What we learned
Teens have coming-out party in 2-2 tie with Mexico
Posted: Thursday February 7, 2008 1:20AM; Updated: Thursday February 7, 2008 1:20AM
Five things we learned from a thoroughly entertaining 2-2 tie between the U.S. and Mexico in Houston on Wednesday night:
1. The next generation has arrived.
This game will be remembered as the coming-out party for a host of tantalizing teens in North America's greatest international sports rivalry. Jozy Altidore, the U.S.' rising 18-year-old phenom, scored on a picture-perfect header in just his third appearance with the national team (and his first against archrival Mexico). Altidore never looked out of place going the entire 90 minutes -- and he clearly earned the respect of Mexican star defender Rafa Márquez -- but Altidore wasn't the only teenager who impressed. Mexico's Carlos Vela, 18, was a terror down the left flank, and Gio Dos Santos, the 18-year-old Barcelona starlet, was dangerous in all-too-limited time as a second-half sub. For his part, 18-year-old Freddy Adu made less of a mark as a second-half sub, but his elusive injury-time run did earn a last-ditch free kick for the Yanks.
2. The Mexican mentality changed -- for one night, at least.
For years El Tri's own fans have ripped their team for its defeatist mentality, which for some reason regularly appears against the U.S. but rarely against European or South American powerhouses. That all changed on Wednesday, when Mexico twice came back from one-goal deficits to earn a result. Give credit to coach Hugo Sánchez, but also to his players, none more so than veteran Pavel Pardo, who had a magnificent performance in the midfield. Mexico didn't play afraid against the U.S. this time around, which could bring dividends for El Tri the next time the two teams meet in the U.S. during World Cup qualifying.
3. Oguchi Onyewu needed to right the ship -- and he did.
It may have been a World Cup hangover in 2007, but the man they call Gooch took a step backward last year with the national team after showing tremendous potential in 2005 and '06. On Wednesday night Onyewu was pure class, taking care of business on the defensive end and scoring the U.S.' first goal on a smart play. After his long throw-in from the left sideline appeared to be cleared harmlessly to the opposite side, Onyewu could have ball-watched. Instead he charged into the box, where he headed Landon Donovan's exquisite lob into the goal off the right post.
4. Tim Howard needs to fix his communication problems.
I know the 70,000-plus crowd was loud, but the U.S. keeper's hard collision with Carlos Bocanegra could have been prevented had Howard been more vocal in announcing that he was coming off his line. What's more, the chronic miscommunication between Howard and his wall (particularly Altidore) was mysterious to say the least. Wasn't this something they should have worked on in practice?