Howard, Cameron lead American difference makers against Mexico
Tim Howard made key late saves in the 1-0 win, another landmark in his career
Geoff Cameron rose to the occasion when asked to anchor a makeshift back line
Michael Orozco Fiscal will stay on Jurgen Klinsmann's radar after his historic goal
|Final :: Mexico City|
Orozco Fiscal 80'
The U.S. men's national team turned in a result of historic proportions Wednesday night, winning on Mexican soil for the first time in 25 matches and gaining a wave of momentum heading into next month's World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica. Yes, it was just a friendly, and yes, both teams were missing players from making this a true A-team vs. A-team battle, but breaking ground by doing something that had never been done before is a massive boost for Jurgen Klinsmann and his growing roster of trustworthy player selections, who now have the reference point of The Time They Won at the Famed Estadio Azteca. Here are U.S. player ratings from the match (based on a scale from 0-10):
GK, Tim Howard, 8 - What more can you say about the U.S. No. 1 goalkeeper? He wasn't called into action all that often in the first half, but he commanded his area and came up with two lead-preserving saves down the stretch to rob Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez from pulling even. On the first stop, Howard was wrongfooted after a deflection redirected Chicharito's shot to his left, and he managed to stuff it. On the second, he denied a point-blank header. Playing with a completely fresh and untested back line unit in front of him, Howard displayed why he was given the captain's armband in Carlos Bocanegra's absence, offering encouragement and organization from his place in between the posts and offsetting any inconsistency in his distribution and then some. Another landmark night in Howard's storied U.S. career.
D, Fabian Johnson, 7 - What Johnson provides going forward on the left he was unable to do on the right, but he held his own against the dangerous Andres Guardado and displayed his versatility while playing a bit out of position. His biggest moment came midway through the second half, when he stepped centrally at the last second to cut out a give-and-go that would have given Chicharito a wide-open look from close range and likely would have resulted in a go-ahead goal. He shifted back to the left when Michael Orozco Fiscal replaced Edgar Castillo, and despite being the left back of the present and future, he managed to increase his value to the U.S. by showing that he can provide quality at either fullback position.
D, Geoff Cameron, 8.5 - Cameron was tasked with being the anchor on a makeshift back line, and he absolutely rose to the occasion. The fact that he was able to do so after a whirlwind month in which he has not played much and was in transfer limbo before finally sealing his move to Stoke City made his 90-minute performance that much more impressive. He was incredibly sharp and answered the bell in shutting down Chicharito until Aldo de Nigris came on as a second striker and stretched the U.S. back line a bit in the final minutes. He used his height advantage over Chicharito to dominate the aerial battle between the two and was an enforcer on crosses into the area. Not a bad way to enter his first foray into the Premier League.
D, Maurice Edu, 7 - Playing center back for the first time since a friendly almost two years ago, Edu overcame a shaky start in which he picked up an early yellow card and looked a bit flustered to improve as the game wore on. He wound up forming a stout partnership with Cameron -- one that gives Klinsmann something to think about going forward and helps relieve the central midfield congestion from a personnel standpoint. Edu came up big to clear away the parried ball after Howard's second stop on Chicharito and increased his worth after a number of so-so showings in recent U.S. matches. Now if he can only land a deal with a new club before the European seasons fully get underway.
D, Edgar Castillo, 6 - To Castillo's credit, he never got caught forward to leave his area on the field exposed (something he has been guilty of in the past) and worked well as part of back line that proved to be more cohesive than most would have imagined. When Mexico brought on Elias Hernandez, Castillo struggled in the one-on-one matchup, often conceding far too much space for Hernandez to cross into dangerous spots. Of the four defenders, Castillo was the weakest link, but it took Mexico far too long to single him out, and he had cover behind him in the form of Cameron and Edu. Not a bad night, but he is still unquestionably behind Johnson in the pecking order at the position when the U.S. is at full strength.
M, Danny Williams, 4.5 - Let's say it together again: Danny Williams is not a right winger. At no fault of his own, Williams, who is more accustomed to the holding midfield role he plays at Hoffenheim, was deputized on the right wing and was a dead end for any U.S. attacks that came his way. His hesitancy to take on defenders meant any balls worked down that side would lead to little or nothing, and his unfamiliarity at the position showed with his spacing and runs forward. He tracked back well to help clog the midfield from a defensive standpoint, and his biggest contribution came off a quickly taken throw in, one that caught Mexico off guard and nearly led to a U.S. goal early in the second half. Once he is given a chance to play centrally, he will be able to be fairly judged as an international-caliber player.
M, Jermaine Jones, 4.5 - Jones sometimes displays careless physicality, and that happened a few times Wednesday. He conceded an early free kick from a dangerous spot that ultimately did not lead to a good chance, and he earned his obligatory yellow card midway through the second half with a vicious stomp on Jesus Zavala that could have been interpreted as something more harsh. When the U.S. was trying to work the ball up the field with short passes, Jones was often guilty of being unable to maintain the continuity. He covered space and helped make sure that Mexico did not generate serious chances through the center, but he was far from at his best.
