The US national team walked into the belly of the beast, and walked out with a point. Again.
Sporting an unexpected 5-4-1/3-4-3 formation with seven changes from the lineup that beat Trinidad & Tobago in Colorado on Thursday, the Yanks gritted out a draw vs. Mexico at Estadio Azteca on Sunday night. It marks the second straight World Cup qualifying cycle in which the US have earned such a result, and constitutes another step forward in coach Bruce Arena's mission to qualify for the 2018 World Cup.
But Carlos Vela struck back for the home side not long after, running at DaMarcus Beasley, then cutting inside from the right flank and beating Brad Guzan with a daisy-cutter with his preferred left foot.
The rest of the game unfolded in familiar fashion, Mexico dominating possession and the USMNT defending bravely. Though both Hector Herrera and Bradley clanged the woodwork from long range in the second half, neither side could break the deadlock and settled for a result that helps both teams in the Hexagonal standings.
- 6' – USA – Michael Bradley Watch
- 23' – USA – Carlos Vela
- WILY BRUCE: With a short turnaround time from Thursday and the taxing effects of high altitude in the mix, changes were always coming to the US lineup. But seven new faces, and in an entirely new formation? That took guts from Arena. The size and strength of center backs Omar Gonzalez, Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream fortified the US backline, while DeAndre Yedlin and Beasley did the hard running required out wide. Mexico had plenty of the ball, but the Yanks were organized and efficient, and it worked.
- BESA EL PALO: It's a very different story if either of the aforementioned strikes fly a few inches closer to the target. Herrera's set-piece effort was hit with particular venom, arrowing past a diving Guzan but missing the top right corner of the net by a tiny margin. The US committed too many fouls in their own defensive third and it led to some dangerous looks for El Tri – though to be fair, Gonzalez could, and perhaps should, have scored on two open headers in the first half.
- ALL'S WELL: After so many decades of heartbreak at the hulking venue, the US can be proud to have taken a victory and two draws from their last three visits to Azteca. But Mexico might not be too bothered by this one. After all, they now jet off to Russia to take part in the Confederations Cup, and remain the runaway Hex leaders, with little fear of stumbling on the road to the World Cup as they did so badly in the 2014 cycle.
- MEX: Sunday, Jun. 18 – vs. Portugal – Confederations Cup (11 am ET)
- USA: Saturday, July 1 – vs. Ghana (4:45 pm ET | ESPN, UniMás, UDN)