In some ways it took until injury time for the game to get truly tense for the USA, as Mexico belatedly piled on the pressure. Up until that point it had been a curiously muted performance by the hosts, who had their chances, and were arguably denied two clear penalties, but who never seemed to have a clear cutting edge. They're winless in three.
The US drop to third in the group, but with their hardest fixture (on paper) out of the way and having taken four points at the end of a difficult week and without key personnel. Besler stepped up admirably, while Gonzalez had a man of the match performance for the US. Beasley fought back from an early yellow card and some tormenting by Aquino, to last the full 90 with a solid display and Guzan did well when called upon.
It's only the second point the US have taken in World Cup qualifying in Mexico in 15 games, so it's got to go down as a remarkable result regardless of the trials of the respective teams. Mexico may face an inquest in the press tomorrow. Klinsmann has silenced his critics for now. Thanks for all your tweets and emails. Sorry I couldn't use all of them. I'll leave the final word with the pessimistic Leopold:
FINAL SCORE: MEXICO 0 USA 0
Boos rain down. Mexican players and officials berate the referee. The USA have got a tie in the Azteca...
Final thoughts in a moment.
90 mins +4
Yet another corner for Mexico (their 15th I think), but they can't make anything of it and Klinsmann and his team are on their feet on the sidelines demanding the whistle...
90 mins +3
...Besler heads clear at the near post and instantly yells at his peers to stay organized.
Now the US have to defend a corner and do so as Guzan punches clear.
Gonzalez heads another ball clear and Reyna forces Guzan into a low save...
Wild attacking and defending right now...
90 mins +2
Beasley, who's running again, steps up with the ball and then thinks better of it and tracks back as the USA are dispossessed. Davis fouls Guardado, rather stupidly, on the left of the box to concede a dangerous free kick. Davis is booked...
90 mins +1
USA looking for only their second qualifying point in history in Mexico. They have four minutes of stoppage time to see out, to get it.
USA are sitting deep on the edge of their own box looking to see this out. There haven't been many second half stoppages. Mexico stroking the ball around outside the US box and looking for an opening, but the move ends with Dos Santos poking a weak shot wide of the post, that Guzan watches slide by.
88 mins - BIG CHANCE FOR MEXICO
Bravo forces another corner on the far side and Mexico are running out of chances to make one count.
A dangerous corner is whipped low and hard across the six yard box and Chicharito is inches away from making any sort of contact to send it in. Instead, for the second time tonight he ends up in a bundle in the net.
Adrian Fussell (all the way back at the beginning of this game) is back with a Brooklyn update:
Crowd here at Banter ( yes it's actually called that) beginning to believe in the possibility of a draw or win - mostly because MEX is playing like crap. Davis, Besler and Zusi doing MLS a service by playing well so far, needing EJ and Dempsey to step up and nick a goal!!
Brad Guzan has a goal kick which he will take, just as soon as he has finished his memoirs and meditated for a while. No particular American urgency right now.
USA have a free kick midway inside the Mexican half. Davis sends it deep, but Mexico clear fairly comfortably. Now Ochoa slices a clearance horribly and the US have a couple of throws and forward darts to eat up the clock.
Dos Santos, who'd rather drifted out of the game pops up on the right to send a dipping, teasing shot just past the far post with Guzan beaten. Shea comes on for Zusi and Davis switches over to the right, with Shea on the left. Klinsmann going for it?
Well, we've come up on ten minutes towards the end, and it looks like Brek Shea, who made the goal around this time of the game last year, is warming up to come on...
There are ten minutes left and it's Mexico 0 USA 0. Don't go anywhere etc.
Omar Bravo on for Aquino for Mexico.
After the push on Hernandez in the first half, Mexico will feel very aggrieved if they don't get something out of this game. The corner from the last incident is cleared at the near post, and they have a little over ten minutes to put that incident out of their mind and force something here.
Lest we forget the US record in WC qualifiers here in Mexico is 0W 13L 1D.
Controversy as Reyna wriggles clear and slides the ball back for Aquino. Edu slides in from behind and looks to have caught him, but the referee only blows for a corner, as the ball squirms clear. The USA were very, very lucky there.
Beasley is clearly struggling right now, with only one substitution left for the USA and just over 15 minutes to go.
