Bryan Armen Graham
Wednesday August 12th, 2009

FULLTIME: The whistle blows and Mexico has secured a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the United States, moving its fading World Cup qualification hopes off life support for the time being. Man of the Match honors go to Miguel Sabah, the Gold Cup hero whose 82nd-minute winner propelled the Mexicans to yet another victory over their northern neighbors at Azteca Stadium. The USMNT falls to 0-19-1 lifetime in Mexico's high-altitude fortress.

90': Three minutes of added time. It's looking more and more as if the USMNT's famous Azteca Stadium hoodoo will live on. 105,000 fans waiting anxiously for the fulltime whistle.

89': Mexico in no rush, milking the clock as effectively as possible.

87': The Americans haven't been able to organize much of an attack since Sabah's goal.

84': U.S. looking fatigued and demoralized. Freedman checks in from Azteca: "[That goal] was just waiting to happen. Just too much action by the U.S. goal. Not sure they can rebound from this."

82': GOAL, Mexico! It's a deafening roar at Azteca Stadium as Miguel Sabah drives home the go-ahead goal. Juarez dribbles down to the end line, drawing attention from Donovan and DeMerit. He slips a pass at the last possible second to Sabah, who doesn't hesistate to fire it past Howard. Gutting. But not too late to salvage a point.

80': The action is getting chippy with just 10 minutes remaining in regulation. Mexico is desperate for these three points.

77': Bradley makes his third and final sub: Jozy Altizore for Davies. Can the 19-year-old striker break through for the most important goal of his career?

74': Shortly after a Mexico free kick attempt deflected out of bounds, a scuffle between the two sides breaks out. The bad blood is boiling. It appears Castillo tried to help up a fallen Onyewu by grabbing his neck, a gesture his American teammates didn't appreciate too much.

73': The linesman rules Davies offside on a breakaway goal attempt. It appeared to be a mystifying call in real-time -- but a second look revealed the forward was indeed off.

71': Holden running with the ball down the right flank with some space for an attack. He fires a beautiful ball into the area -- but it just misses the head of Davies. An agonizingly near miss for the Americans.

72': Aguirre makes his second sub: Nery Castillo for Guardado.

69': Set piece for Mexico just outside the area. Castro taking the kick. It's cleared high in the air, with the U.S. taking over possession, settling and moving into attack. It looks like Aguirre is getting ready to make his second substitution.

66': The U.S. tries to organize a quick-strike attack off a Mexico turnover, but a long, probing pas from Donovan lands directly in the chest of a defender.

64': Another Mexico attack down the flanks is busted up when Onyewu intercepts a a pass.

59': During a Mexican attack, a stray ball lands at the foot of an unmarked Dos Santos, who fires a well-struck attempt on net. But Howard comes through with another save.

58': Bradley responds with some curious substitutions, dialing up Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber in place of Ching and Clark. "Benny, Hoden are great fresh legs to bring in," Freedman says. "U.S. will look to get some possession back."

55': Mexico gaffer Javier Aguirre makes his first substitution, inserting 20-year-old Carlos Vela (of Arsenal) in place of Blanco. Notes Freedman: "Vela spells trouble and is more of a threat than Blanco. One more athletic stud to deal with."

54': The sides trade possession a couple of times, with neither team creating much. Slower pace from both sides, likely a result of the altitude

51': The corner directs toward the penalty spot, where a half-marked Guillermo Franco drives a left-footed volley toward the goal. Too hard, though, as the ball sails high over the frame.

50': A string of three vertical passes gives Mexico an opportunity, but Bocanegra charges through to break up the last leg of the attack. Here's a corner kick for Mexico.

48': Here's a steady and patient build-up for the United States. But a clumsy giveaway by Bocanegra returns possession to Mexico, who move into the attack.

46': We're under way in the second half, looking forward to a more open 45 minutes with both squads already on the board. One key plotline for the Americans: When does Bob Bradley go to the bench for Jozy Altidore, the teenage striker who's been so effective during World Cup qualifying so far?

HALFTIME: There's the halftime whistle and the United States and Mexico are level at one goal apiece through 45 minutes. An inspiring opening for the Americans -- capped by a ninth-minute strike from Charlie Davies -- was forgotten when Mexico's Israel Castro fired home a dramatic equalizer at the 19-minute mark. (It was Castro's first goal in 20 international appearances.) From there, the hosts dominated the possession, but only managed six shots on goal to the USMNT's four.

45': A late tackle from Bocanegra leads to another yellow card -- the third for a U.S. defender in this half after Onyewu (27') and DeMerit (28'). Kind of a softie, sure, but business as usual at Azteca.

44': Two minutes of extra time.

42': The Mexicans continue to dominate possession, leaving very slim windows of opportunity for the Americans to mount an offensive. Halftime can't come soon enough.

41': Now it's the United States with a corner kick -- but Ching fouls Osorio and returns possession to Mexico. "Some gamesmanship by Landon in taking his time to get to that corner. Fans love to hate him."

40': ...but the delivery to the outside of the box overshoots Guardado, who misses the mark on a bicycle kick. Davies scoops up the loose ball and looks to attack but Mexico is quick to neutralize.

39': Mexico wins another corner...

38': A curious foul call against Ching -- didn't seem like much contact on a 50-50 ball -- subverts an American attack. Mexico quickly moves into transition.

36': Mexico looking more and more confident in attack. They're dominating the possession. You wonder about the cumulative toll on the U.S. side as this game moves into the later stages.