M, Kyle Beckerman, 7 - As the gatekeeper shielding the back line, Beckerman had himself a very successful evening. Aside from unnecessarily conceding an unforced corner in the first half, Beckerman covered his ground, distributed well and nearly chipped Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa from distance for what would have been a stunning go-ahead goal midway through the second half. Beckerman is often criticized for not being fast enough or up to speed with the international game, but his effort in frustrating Angel Reyna was vital to the Americans' defensive showing, and his well-weighted ball out left sprung Brek Shea for the sequence that led to the U.S. goal.
M, Jose Francisco Torres, 4 - The one major disappointment on the night for the U.S. was Torres, who was invisible going forward and could never find the ball to facilitate anything that resembled an attack in the 45 minutes he played. Torres had a couple of nice defensive trackbacks, but with three other defensive midfielders behind him, that's not where he was needed the most. That Torres is an attacking, creative midfielder is a misnomer, but as a technically sound player with the ball at his foot, his calmness and presence on the ball were missed while Mexico was busy dominating possession.
F, Herculez Gomez, 5.5 - Gomez put in his usual hard work to see the ball and hold it up, and he looked to have drawn an early penalty after having his shirt tugged in the area. He was able to send in one dangerous cross to the far post that Williams was unable to run onto, and he'll want his tight-angled volley early in the second half back when the reviewed game film shows what he couldn't see with his head down: That Terrence Boyd was wide open in the area had he just put in a simple cross. Regardless, Gomez had a decent evening considering he had little with which to work.
F, Landon Donovan, 5 - If this team were to go into Mexico and win, one would have figured that Donovan would have had plenty to do with it, considering he was one of three players on the U.S. roster with experience playing at Azteca; however, the L.A. Galaxy captain was rather quiet and exited at halftime with reported tightness in his hamstring. On his one big chance going forward, Donovan opted to play it wide right to Williams instead of having a clean look from 30 yards with space, and he compounded that with a couple of careless giveaways in the U.S. half and a hard challenge from behind that yielded a dangerous free kick. It was far from the best we've seen from Donovan, but with the U.S. having so little possession in the first half, and even less in the Mexico half of the field, his chances to do something special were limited.
D, Michael Orozco Fiscal, 7 - Of all the teams to knock off Mexico at Azteca, this one was the most unlikely one. And of all the players on the U.S. roster to score the game-winning goal, Orozco Fiscal had to have been the most unlikely candidate. The San Luis defender was brought on to help get a tiring Castillo off the field, but his biggest contribution came by popping up at the right place in the right time to touch home Terrence Boyd's flick, which he did confidently. When the U.S. is at full strength, Orozco Fiscal might not have himself a place on the roster, but he made sure he'll stay on the radar with his goal that will go down in U.S.-Mexico lore.
M, Brek Shea, 7.5 - For all that has been said about Shea not deserving this call-up based on his recent form and tantrum in Dallas, the left winger proved his doubters wrong with a difference-making performance off the bench. His touch, dribble, nutmeg of Severo Meza and cross into the area set up a historic goal for the Americans, and he presented Mexican defenders with a challenge at defending one-v-one, something that they hardly had to do all night. It was the second game against Mexico in as many Augusts that Shea's cross from the left led to a U.S. goal, and it is something that Shea can certainly build on as he continues to turn his otherwise disappointing MLS season around.
F, Terrence Boyd, 6 - It took Boyd a while to find the action, but his creativity and wherewithal to back-heel flick Shea's cross and keep the ball alive in the area were paramount in Orozco Fiscal getting the chance to tuck home the winner. Had Gomez found a streaking Boyd in the area earlier on in the second half, perhaps he would have scored himself, but as a young, relatively inexperienced player to go into a place like Azteca and play with the confidence that Boyd showed is a great harbinger for his international career.
M, DaMarcus Beasley, 5 - Beasley was brought on to spark the attack down the left flank, something that he ultimately did not end up doing. His biggest contributions came late in the game, when he used his veteran savvy to help kill some clock and maintain possession -- a rarity for the U.S. on the night -- in the Mexican half of the field. For Beasley, the game marked his 97th in a U.S. jersey, inching him ever-so close to that hallowed 100-cap club.
M, Graham Zusi, 5 - The Sporting Kansas City playmaker came on for Williams to provide more of an attacking aspect to the right side, and while the Americans' inability to put together a cohesive, rhythmic attack prevented him from coming through in the run of play, he offered another outlet that Williams did not. His clearance of Mexico's final wave of attack helped seal the victory.
M, Joe Corona, N/A - Corona came on as a time-killing substitute late and did not have a chance to make an impact. Still, after seeing Mexico's gold-medal Olympic team parade around at halftime, it must have given Corona, one of four members of the U.S. U-23 side that failed to qualify for London, a sense of satisfaction to walk off the field a winner.