Long range shot from Salcido slides harmlessly past the post.
Twitterer tendancer alights on perfect multimedia combination...
This is a very muted display from Mexico so far, the lively Aquino apart (and that in bursts). As I type that Dos Santos flicks a cheeky cross across the face of goal, only for Zusi to finish a gut-bursting run back to defense by heading clear for a corner.
Reyna is on for Nilo I think. Attacker for a defender.
Moreno looks like he was still up from the corner and he's in the box as a quick low ball arrives from the left. He flicks it on but the ball flies past the post.
Brad Davis will be coming on for Gomez.
It's Mexico 0 USA 0
The US holding their shape and frustrating Mexico at the moment. The next ten minutes could be pretty crucial. Nilo gets in behind and sends a cross over, but once again Gonzalez is there to head the ball clear for a corner...
...it bounces around dangerously and Zavala looks to be perfectly poised by the spot to stroke it home, but the ball deflects clear for another corner, that's cleared. Good chance for Mexico there. Can they build momentum?
Do Santos caught an accidental arm in the face and is down, prompting some boos from the home crowd as the US attack, but it goes nowhere, with Johnson caught offside.
Craig Gamble joins us with a global perspective:
Without meaning to undermine the importance of this game to Mexico and the USA, there are more than a few Kiwi's keeping an eye on the score down here. We're playing whoever finishes fourth, and I don't fancy us against the USA or Mexico as unlikely as that is!
Unlikely as it seems, as it stands Mexico are the only team in the Hex without a win...
Peter Oh wonders:
Dear Graham - I know you're not the weatherman, but what are the chances of a snowstorm blasting into the Azteca in the next 30 minutes?
That sounds like a question for a Mexican TV Facebook poll, TBH. Alex Box?
Hernandez tries to beat the US defense on a through ball, but he doesn't bend his run enough and is caught offside.
USA have a free kick wide left that's booted all the way wide right to where Zusi can't keep it in play. Rather wasted, but so is Mexico's counter-attack where the ball goes all the way through to Guzan.
Mexico fans start to try to inspire something in their team with a brief rally of chants, but it dies down quickly, in what might be a metaphor for the game so far, were I paid enough to use metaphors.
Gonzalez goes down to tackle Nilo with impeccable timing in the box.
Gonzalez steps across well again to block out Hernandez as he looks to race clear between the two US center backs. Gonzalez has been very solid so far.
Mexico just beginning to rush their play a little. Not enough to encourage Eduardo Gil:
Well, it's an hour gone and Mexico 0 USA 0 is the score...
Alex Box is back with more Mexican TV Facebook polls (The Guardian= multimedia)
Will mexico go on to score and win in the second half?
87% say yes mexico will
I'd have to day mexico have liked rather toothless so far. What's Guzan really had to do so far? I do like his quite camp hands on hips routine though whenever he waits for action
Costa Rica 2-0 up on Jamaica now. Panama 2-0 up on Honduras. The group is tightening again. Those two games nearly over.
Vital cut out from Omar Gonzalez as Aquino skips clear of Beasley and looks to square the ball. From the corner the ball comes out to Salcido, who thrashes one over. Beasley looks to be struggling.
Looks like Eddie Johnson is coming on for...Altidore. He may play a little wider than Altidore to try and give more of an outlet for his side in different positions.
Montague Smith is back:
I'm not so sure the European teams - even Spain - should bother turning up in Brazil 2014. Even the second tier South American teams seem to me to have superior technical ability. And such pace. Shame about the rolling and tumbling, but no doubt about the skill. Even Argentina (Messi et al) are struggling against the Bolivians on their home patch. Don't think Brazil will need to be at their best to reclaim the World Cup,
Aquino turns Beasley inside out again and crosses dangerously, with the ball landing on the roof of the net.
Beasley feeling his hamstring a little. If he comes out does Edu move to left back and Beckerman come in?
Guzan makes a fairly routine catch from a cross intended for Chicharito but which is too close to the US goalkeeper. Mexico pressing hard at the start of this half, without getting clear cut chances.
