MEXICO CITY — There were already rumblings in the hours leading up to Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier between the USA and Mexico that defender Clarence Goodson, who started against Costa Rica in last Friday night's 1-0 win, could miss the match due to injury.
In his postage press conference following the 0-0 draw at the Estadio Azteca, US manager Jurgen Klinsmann lauded Goodson, who picked up a hamstring injury in snowy Dick's Sporting Goods Park. Not wanting to force the US coaching staff into an early substitution, the central defender pulled himself out of contention from a match no American player wants to miss.
"We tested him every day [leading up to Mexico-USA] and talked to the physios and he came up [on Monday] and basically after the warmups he said, 'I'm not sure if I can make the 90 minutes,'" Klinsmann explained. "So maybe, possibly, he could have played 90 minutes with no problems, but this was highly professional.
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"We appreciate Clarence's honesty and professionalism in that moment," Klinsmann continued. "That's not an easy way to say, 'I'm going to step back for the team' in a game like this here. It's huge."
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During that final practice on Monday, reigning MLS Defender of the Year Matt Besler was immediately alerted to the chance he could start as Goodson's replacement. And Besler trained alongside LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez during the session.
The next morning at the team pre-game morning meeting, the switch was made official to the rest of the squad. But Goodson was still included in the 23-man squad and warmed up along the sidelines during the match.
But Besler took full advantage of the opportunity, logging a near impeccable 90 minutes along the backline. However, it was not without its challenges, namely a 20th minute yellow card which forced Besler to take extra precaution. As if playing in the Azteca wasn't tough enough as is.
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The Sporting KC man even had a halftime discussion with Klinsmann about changing assignments on attacking set pieces in order that Besler and DaMarcus Beasley, who was also carrying a yellow, wouldn't be exposed to defend a rapid Mexican breakaway.
"We had a conversation," Besler recounted. "And Jurgen said, 'We're going to keep it the same. I trust you to play smart.' So I decided to make the adjustment … I had to play a little more safely."
"In a place like this, against Chicharito, this is a tricky situation," Klinsmann said. "But [Besler] said, 'Coach, no worries, I will be focused and nothing else will happen. I will get through it.'"