US Player Ratings: Defense gets it done at the Azteca

It was another historic result for the US national team under Jurgen Klinsmann, who successfully reduced the frequency and severity of Mexico chances at Azteca until a host of substitutes were able to stick the late dagger.

Despite all the excitement from a first-ever win south of the border, the victors did have some issues in dealing with the unusually sloppy hosts.

In the end, though, some late magic from Tim Howard and a solid showing from the green gatekeeper trio of Kyle Beckerman, Geoff Cameron and Maurice Edu provided the foundation for a "friendly" to remember.

FULL LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE

As a periodic reminder, marks are based on a scale with "6" being average and all grades are relative to the number of minutes played (i.e., a 90-minute "7" is more impressive than a 15-minute "7").

Tim Howard (8) - When the US scored with about 10 minutes left, you just knew a big save would be needed to preserve victory. Howard provided two, including a highlight-reel job near time.

Fabian Johnson (6) - Stationed at right back, the Hoffenheim man didn't have much to do all night. Mexico almost entirely stayed away from his side and his path forward was essentially blocked by having club teammate Daniel Williams up his flank.

Maurice Edu (6) - There were some shaky moments in the opening half-hour, including a yellow card and one miserable clearance attempt. After that, Edu settled in well enough to make a handful of plays. It must be said, though, that both center backs were aided on the night by facing a team intent on choosing the "half-court" offense over lightning breakouts.

Geoff Cameron (7) - Until the waning moments, the fresh Stoke City catch hardly put a wrong foot on the ground and was monstrous in the air. The grade came down late when his giveaway in the box teed up Javier "Chicharito" Hernández and he subsequently lost the wasteful striker, forcing Howard into the game's biggest save.

Edgar Castillo (6) - Though a few danger crosses got out of his corner, the Tijuana regular did have an abnormally heavy workload with El Tri coming at him time and again. Castillo was largely tidy with the ball and strong in recovery plays that repeatedly stalled the hosts.

Kyle Beckerman (7) - Until his incisive pass put Shea in excellent position to facilitate the winning goal, the Real Salt Lake captain pretty well played back line guardian by the book.

Jermaine Jones (5.5) - The two-way midfielder definitely was stronger after the break, even with a couple bad turnovers. In the first half, Jones was constantly frustrated (and frustrating) when trying to help the ball forward.

Daniel Williams (5) - Once again sorely miscast as a right-sider, the youngster understandably looked clueless in attack. The defensive work was decent enough on the rare occasions that Mexico tested his wing.

Landon Donovan (6) - Frustrated by an inability to find suitable passing targets, the LA Galaxy star kept trying to somehow urge the team forward over his 45 minutes.

Jose Francisco Torres (4.5) - He was nearly invisible for the first portion of his half of play, and then things got worse. Being that he plays there, one shouldn't expect Torres to be so easily taken off the ball against Mexican opposition.

Herculez Gomez (5.5) - The Santos Laguna forward had the away team's first good crack at goal and battled hard, but was starved for service most of the night and never really had great impact.

Coach Jurgen Klinsmann (6.5) - There may be some heat for this mark. Considering that and the achievement of the night, let's get the bad stuff out of the way first. Simply put, there are still some very curious squad and lineup choices that one cannot get away with so easily in competitive matches. For instance, playing Williams as a right midfielder essentially begs for one flank to be shut down for attack.

Still, it's impossible to rate Klinsi below average, if for no other reason than he can make a B+ squad play like it believes it can win at Azteca. Do not underestimate the effect he's having on the USMNT's mindset when they walk on the field. Beyond any particular critiques, his game plan basically worked; the team calmly soaked up pressure and found the one chance for a smash-and-grab.

Subs:

DaMarcus Beasley (7) - After being an early cog in the goal play, the veteran did al he could to help back this win into the garage safely. Not that it rates in the report card, but it was also poignant to see Beasley overcome by emotion at the final whistle after taking part in so many failed tries.

Terrence Boyd (7.5) - The Rapid Vienna front man came off the bench to offer the perfect backheel assist; any other angle and speed would not have worked. After that, Boyd kept poking at the soft spot in Mexico's defense whenever the visitors gained possession.

Graham Zusi (5) - In a short shift, a couple giveaways and a card foul in a dangerous area is enough to draw red ink.

Michael Orozco Fiscal (7.5) - In addition to popping up for a soon-to-be forever famous goal, the sub defender made a couple of important interceptions at the back.

Brek Shea (7) - In just 12 minutes, the FC Dallas man created two good chances. Shea took the path of least resistance to help set up the winner and then added a sublime cross.

Joe Corona (NR) - A mere cameo.