A little bit of head tennis in midfield and now Mexico have the ball back at the back and have slowed the pace down to a crawl as they work out what to do next. They switch play with a long crossfield ball for Guardado, then back to the other flank where Dos Santos has popped up looking for space. There's none there though and eventually Edu looks to clear, though he's caught in possession twice and Mexico force a corner out of nothing. Still Mexico 0 USA 0
Aquino sends in a low cross from the right that Besler stretches for and diverts dangerously across his own goal to run out for a corner. Could have gone anywhere. Mexico waste the corner though.
Mexico kick off for the second half and instantly try to get forward. They run into traffic immediately though.
And one more for luck
Kyle Brent is joining in the theme of tentative confidence:
The US seems to be gaining steam rather than losing it, which I didn't expect given altitude and air in azteca. The pressure is certainly mounting on Mexico. I figured they would be out for blood after the embarrassment last August. Also unexpected is the effect Cameron seems to be having up the right side. He's providing width and crosses, but also allowing for it go through the middle which I feel happens less often with Cherundolo in that role. It's certainly a welcome change and may be due to Zusi as well. Better than I expected. Hopefully the US' fitness holds up through the second half.
Wonder how the fact that the game is being played in the evening is affecting the tempo of the game for visitors and hosts alike?
People email and tweet
Kevin Leonard is back again:
no one has leaped on the pun of both teams having Coronas on each of their benches!
The offending sub-editor has been fired...
Alex Box writes generously:
Just thought I'd let you know that I'm enjoying your coverage while watching the game. Mexican tv have been constantly espousing the importance of being patient throughout the first half but did go a little bit mental with the penalty shout. They threw up a facebook poll tout suite and lo and behold it currently has eighty odd percent of people agreeing it was a clear penalty.
Here's to a rousing second half
I too have been known to throw up, but rarely a Facebook poll. Still, you get what you pay for.
Meanwhile Beau's confidence is blossoming:
On the few occasions the US have pressed the Mexican defense they've not exactly looked invincible. And their set pieces might yet make a difference. That said, given some of the loose marking, you could say the same for the Mexican attack.
Half time thoughts
The final image from the field is of a relieved looking Beasley walking off the field. Early on it looked as if Mexico were working a cut on a boxing opponent as they continually probed down the US left flank to try and put pressure on the makeshift left back and his relative novice center back Besler. Both players were booked early and will have to see out the game carefully. As the half went on Mexico worked chances, including one Chicharito should have done better with at point blank range, but Guzan did well, and Gonzalez looks to be growing into his part at the heart of defense. We haven't heard the last of those clashes though.
With a depleted US on the back foot it was easy to forget what pressure Mexico are under from their own fans, and with the US slowly coming out of their shell and finding Altidore to link up play, that crowd grew restless towards half time.
The US are likely to have to endure at least one more sustained period of Mexico pressure in the second half, but for now they're probably at best case scenario being goalless at half time.
HALF TIME: MEXICO 0 USA 0
Half time thoughts in a moment.
45 mins +3
Three minutes of time to be added on, and the half is ending with the US in possession, as they inch into the game. Boos from some sections of the ground as the teams go in level at half time.
45 mins +1
So suddenly we're nearly at half time and the crowd anxiety is steadily building as the US continue to frustrate the Mexicans and offer the odd scare themselves. They have a free kick wide left which looks like it's an easy catch for Ochoa, but he punches it for a deep throw instead.
Edu touches the ball through for Dempsey, who for a moment is in behind the Mexican back line, but he just overruns the ball before he can cut it back. Altidore involved in the link up play. He's not had much chance to influence things, but he's been neat when called upon.
Beasley chatted back to the referee after that foul, which he should be careful about. Early yellow card and all that...
Guzan comes off his line to claim a ball and clatters Zavala to boot. The referee blows for a foul on the keeper as the Mexican forwards look to pounce on the loose ball.
Getting a fair few emails which I'll try to get to at half time. Suffice to say to Kevin in upstate New York, the Azteca doesn't look full and the crowd, while not exactly on the home team's back, are very restless sounding at times. It's Mexico 0 USA 0
Beasley gives away a free kick wide right for Mexico. It's whipped in low towards the near post, but the US defense holds firm
The US get a passing movement going and settle briefly in the Mexican half, only for Cameron to finally loop a harmless header into the keeper's arms. A little better for them. Now Bradley initiates and is on the end of a slick passing move through the heart of the Mexican defense that Bradley just cannot get a clean touch to on the final ball into the box from Altidore. Best move of the game for them.
