera and Cubo Torres. Their ability to pin the Mexican wingbacks into their own half left El Tri to play the ball long and wait for the U.S. to send it back their way.
Bradley conjured the inevitable second with a trademark clipped ball over the top. His vision floated Agudelo into space, but the recalled forward took advantage of it with a sublime first touch to collect. Agudelo dipped into the space afforded on the left and then tucked home to double the advantage.
It proved more than enough as the makeshift Mexicans struggled to muster the verve they showed in the first half. There were no hurdles in the late stages to overcome on this night. Instead, the Americans marched onward to secure yet another "dos a cero."