A Tale Of Two Halves: Three Thoughts on the USA's 2-2 draw with Mexico
GLENDALE, Ariz. — After the USA jumped out to that familiar 2-0 scoreline in a dominating first half against rival Mexico at University of Phoenix Stadium, El Tri bounced back with a 2-0 half of its own, and the CONCACAF powers settled for a 2-2 draw that yielded some pros and cons for both sides.
Here are three thoughts on the USA's friendly draw with El Tri:
• The U.S. has to be disappointed with its defense after losing a two-goal lead
After a terrific first half in which Michael Bradley led a tour-de-force U.S. performance, the Americans let down their guard in the second half as an improved Mexico got back in the game and earned a deserved tie. The big concern for U.S. fans will be the play of center back Omar González, who was unable to fight through a pick and lost his man on Mexico’s first goal and got caught ball-watching on El Tri’s second.
Whether Gonzalez’s tough night will cause Jurgen Klinsmann to consider alternatives in the starting lineup (Geoff Cameron? Clarence Goodson?) remains to be seen, but there’s no doubt that his partner Matt Besler has become the rock of the U.S. back line. As for this game, it sure looked like Eddie Johnson was judged offside unfairly on his late goal that would have given the U.S. a 3-2 lead.
• The presence of Michael Bradley makes a huge difference
For the past two years, the U.S. has struggled when Bradley hasn’t been on the field and been a different team when he is on the field. After missing last month’s unsightly 2-0 loss to Ukraine, Bradley returned against Mexico and was a man possessed in the first half, scoring once off a corner, assisting Chris Wondolowski on the U.S.’s second goal and covering acres of ground overall.
One key was the work of Kyle Beckerman, whose presence in the defensive midfield gave Bradley the freedom to wreak havoc. Bradley’s presence wasn’t as big in the second half, however, as Mexico attacked from wide positions more often and bypassed him. But this much is true: The U.S. needs Bradley on the field, and he has to stay healthy through the World Cup.
• Julian Green made his debut and can move forward from here
Heading into the game, the biggest storyline was the debut of Green, the 18-year-old winger for Bayern Munich who recently decided to play for the U.S. instead of Germany. Klinsmann opted not to start Green and brought him on instead midway through the second half. In his relatively short stint, Green looked like … an 18-year-old who has played just three minutes for Bayern’s first team this season.
He was useful on a couple moves down the left side, earning a corner kick with Clint Dempsey, but Green also lost the ball that eventually led to Mexico’s equalizer at 2-2 and could have done more to keep tracking back. It’s way too early to base any significant judgments on Green, but at least he got the pressure of his debut out of the way.