Mexico becoming emboldened to commit their wide men forward, as the US sit back. Montague Smith would love to see even a minor European derby right now:
Thanks for the updates, this game's a no show on Thai TV which is weird, seeing as how they show just about everything else. Saw Uruguay getting spanked in Chile earlier and am now waiting for the Bolivia/Argentina game, 10am KO out here in the paddyfields. Keep up the good work,
The US are not getting on the ball for any sustained period. They've just about done enough to disrupt the Mexican momentum, but nothing to change the prevailing direction of play.
Zusi jumps in with a good tackle on Guardado which will give him some confidence.
...it's hoofed clear by Bradley.
More email opinions from Carlos Chiquete:
I've been watching this clasico for a long time now and I can't remember a time when the US has as little prescence and menace as the current vintage. This is paradoxical as they have the best forward line in some time too. Hate to say it, but Donovan is very, very missed.
Dempsey appealing for a free kick outside the Mexico box as he's brought down. Worryingly for the US he stays down.
Donovan may be missed, but as we pointed out before the game, there are several probable US starters out tonight. Disciplined containment might be their most advisable policy, by the win-at-home-draw-on-the-road plan.
How did that not go in? Chicharito meets a vicious whipped in cross at the end of a flowing Mexico move. He catches the ball at the near post at point blank range and somehow the ball squirms off him and flies past the woodwork, as the player ends up bundled into the net. Still Mexico 0 USA 0 after half an hour, but Mexico have a corner...
Kevin Leonard takes issue with Edward Painter (18 mins):
There are European derbies like this; Any combination of the teams in the British Isles, the Iberian derby, Netherlands vs Germany, Russia vs any former Soviet nation, Scandinavian derbies and of course the balkan derbies. They don't meet as often because of our seeded qualifying system, I reckon Europe's qualifying should be regionalised in order to get games like Mexico vs USA more often. I'd love if ever 4 years we got England vs Scotland or Portugal vs Spain and any Balkan on Balkan match you can imagine.
Game a little scrappy at the moment which will suit the US team. Bradley challenges dos Santos and concedes a free kick. It's sent to the back post where Zavala is totally unmarked, but can only head the ball down and straight at Guzan. He (and his marker) should both have done way better.
Whistles and jeers ringing round the stadium as the US have another moment of possession. Altidore makes enough of a nuisance of himself to earn another corner. You suspect these will be the best chances for the US, but Gomez totally wastes the corner with a deep cross that evades everybody. In the other games Costa Rica lead jamaica 1-0 and Panama lead Honduras 1-0. This group looks tight.
Gonzalez is beaten by Chicharito at the near post for a ball in the air, but does enough to get across his man and force the Manchester United man to head wide.
Cameron, who hasn't been shy getting forward down the right, earns the US a throw deep in Mexico territory, but they can't make anything of it.
The US make a rare move forward and Cameron curls a high, deep cross that's headed out for a throw. Gomez looks to wriggle free near the edge of the box, but he's dispossessed and Mexico surge in the other direction, with Dos Santos tricking Besler well to make him commit and pick up a yellow card for a foul in the center circle. That won't make the rest of his night any easier. Now dos Santos pops again for a shot from distance that Guzan gathers low. Still Mexico 0 USA 0 after 20 minutes
Edward Painter emails:
Trying to think of two european nations that compare to the Mexico and USA derby. The game is being played more like a european derby match then a european international fixture. Is it a lack of national pride or just more significant club careers? Who knows but its better to be watched.
Also how has giovanni santos been so overlooked by english soccer?
Sloppy touch by Edu gifts possession to Mexico, but the US just about get men behind the ball and regroup. Now Bradley, then Beasley, make errors and the US just can't get the ball clear.
Dempsey intercepts in midfield and Gomez races past his man on the outside to get the ball slid through on the side of the box. His attempted cross for Altidore is cut out and the US have a corner.
US far taller than the Mexico team for set pieces, and Cameron looks to have beaten his man to meet the corner with a header that flashes just wide of the post, but it's called back anyway for a foul by Cameron.
We're just seeing a replay of Bradley apparently pushing Chicharito over off the ball in the US box a few minutes ago. The linesman flagged, but the referee didn't call anything.
