Estadio Azteca has been a house of horrors for the U.S. men's national team, but amid all of the dropped points and close calls have been some sensational moments.
Estadio Azteca has been a house of horrors for the U.S. men's national team (O.K., it's been a house of horrors for just about every visiting nation), but amid all of the dropped points and close calls have been some sensational moments.
The USMNT's 1-1 draw on Sunday night provided one of them, with Michael Bradley's early goal setting the tone and allowing the Americans to earn just a third World Cup qualifying point all-time at the storied Mexico City venue at altitude, where the U.S. is now 1-8-3.
Here's a closer look at the USA's best moments at Azteca:
Michael Bradley's wonderlob from 40 yards
What. A. Goal. With Geoff Cameron and Bradley pressuring the Mexico midfield Sunday night, the U.S. forced Javier "Chicharito" into a turnover, which Bradley then turned into one of the greatest U.S. men's national team goals ever. Bradley caught goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa way off his line, took a touch into space, and, in stride, sent a perfect, curling lob into the thin Mexico City air, stunning El Tri in the sixth minute.
Michael Orozco breaks the glass ceiling in 2012
Of all teams to break the Azteca curse, this figured to be the least likely, and of all players to deliver the winning strike, Michael Orozco most certainly was the least likely. What was Orozco doing in the attacking third in the last 10 minutes of a friendly from which the USA was probably content to walk away with a 0-0 draw? That turned out to be of little concern, as the defender-turned-poacher was in the right spot to bundle home Terrence Boyd's back-heel pass off Brek Shea's cross from the left. Did you peg that trio as the one to give the USA its first (and so far only) win at Azteca? Didn't think so.
Charlie Davies' World Cup qualifying stunner
The USA went on to lose this August 2009 World Cup qualifier 2-1, but Davies's ninth-minute run and goal were so clinical and, at the time, so stunning that it made you wonder about the possibilities for the U.S. attack heading into the 2010 World Cup with such a confident, capable striker emerging on such a stage. Of course, everyone knows what happened after. Davies was involved in a tragic and fatal car accident the day before a qualifier in Washington, D.C., and, after a remarkable recovery and comeback to playing, his career took a detour.
The play was as simple as it was exquisite: Bradley set up Landon Donovan, who delivered an incisive throughball to Davies. He put on the afterburners before curling in the opener and celebrating at the corner flag. How unexpected was it? Mexico's home TV broadcast was airing a promo for English-language SAP during the entire sequence.
10-man USMNT earns its first Azteca point
In 1997, the odds were stacked against the USA in many ways. Kasey Keller, Tab Ramos and Earnie Stewart were all out injured, while Jeff Agoos was sent off in the 32nd minute. Typically, that's not a recipe for success in Mexico City.
Yet with Brad Friedel in goal, the U.S. withstood a number of very close Mexico attempts (like, many, Mighty Ducks-style, "a quarter of an inch" away from scoring chances), held firm, even hit the post via Thomas Dooley and laid the foundation for the belief that, yes, it is possible to earn qualifying points in the most daunting of enemy territories. That much was clear Sunday night.