Mexico and Chile missed a chance to make their mark on the early history of Levi’s Stadium on Saturday night, as the two World Cup squads trudged to a 0-0 draw in front of 67,145 fans at the sparkling new $1.3 billion stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.
While the game was billed as the perfect matchup for the first-ever international soccer match at the San Francisco 49ers’ new home base in suburban San Jose, instead it was a night of mostly muddled chances and missed opportunities for both sides before they play lesser opponents elsewhere on US soil early next week.
The match was the first for Mexico and Chile since the World Cup this summer, when each team reached the Round of 16 before losing in heartbreaking fashion to the Netherlands and Brazil, respectively.
Head coach Miguel Herrera – the first Mexico boss to keep his job after the World Cup since 1998 – called 10 new players into the fold in El Tri’s first game since Brazil, including promising young MLS striker Erick “El Cubo” Torres.
But Torres – who has scored 21 goals in 40 games as a lone bright spot over the past two seasons for Chivas USA – never left the bench for Herrera, who made six other substitutions in the match. Herera told the media after the match that instead he expects to start Torres in Mexico's next match on Tuesday, when they take on Bolivia at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
Chances were few and far between for both teams in the first half, with Chile creating the best looks before the break. Striker Alexis Sanchez whistled a right-footed shot just wide of the far post from the corner of the box in the ninth minute, and Ochoa was forced to flash his exceptional World Cup form by tipping a header from Chilean forward Arturo Vidal over the bar in the 17th.
Mexico rarely threatened before the break, but forward Oriba Peralta skipped a shot wide of the post in the 22nd minute and Giovanni Dos Santos scorched a left-footed shot wide in the 35th.
The opportunities were even sparser in the second half as Herrera and Chilean manager Jorge Sampaoli began emptying their benches.
Mexico's Javier Orozco generated the best chance of the second half for either team when he turned a Chilean turnover into a right-footed blast just inside the box in the 80th minute, but Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was able to harmlessly steer the shot away.
Orozco, however, was only in the game because of bad luck for El Tri, who watched Dos Santos come up lame with a hamstring injury in the 65th minute.
Although Saturday’s game was the first-ever international soccer match played at Levi’s Stadium, the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders first christened the facility on Aug. 2. The 49ers will play their first regular season game there on Sept. 14.
While Mexico will travel to Colorado to wrap up their US stay, Chile will take on Haiti on Tuesday at Lockhart Stadium in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.