Azteca Aftermath: Winners, losers in Wednesday's shocker
Ding dong, the streak is dead.
The US national team shocked their border rivals 1-0 in Mexico City on Wednesday night, ending the long, long tradition of home dominance over the United States that the Mexican soccer establishment probably thought it could set its clock by for decades to come.
On a historic occasion like this, the scoreline tells the top story. But the result was no accident and its significance looks likely to reverberate throughout both nation's federations, the CONCACAF region as a whole and perhaps even beyond. Here’s a quick look at whose stock has risen, and who is suddenly on the hot seat after “El Aztecazo.”
Jurgen Klinsmann – Let’s start with an easy one. People talk about coaches “buying time” with big wins – under that logic, leading the USMNT to this breakthrough would mean that JK can keep the job as long as he wants. From roster selection to pregame motivation to going into this unusual friendly with a winning mentality in the first place, the jovial German played almost all of his cards right. Now if he can just sort out that right midfield position…
FC Dallas – Even before they earned a huge 2-0 road win in Vancouver, it was already a great Wednesday for Schellas Hyndman’s resurgent team. That’s because winger Brek Shea played the difference-maker for the US, coming off the bench to set up Michael Orozco Fiscal’s winner, totally justifying Klinsmann’s faith in him amid a turbulent year and giving Shea himself a boost that he can take back to Frisco.
Liga MX – The Mexican national team lost, but their domestic league’s value to the USMNT was made clearer than ever last night. Tijuana left back Edgar Castillo produced one of his best displays in a US jersey, Herculez Gomez put in another strong shift up top, the previously-maligned Orozco Fiscal made an impact off the bench and the rest of the Mexican-based contingent all got on the field. The more familiar the US gets with its southern neighbors, the better-equipped it is to defeat them.
Javier Hernández – Mexico’s most prominent player on the world stage, El Chicharito had many chances to win this game for his team, but the ones he didn’t miss on his own were stymied by Tim Howard, Geoff Cameron and the rest of the brave US defense. Inevitably, that fueled speculation that he’s been shaken by the earlier news of his club, Manchester United, signing Dutch superstar Robin van Persie and potentially pushing Hernández further down the depth chart. Chicharito didn’t exactly make a case for himself against the Yanks.
Jay DeMerit – This is total speculation, but perhaps it was more than coincidence that Klinsmann released a USMNT roster with limited center back options the day after DeMerit, who’s been in fine form for the Whitecaps, was sidelined by a concussion. We’ll never know if the 2010 World Cup veteran was set to earn his first call-up in ages, and with Cameron and Maurice Edu manning the central defense so well on Wednesday, DeMerit may now have a new set of obstacles between him and an international return.
Mexico’s mystique – El Tri remains a swift, skilled, ambitious powerhouse with a tremendous generation of youth talent on the way up. They’ve beaten the USMNT many times before, and will do it again someday. But the Yanks’ hellish, awe-inducing trips of the past can now be counterbalanced by Wednesday’s triumph. The Mexican federation has ample reason to regret staging this game at the time and place that they did.