PHILADELPHIA — In Jurgen Klinsmann’s first game as US national team coach, the subs saved the day.
Fueled by the unlikely trio of MLSers Juan Agudelo, Robbie Rogers and Brek Shea — all second-half substitutes — the United States showed a tremendous amount of spunk to erase a halftime deficit and earn a hard-fought 1-1 draw with archrival Mexico on Wednesday evening in an international friendly at Lincoln Financial Field.
Since the game was only an exhibition, the result didn’t offer any kind of redemption for the Americans’ devastating 4-2 loss to Mexico in June’s CONCACAF Gold Cup final. But the US still showed a lot of heart in front of 30,138 fans, a promising sign for the beginning of the Klinsmann era.
In the 73rd minute, just moments after Agudelo was taken down in the box without the benefit of a whistle, Shea danced around the end line and squirted a cross through the Mexican defense to the wide open foot of Rogers, who tapped it in to tie the game at 1-1.
The Americans nearly found the go-ahead goal two minutes later when Landon Donovan sent José Francisco Torres free with a through pass, but Torres pulled up and his shot went a little high and wide.
Later, Rogers and Shea both struck well-placed shots, and in the 86th minute Rogers was sent free by Agudelo for a breakaway attempt but was taken down by Mexico defender Gerardo Torrado, who drew a yellow for the hard tackle.
But the US couldn’t convert on the ensuing free kick, and despite keeping the pressure on until the final whistle, had to settle for a 1-1 draw.
The Americans’ late outburst came in stark contrast to the first half, when El Tri showed the kind of strong possession and creativity that led them to the last two Gold Cup championships on American soil.
In the 17th minute, Oribe Peralta scored a beauty of a goal to put Mexico up 1-0. After a short corner, midfielder Andrés Guardado served a cross into the box that Peralta somehow found, pivoting around a sleeping Michael Bradley to kick it on net and past US goalkeeper Tim Howard.
It was just Peralta’s second goal as a member of the Mexican national team.
Both teams brought a healthy roster to Philly, but there were key weapons missing on both sides — namely Javier “Chicharito” Hernández for Mexico and Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore for the Americans. In addition, Freddy Adu, Tim Ream and DaMarcus Beasley, despite getting the call-up, did not dress for the game.
Those hoping to see immediate Klinsmann changes got their wish when the new USMNT coach started all three of the team’s Mexican-Americans: midfielder Torres and defenders Michael Orozco Fiscal and Edgar Castillo. It was just the second US appearance for both Orozco Fiscal and Castillo, who predictably had some difficulties slowing down Mexico’s creative attack, at least early on.
Klinsmann also gave a rare start to Real Salt Lake’s Kyle Beckerman, who played a full 90 minutes and was mostly productive in the center of the midfield.
Other than those few surprises, however, Klinsmann went with a core of World Cup veterans, including Howard, defenders Carlos Bocanegra — who wore the captain’s armband — and Steve Cherundolo and midfielders Bradley and Donovan.
But the US still couldn’t generate much of anything in the first half, with their best scoring chance probably coming in the sixth minute when a Donovan cross skipped just past a sliding Jermaine Jones in the box.
That all changed in the second half when Klinsmann found salvation in his bench and the Americans earned a solid, if not spectacular, result.
MEX – Oribe Peralta (Andrés Guardado) 17
USA – Robbie Rogers (Brek Shea) 73
MEX – Efraín Juárez (caution) 42nd minute
MEX – Rafa Márquez (caution) 67
MEX – Gerardo Torrado (caution) 86
United States -- Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Michael Orozco Fiscal, Carlos Bocanegra (capt.), Edgar Castillo; Kyle Beckerman, Michael Bradley (Robbie Rogers, 72), Jermaine Jones (Brek Shea, 60), Landon Donovan, José Torres (Ricardo Clark, 84); Edson Buddle (Juan Agudelo, 60)
Substitutes not used: Bill Hamid, Zach Loyd, Heath Pearce
Mexico -- Guillermo Ochoa, Efraín Juárez (Paul Aguilar, 75), Rafa Márquez (capt.) (Francisco Javier Rodríguez, 69), Háctor Moreno, Carlos Salcido; Pablo Barrera (Christian Bermúdez, 72), Gerardo Torrado, Antonio Naelson (Giovani dos Santos, 55), Israel Castro, Andrés Guardado; Oribe Peralta (Omar Arellano, 62)
Substitutes not used: Javier Aquino, Alfredo Talavera, Jesús Zavala, Jorge Torres Nilo
Referee: Raymond Bogle
Assistant Referees: Ricardo Antonio Morgan, Dion Neil
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Weather: Clear and warm, 80 degrees