When it comes to soccer, Mexico and the United States are neighbors in name only. The rivalry between the once-dominant “El Tri,” Mexico’s selección, and a rising U.S. men’s national team has only intensified, on the field and in the stands, with each passing year.
Officially, the scorecard reflects Mexico’s long dominance. After Wednesday night’s 2-0 win, the U.S. team is 18-32-14 against Mexico all-time, but the Americans have gone 13-5-5 against their neighbors to the south since 2000. It’s a sore point in Mexico, and with Mexican soccer fans everywhere.
The first half of the game was lackluster, even if it was a joy in general to have international soccer return to San Antonio, a city that deserves its own MLS franchise. The energy inside the halls of the Alamodome was amazing as fans flooded in, the crowd dominated by Mexican fans, flags, and Spanish-language chants.
The Alamodome turf, however was problematic all week long, and even as the two sides warmed up, crews hauled hoses across the field to soak the worst spots to prevent the turf from separating under players’ cleats. They returned at halftime. Soccer was meant to be played on a field of green under the sun, not in a domed stadium. It’s hard to sustain natural turf in such an artificial setting, and seemingly every game story on the Internet mentions our sub-par pitch. It was a social media black eye in two languages for the Alamodome.
In the end, the game started 35 minutes late.
The U.S. team played the first half like many of the players had just met at the hotel. Players seemed faster and more athletic than their Mexican counterparts, individually, but there was no cohesive attack and little confident passing and ball control. By the seventh minute, Mexico started to establish the pace, relying on crisper passing to threaten their first goal. Still, the half ended nil-nil, as our Premier League friends would say. The match seemed to be more about the two coaches testing player combos than two proudly competitive nations facing off in a showdown.
U.S. team coach Jürgen Klinsmann made what proved to be some key substitutions in the second half, and a more aggressive, opportunistic team wasted little time in attacking. Stanford University star Jordan Morris, who is 20 years old and hasn’t even turned pro yet, played the first half and was left in for the second. He scored first for the U.S. side in the 49th minute after collecting a ball that bounced off a Mexican defender and beating goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo with no one else in or near the box.
Klinsmann substituted Juan Agudelo for Morris in the 65th minute. Seven minutes later he scored with a pass from U.S. Captain Michael Bradley and a shot taken just outside the penalty area that bounced off Saucedo and into the net. Mexico by then seemed to be a full step behind on every ball.
Bradley proved to be the experienced field general, repeatedly recovering balls, outplaying his defenders at midfield, feeding passes to the forwards, patiently pacing the game in both directions.
The U.S. side, consisting mostly of younger, next-generation players guided by Bradley, delivered what amounted to a second half spanking to the Mexican team, quieting the Alamodome in the process. Long before three minutes of stoppage time was added to play, fans dressed in green, white and red were heading toward the doors. Wednesday’s regional rivalry did set a new Alamodome record for an international soccer friendly. The previous record was set in January 2014 when 54,313 watched Mexico beat Korean Republic.
This particular U.S.-Mexico match, it turns out, really was a friendly. There wasn’t a single yellow card shown in the game, although there were some hard tackles and 13 fouls whistled. I witnessed only one cheap shot taken against U.S. forward Gyasi Zardes of the LA Galaxy, who took a foot to the gut from a Mexican defender near the U.S. corner in the second half and drew a free kick.
There was more violence in the stands where my family sat in Section 105. I came down from the press box to join them just in time to witness a first half brawl involving a dozen men and boys a few rows above us. It was your typical rabbit punch affair fueled by superficial nationalism and beer. A San Antonio police officer did an admirable job breaking up the fight, or the continuing sequence of fights that broke out even after he arrived. Ultimately, it looks like one or two Mexican fans and one or two U.S. fans were ushered out, some reluctantly, at least one in handcuffs. There must have been a dozen people using smart phones to video the incident. You can probably watch it on YouTube by now.
U.S. Mens National Team Match Report
U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Mexico
Date: April 15, 2015
Competition: International Friendly
Venue: Alamodome; San Antonio, Texas
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m. CT
Attendance: 64,369 (sellout)
Weather: 73 degrees; Indoor
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 2 2
MEX 0 0 0
USA – Jordan Morris 49th minute
USA – Juan Agudelo (Michael Bradley) 72
USA: 1-Nick Rimando (22-William Yarbrough, 46); 2-DeAndre Yedlin, 3-Omar Gonzalez, 19-Ventura Alvarado, 14-Greg Garza (11-Brek Shea, 46); 15-Kyle Beckerman (21-Perry Kitchen, 63), 10-Mix Diskerud (6-Brad Evans, 80), 7-Joe Corona (9-Miguel Ibarra, 46), 4-Michael Bradley (capt.); 20-Gyasi Zardes, 8-Jordan Morris (17-Juan Agudelo, 65)
Subs Not Used: 5-Matt Besler, 13-Lee Nguyen, 16-Julian Green, 18-Chris Wondolowski
Head Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
MEX: 12-Cirilo Saucedo; 21-Hiram Mier (3-Oswaldo Alanis, 46), 2-Francisco Rodriguez (8-Luis Rodriguez, 60), 13-Carlos Salcedo (4-Julio Cesar Dominguez, 46); 7-Efrain Velarde, 17-Mario Osuna, 18-Carlos Esquivel, 15-Gerardo Flores (6-George Corral, 67); 10-Luis Montes (capt.) (5-Antonio Rios, 79), 9-Erick Torres, 20-Eduardo Herrera (19-Marco Bueno, 83)
Subs Not Used: 1-Jonathan Orozco, 16-Adrian Aldrete
Head coach: Miguel Herrera
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 6 / 13
Shots on Goal: 4 / 3
Saves: 2 / 2
Corner Kicks: 5 / 4
Fouls: 13 / 13
Offside: 1 / 0
Referee: Ricardo Montero (CRC)
Assistant Referee 1: Leonel Leal (CRC)
Assistant Referee 2: Octavio Jara (CRC)
4th Official: Walter Quesada (CRC)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Ventura Alvarado