FRISCO, Texas – In matches against Mexico, the United States are usually on the short side of possession and attacking opportunities.
But Wednesday night at FC Dallas Stadium, head coach Caleb Porter’s side were the ones dictating possession and tempo en route to a 2-0 win in preparation for Olympic qualifying.
“Going into the game, we approached it like we were going to try to get control of the game,” Porter told reporters after the match. “There are different ways to approach the match. We could have approached it in a negative way, sit back, defend, counter, but that’s not the way we wanted to do things.
“We’ve been training to control the game with possession and obviously when we lose the ball to press at the right moments.”
And the US team did just that, putting the lessons learned on the training pitch into practice. After losing possession, each player did their part to pressure the opponent and cut off passing angles, keeping Mexico off-balance for a majority of the match.
Add slick combination passing and a keen sense of tactical awareness to a dedication to winning the ball back when they didn’t have it and Porter’s team controlled nearly every facet of the match.
“It took us a bit of time to get into the game, 10 minutes or so,” said Porter, “but once we started to circulate the ball, get a grip on the game, I thought we really started to control it.”
Attacking winger/forward Joe Gyau was a revelation for the United States, using his speed to stretch the Mexican defense and the Hoffenheim player often beat two and three defenders with the ball at his feet.
“When we put the group together and the game plan, we felt we needed some pace to threaten them,” Porter said. “We decided to have Gyau start because we knew he could get behind and stretch and threaten and he did that well with that today.”
Gyau’s elusiveness with the ball at feet set up the first goal, a near carbon copy of a move the team had pulled off in training on Tuesday. Gyau earned a corner kick and Juan Agudelo finished off Mikkel Diskerud’s cross with a well-placed header in the 35th minute.
“It was almost like a replay of the training session we had to do yesterday,” said the New York Red Bulls forward. “I knew Mix was – he’s always going to be able to play great balls to the near post – and I noticed that my defender was a little rattled.”
The US got the insurance tally just minutes later when Freddy Adu’s shot deflected off Diskerud and into the bottom corner, but Porter was quick to point out the importance of being potent on set pieces in addition his team’s positive efforts in open play.
“A great goal by Juan on the set piece," the coach said. "We were working on that as well. We were well aware that [set pieces are] going to be a strength of this team.”
WATCH: Agudelo opens the scoring with header