35': Donovan takes the free kick, an offering near the far left post, but it connects with no one -- though Onyewu was close.

34': Donovan wins a foul -- easier said than done in Azteca Stadium -- off a clattering Guardado tackle. The U.S. has a free kick from about 28 yards. Yellow card for the Mexican midfielder.

32': Mexico, emboldened, on the attack. But Blanco's misdirected pass into the box lands right at DeMerit's chest and the Amerian center back clears it.

28': Another booking: This time it's DeMerit. And it gives Mexico a free kick in a dangerous spot just on edge of the penalty area. Blanco's shot hits Howard directly in the gloves, who repels it into the area before it's cleared. "Two yellows in two minutes to both center backs. Not good. Momentum is quickly turning Mexico's way," Freedman says, "and the crowd can feel it."

27': Onyewu picks up a yellow card with a smart foul near midfield. He'll be missing the USMNT's next qualifier against El Salvador on Sept. 5 in Salt Lake City.

26': One of the primary reasons Mexico has enjoyed such an advantage at Azteca Stadium is its familiarity with the altitude -- 7,200 feet -- and the the smog-choked environment.

23': The U.S. nearly gives up a second goal in four minutes when Dos Santos receives a pass and threads it past Howard to the goalkeeper's left -- but the shot travels just feet wide.

21': A disappointing concession, to be sure, but the U.S. cannot afford to hang their heads in this high-pressure environment. Remember, Mexico enters today's game with its World Cup qualification prospects in serious jeopardy: They need these three points desparately. Says Freedman: "Unlikely hero in Israel Castro just brough this crowd back to life. Sounded like a bomb exploding."

19': GOAL, Mexico! Defensive midfielder Israel Castro equalizes for El Tri, receiving a pass, taking a quick first touch and firing a perfect shot over Howard. The ball strikes the crossbar but caroms downward just over the line -- and the Mexicans are back on level terms with the USMNT.

18': Miscommunication among the Mexican teammates during an attack leads to a turnover in the last third. The restless crowd lets them hear it.

16': Demerit commits a foul and gives Mexico a set piece from 40 yards. Three-man wall for the United States. Blanco fires the ball to the top of the box where a teammate runs and pings it straight back. An oncoming Blanco fires a shot on net but it's directly at Howard, who scoops it up and kicks it downfield.

15': Mexico wins a corner but can't make much out of it. The United States clears it.

13': The teams continue to exchange possession. "This crowd is stunned," Freedman texts. "As much as you can silence 105,000, Charlie Davies just did it."

11': Texts Freedman: "Delicious finish. U.S. has some breathing room, and early lead and now no reason for early jitters."

9': GOAL, United States! It's Charlie Davies, the Boston College product, who receives a beautiful through ball from Donovan, runs 10 yards and slots home a shot past Ochoa. Davies is just the fourth American player to score at Azteca Stadium. The USMNT has never won in Mexico City -- including an 0-18-1 mark in this building -- and so many of those setbacks have marked by early Mexico goals. That the Americans have managed to flip the script is a promising sign.

8': The corner sails to the back post and finds Onyewu's head, but the defender can't direct it toward the net. Mexico ends the threat with a long clearance.

7': Corner kick won for the U.S. An early opportunity here.

5': The teams continue to exchange possession in the early going, with Mexico attacking mostly down the sidelines. A bit of a sloppy opening from both sides.

4': Off a Mexican corner, Blanco dribbles along the end line and dumps the ball into the center of the box, but Onyewu rumbles in to interrupt the attack.

2': Guardado rifles the first shot on the match, a worm-burner from about 25 yards out which Howard scoops up.

4:03 p.m. ET: And we're underway. The USMNT in white shirts and navy trunks, attacking right to left on your screen. Mexico in green shirts, white shorts and red socks.

4:01 p.m. ET:'s Grant Wahl is also in Mexico City for today's match. Follow him on Twitter Latest observation: "Pocket of couple hundred USA fans in upper corner of stadium surrounded by gun-toting security guards."

3:55 p.m. ET: Just five minutes until kickoff. Another e-mail from Azteca: "The entire stadium just booed Donovan twice as loud as everyone else in the lineup when they were announced."

3:49 p.m. ET: Some observations from's Jonah Freedman, who's down at Azteca Stadium:

"The crowd is ridiculously fired up. We rode in a police-escorted motorcade with the team and saw more extended middle fingers than all my years of middle school."

"Place is already packed. Booed like crazy when the U.S. came out for warm-ups. Am shocked that Blanco is starting. Leadership is one thing, but he's the oldest guy on the team."

3:40 p.m. ET: We're about 20 minutes kickoff of today's 2010 World Cup qualifier between the United States and Mexico.

One minor surprise on the teamsheet of United States coach Bob Bradley, with Brian Ching getting the nod up top alongside Charlie Davies instead of 19-year-old Jozy Altidore.

The Americans will employ a 4-4-2 formation with Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Carlos Bocanegra (wearing the captain's armband), Clint Dempsey, Ricardo Clark, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, Davies and Ching.

Mexico's coach Javier Aguirre has named Francisco Guillermo Ochoa, Johnny Magallon, Carlos Salcido, Ricardo Osorio, Gerardo Torrado, Israel Castro, Guillermo Franco, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Efrain Juarez, Andres Guardado and Giovani Dos Santos for El Tri.

Follow Sports Illustrated on Twitter (@SI_24Seven) and join in the discussion by including the hashtag #USMNT in your tweets.

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