Again the Mexico team are finding a lot of space down that left hand side and Aquino has more time than he thinks to pass the ball inside. Gonzalez stretches to intercept in the box, but now Edu and Bradley are talking about how to adjust to give more protection at that side. The US briefly get on the ball and look to calm things down a little.
Beasley getting a little run around from Aquino. Mexico targeting that left flank of the US line up, where the untested Besler awaits the man who cuts inside.
...dos Santos sends the free kick fizzing across the face of goal, but it's slightly too hard and high for anyone to get a touch on it and it goes out for a goal kick.
Bradley has to pick up a loose ball in midfield. He's dropping deep and playing cautiously. The USA need a disciplined performance from him tonight.
It's Mexico 0 USA 0 after the opening ten minutes.
Mexico getting on the ball more now and rousing the crowd. They're trying to move it out wide as expected, and trying to work an opening. Aquino arrives on the overlap and Beasley has to get a smart foot in. Then a minute later he's caught out of position and Aquino races past him. Beasley knocks him over right ont he edge of the box to the right, picks up a yellow, and now Mexico have a free kick...
Mexico have an early corner, but it can't be taken yet as the referee is in the box speaking to both sides about some pushing and shoving. Now he's back in again as Chicharito professes his innocence. The corner eventually comes in but it's headed clear at the near post.
Dempsey forages forward down the right as the US try to press early. An advisable strategy given these line ups? The US ho,ding possession well early, much to the simmering resentment of the home crowd. Beasley steps up on the left, but his cross is overhit and goes out harmlessly for a goal kick.
Gonzalez and Besler relieved to be on the ball early. They have 6 caps between them (Gonzalez has 5 of them).
We're underway. And Guzan straight into action fielding the first cross from out wide from dos Santos.
I think the correct description of the Mexican crowd's response to the US national anthem is "Lusty boos."
Klinsmann described this line up to Alexi Lalas as being between 50 and 80% of his optimum US team. They're up against a Mexican team who look very strong on papaer, and who have the added advantage of playing in dark jerseys (trather than Green as previously stated), which allows them to match their chosen environmental cloaking of NIGHT.
Soothsayers of doom
So last time these two played we got the following doom-laden tweet from Christopher Dwyer:
After the US won, Christopher graciously came back to say he'd never been so happy to be wrong.
Tonight's hostage to fortune is Leopold Bloom:
The teams are out now and the anthems are about to start. Let the games begin.
We need a nickname
It was inevitable that the Costa Rican game was going to get a nickname, as well as spawning such Twitter tags as #snofro in honor of Jones. I’ve seen SnowClasico, SnowGlobe, Snow Bowl etc, doing the rounds. But what will we be describing this game as in the coming months? The Slog in the Smog™?
The news that Costa Rica were appealing the fact that the game wasn’t abandoned was hardly surprising, though it did provoke a flurry (ahem) of comments on our story on the subject. Personally, I thought the second half in particular was ridiculous, butas Costa Rica didn’t fill in the forms in front of the referee, while whistling “Ode to Joy”, turns out it’s all moot anyway, with FIFA throwing the appeal out.
The US played the game in their 100th anniversary white jerseys, ensuring they were cunningly disguised against the snow. It seems that Mexico have picked up on the trick, as they will be wearing Green tonight... But they’ve missed a trick by playing in the evening. It’s a relatively balmy evening, with temperatures in the 50s.
The social network canary is singing
An email from Adrian Fussell:
Here at Banter bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, with about 150 USA fans and a handful of El Tri supporters. Getting rowdy already, yet while every atom in my body is pulling for a USA upset, that MEX lineup has much more class than we do. Nothing will dampen the mood for us yet however - personally pulling for a 2-1 to the USA, captain Clint with the game winner late on!
There's a Banter bar?
Mexico: Ochoa; Meza, Reyes, Moreno, Torres Nilo; Zavala, Salcido; Aquino, Dos Santos, Guardado; Hernández
USA: Guzan, Beasley, Besler, Gonzalez, Cameron; Edu, Bradley; Zusi, Dempsey (c), Gomez; Altidore
So “Memo” Ochoa back in the line up again as goalkeeper for Mexico, while in front of him the inexperienced Reyes is at the heart of the defense. Meanwhile that front line looks familiar - especially to any US fans with bad memories of the 2011 Gold Cup final.
