With Brad Guzan defending America’s goal with a fervor, the United States pulled out a scoreless tie against heavily favored Mexico Tuesday night, earning only their second point in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium.
The tie moved the U.S. into third place in World Cup qualifying for the North and Central American and Caribbean region after three of 10 matches, one point behind Panama and behind Costa Rica on goal difference. The Americans and Costa Ricans both have four points, but the Ticos, who earlier Tuesday lost their appeal over Friday’s loss to the United States in a Colorado snow storm, are ahead on goal difference.
Mexico coach Manuel de la Torre is sure to come under fire after a third straight draw, which dropped El Tri to second-to-last place in the standings. Mexico had plenty of chances, but El Tri was plagued by poor finishing and dismal execution on set pieces. Mexico had 15 corner kicks, including three in the last two minutes of stoppage time, and Guzan body-blocked a dangerous shot by Angel Reyna.
Azteca is one of the world’s most imposing venues, and the Americans have a miserable track record there. They are 0-13-2 in World Cup qualifiers in Mexico, with their only other point — also from a 0-0 draw — coming in 1997.
But the Americans got a boost of confidence from their win in an exhibition last summer, and not even a patchwork — and inexperienced — lineup could shake them. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann gambled by starting Matt Besler at center back, only the second appearance for the Americans by the young defender. But he and Omar Gonzalez — the last two Major League Soccer defenders of the year — looked like grizzled veterans as they repeatedly snuffed out shots by Javier Hernandez, Javier Aquino and Jesus Zavala.
Mexico dominated possession, and Aquino, Hernandez and Zavala repeatedly tested the inexperienced American defense, picking on DaMarcus Beasley in particular after he picked up a yellow card in the eighth minute. But Gonzalez came up with one big play after another, and Besler looked quite comfortable in the Azteca pressure-cooker.
But they got some help from El Tri, which blew numerous chances, including what should have been a couple of gimmes for Hernandez.
Read more: ESPN