Mexico 0-0 USA — Defense and (Indefensible?) Referee Saves Americans


Man in middle center of controversy in Hexagonal draw

By Michael Ligot

The center of Mexican ire in a match against the United States was not, for a change, the Americans. It was a Guatemalan referee.

ChicharitoPhoto: Scott Marsh

Chicharito huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow the white jerseys down.
Photo: Scott Marsh

Walter Lopez’ decisions against awarding two penalties for Mexico played a huge part with a  bend-but-don’t-break American defense in the teams’ goalless draw Tuesday night.

That result was only the second point the United States earned in World Cup qualifying in the Mexican capital in 15 matches.

In the first half, American midfielder Michael Bradley shoved Javier “Chicharito” Hernández in the penalty area. Assistant Referee Gerson Lopez — Walter’s brother, incidently — signaled for the foul, but Walter, watching touchline action on the ball, ignored the familial advice.

The second, and by far most controversial, decision arose with a quarter-hour left in the game. Javier Aquino took a pass in the American penalty area and was ready to fire on goalkeeper Brad Guzan, but Maurice Edu knocked him over from behind. The Mexican players and the till-then-subdued Estadio Azteca fans screamed for a penalty, and television replays seemed to corroborate that, but Walter Lopez instead awarded a Mexican corner.

The resulting set piece missed paydirt, as did Mexico’s efforts for the remainder of the match, and at the final whistle, Lopez found himself encased by furious Mexican players, coach José Manuel de la Chepa, and venomous whistles from the frustrated crowd.

Happy to get out of Dodge relatively unnoticed by the commotion was the United States, which employed a pragmatic approach for its first Hexagonal result in Mexico since the fabled 1997 draw, also 0-0. El Trí outshot the Yanks 19-1, walloped them in corners 15-2, and enjoyed almost 60 percent of possession. However, dogged defense, in particular from Omar Gonzales, and Mexican inability to finish plays meant no work for the scoreboard operator.

Look at the first stanza, for instance. Save for a few minutes after kickoff, Mexico controlled the first half-hour. Javier Hernández and Jesus Zavala narrowly missed free headers on Brad Guzan, most notably. Finally, the Americans began stringing passes together and forcing play on Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa (a controversial selection over José Corona). A few minutes before injury time, Jozy Altidore sent Bradley into the box, but Jorge Torres Nelo stripped him before Ochoa was needed.

Although United States Coach Jürgen Klinsmann made some surprisingly offensive-minded substitutions in the second half, in particular Seattle’s Eddie Johnson for Altidore, Mexico continued to press but not punish. At one point, eight white shirts lined up on top of the box to prevent Mexican attacks.

After Edu’s non-penalty that will send Mexican soccer talk into overdrive for a while, El Trí revved up their engines to assault Guzan’s net. A surprisingly quiet Giovani dos Santos came close, Chicharito couldn’t handle a bad hop in front of a gaping net, and a gift of a foul by American substitute Brad Davis in injury time resulted in sweat but no scoring.


1 Panama 3 1 2 0 5 3 2 5
2 Costa Rica 3 1 1 1 4 3 1 4
3 USA 3 1 1 1 2 2 0 4
4 Honduras 3 1 1 1 4 5 -1 4
5 Mexico 3 0 3 0 2 2 0 3
6 Jamaica 3 0 2 1 1 3 -2 2

Thus ended a successful two-game spell for the Americans, who defeated Costa Rica 1-0 in snowy Denver Friday night.

They stand tied for second with the Ticos in the Hex with four points (Costa Rica ahead on goal differential), a spot automatically qualifying for Brazil 2014. Mexico, meanwhile, fell to fifth place on three points, which would leave them out of the Cup.

Mexico next visits surprising Hex leader Panama (five points) on June 6, while the United States drops by last-place Jamaica (two) the following day.

USA Player Ratings

Starting XIs:

Mexico: Guillermo Ochoa, Severo Meza, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno, Jorge Torres Nilo (Ángel Reyna 72′), Carlos Salcido, Jesus Zavala, Javier Aquino (Omar Bravo 81′), Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos, Chicharito

USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 20-Geoff Cameron, 7-DaMarcus Beasley, 3- Omar Gonzalez, 13-Matt Besler, 6-Maurice Edu, 4-Michael Bradley, 19-Graham Zusi (Brek Shea 82′); 8-Clint Dempsey, 9-Herculez Gomez (Brad Davis 71′), 17-Jozy Altidore (Eddie Johnson 55′).


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