The big shock for the US is that Goodson is out injured, meaning that Matt Besler gets only his second start at the heart of defense, alongside the barely more experienced Gonzalez. They’ll have their hands full with Chicharito. Edu is in for the injured Jones. Like for like defensive midfielder.
Besler being in is a stunner. Big test for the Sporting KC defender.
Mexico have opened their campaign with two frustrating draws. A 0-0 against Jamaica here at the Azteca was followed by letting a 2-0 lead over Honduras slip, unleashing all sorts of recriminations among the nation’s soccer media against coach José Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre. And the crowd at tonight's venue turned on the team as they failed to breach the Jamaican defense.
The good news for Mexico is that Chicharito is in scoring form and he picked up a couple against Honduras. He’ll fancy his chances against an unfamiliar-looking US backline, and the fact that the build up for a lot of Mexico’s chances comes from wing play will worry the US, with their dearth of natural full backs in the likely starting line up. Guardado and Aquino can cause problems out wide, and whatever central pairing Klinsmann goes with, they’ll have to contain Chicharito, plus the movement of Giovani dos Santos behind him. Klinsmann’s defensive midfielders (he usually plays between 13 and 21 of them...) will probably be kept busy supporting their full backs during Mexican approach play.
So here’s a list of the regulars who are out for the USA:
Edgar Castillo (facial fractures), Timmy Chandler (hamstring), Steve Cherundolo (knee), Tim Howard (back), Fabian Johnson (hip), Jonathan Spector (ankle), Jose Torres (hamstring), Danny Williams (illness), Landon Donovan (ennui).
To that list we can now add Jermaine Jones — he of the celebrated #snofro (and apparently hole in leg):
The withdrawal of Jones means that Michael Orozco Fiscal has been brought into the squad. Whether or not he sees the field tonight is another matter, but the odd superstitious US fan wouldn’t mind seeing him turning out, after what happened in his last game for the US at this stadium...
So what will Klinsmann do tonight? Beasley, who hadn’t played a competitive game for the US since the 2009 Gold Cup, was brought in as a makeshift left back against Costa rica, while Cameron was pushed from the center out to right back, where he plays his club soccer for Stoke. Goodson and Gonzalez did well as the center pairing, though we're hearing the former is a doubt. Altidore made enough of a nuisance of himself up front to likely get another lone front man assignment tonight, with Demspey in behind him. Edu may well replace Jones in central midfield. But basically, if we’re looking to the Costa Rica game for clues, we're analysing a snowball fight for technical qualities, so...
Snow shoes. Check. Team of huskies. Check. Klinsi-tinted goggles. Check. NOBODY is going to say the Guardian came to the Azteca unprepared...
[wonders why snow feels so warm...]
As we’ve heard from numerous sources over the last few days, part of THE GRIND™ of Concacaf qualifying is the hugely varied obstacle course conditions games can be played in, in a region that can be, shall we say, “meteorologically diverse”. So no sooner had the US and Costa Rican teams finished up their hot chocolates/complaints to FIFA, then the hosts were on their way to Mexico for the heat, altitude, smog and generally hostile welcome of a World Cup qualifier at the Azteca Stadium.
The US arrive in second place in their group, after their 1-0 win over Costa Rica had the added bonus of being accompanied by ties in the two other games in the Hexagonal that day — including Mexico letting a 2-0 lead drop in their last game. The Mexicans are in something of a slump by their standards - having won just two of their last five games at the Azteca, and of course the last time the two sides played here, Klinsmann’s team recorded the first ever US win on Mexican soil. But don’t let that fool you — the USA are still definite underdogs today, hardly helped by the injuries that have decimated Klinsmann’s first choice line-up (or as near as we can guess to his first choice line-up — the game against Costa Rica saw the 24th different line up in 24 games).
More on those circumstances in a bit, for now why not experience a little bit of the Concacaf region’s weather diversity by watching the highlights from Friday’s USA game against Costa Rica in Denver.
Then pull up by the fire, open the fridge door and prepare to be transported from a Denver blizzard to the Azteca. Can the US get anything out of this game? Or can Mexico put their immediate problems behind them? Send your predictions, general musings and formal complaints to @KidWeil or firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll be back shortly with more build up and team news.