Michael Bradley scored in spectacular fashion and Carlos Vela equalized on a well-worked counterattack as the United States and Mexico finished 1–1 at Estadio Azteca in Sunday night World Cup 2018 qualifier.
The result gives the United States a huge point on the road in the CONCACAF hexagonal, the regional competition to determine who will head to Russia for next year's World Cup. The United States now sits in third, which would result in automatic qualification for the World Cup if qualification ended today.
While both goals were scored in the opening 30 minutes, the second half started with a bit more cautious approach from both sides. Still, Hector Herrera had El Tri's first big moment of the second stanza when he hit the post with an exquisitely-curled freekick:
Which was then followed in short order by yet another post hit, this time via a long-range blast from Michael Bradley:
Mexico was forced into a first-half change as Oswaldo Alanis came out with an injury, then replaced by Jesus Gallardo. DaMarcus Beasley was also hobbled for the U.S. in this same period of time, while Mexico had yet another injury to deal with (though Fabian stayed in the game, only to be subbed shortly into the second half):
Vela's goal came after several U.S. chances at Mexico's end, with goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa restarting the Mexico attack early after one such chance. After the ball eventually found its way to vela, the forward worked inside against DaMarcus Beasley and fired a low shot past Brad Guzan to send the Azteca into hysterics:
Michael Bradley put the U.S. up 1–0 in stunning fashion earlier in the half, chipping Ochoa from 40 yards out to give the Americans a shocking early lead against El Tri.
Mexico, coming off a big win over Honduras and sitting on top of the CONCACAF Hexagonal coming into the game, fell behind after Bradley pounced on a loose ball in midfield and spotted Ochoa off his line. The rest was accomplished with a pinpoint-perfect chip on the run.
Off the field before the game, it was an interesting entrance for the U.S. fans watching at Azteca, complete with a police escort:
U.S. coach Bruce Arena elected field a side full of surprises for the crucial clash. Brad Guzan was the surprise starter in goal, and he was just one of seven (yes, seven!) changes to the starting XI that knocked off Trinidad and Tobago in the previous qualifier.
U.S. starters: Brad Guzan; Tim Ream, Geoff Cameron, Omar Gonzalez; DaMarcus Beasley, Michael Bradley, Kellyn Acosta, Paul Arriola; DeAndreYedlin, Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood.
Mexico starters: Guillermo Ochoa, Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Hector Moreno, Oswaldo Alanis, Hector Herrera, Jonathan Dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Carlos Vela, Chicharito, Hirving Lozano.
Here are the full rosters for both teams:
GOALKEEPERS: Brad Guzan (Atlanta United FC), Ethan Horvath (Club Brugge), Tim Howard (Colorado Rapids), Nick Rimando (Real Salt Lake)
DEFENDERS: DaMarcus Beasley (Houston Dynamo), Matt Besler (Sporting Kansas City), John Brooks (Wolfsburg), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Omar Gonzalez (Pachuca), Matt Hedges (FC Dallas), Tim Ream (Fulham), Jorge Villafaña (Santos Laguna), DeAndre Yedlin (Newcastle United), Graham Zusi (Sporting Kansas City)
MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas), Paul Arriola (Club Tijuana), Alejandro Bedoya (Philadelphia Union), Michael Bradley (Toronto FC), Fabian Johnson (Borussia Mönchengladbach), Dax McCarty (Chicago Fire), Darlington Nagbe (Portland Timbers), Christian Pulisic (Borussia Dortmund)
FORWARDS: Jozy Altidore (Toronto FC), Clint Dempsey (Seattle Sounders FC), Jordan Morris (Seattle Sounders FC), Bobby Wood (Hamburg)
GOALKEEPERS: Rodolfo Cota (Guadalajara), Guillermo Ochoa (Granada), Alfredo Talavera (Toluca)
DEFENDERS: Oswaldo Alanís (Guadalajara), Jesús Dueñas (Tigres), Héctor Moreno (PSV Eindhoven), Diego Reyes (Espanyol), Luis Reyes (Atlas), Carlos Salcedo (Fiorentina)
MIDFIELDERS: Javier Aquino (Tigres), Jonathan Dos Santos (Villarreal), Marco Fabián (Eintracht Frankfurt), Jesùs Gallardo (Pumas UNAM), Héctor Herrera (Porto), Jesús Molina (Monterrey), Orbelín Pineda (Guadalajara)
FORWARDS: Jesús Manuel Corona (Porto),Giovani dos Santos (LA Galaxy) Javier Hernández (Bayer Leverkusen), Raúl Jiménez (Benfica), Hirving Lozano (Pachuca), Oribe Peralta (América), Carlos Vela (Real Sociedad)