The USMNT went down to Estadio Azteca on Sunday night and picked up a wonderful 1-1 result at the raucous, aggressive stadium against Mexico in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup. Playing a deep-sitting 5-4-1 formation that focused on closing central space and conceding, they suffocated Mexico’s chances despite giving up the ball almost completely.
Their crucial goal came early, when Michael Bradley incredibly chipped Guillermo Ochoa in the 6th-minute. Watch this beauty:
— Major League Soccer (@MLS) June 12, 2017
They were able to pick up some half-chances in the time after that, but nothing that would seriously challenge Ochoa. They were, as was intended from the beginning, ready to bunker their way to a result. The 5-4-1 Arena employed — with a backline of DeAndre Yedlin, Geoff Cameron, Tim Ream, Omar Gonzalez, and DaMarcus Beasley — was tight, compact, and didn’t allow Mexico much space to run, with the help of Bradley and Kellyn Acosta sitting deep ahead of them.
Mexico were able to get out and run in the 23rd-minute, though, and that’s when they were able to break through. After a missed chance in the box from a corner, El Tri ran a perfectly executed counter-attack, resulting in Carlos Vela beating Beasley inside and finishing a low ball past Brad Guzan. The U.S. were slow tracking back, and should have stepped faster to help Beasley.
From there, it was classic park-the-bus from the U.S., as Mexico racked up 74% of possession. Despite this, they never were able to find a winner. Cameron constantly put his foot in front of low crosses from the touchline and the USMNT were impressively able to prevent Mexico from getting good opportunities from corners, where they have excelled.
There were multiple instances where the referees made some questionable calls that went for Mexico, especially when a Mexican player put an elbow to the face of two US players in a span of five minutes early on. It could easily have been called a red card, and that was the consensus on the FOX broadcast.
Bradley hit the post on another long shot and Christian Pulisic muffed a chance near the goal, but for the most part, the US never did much near the net after the score was equalized. It was a gutsy performance, and one that goes a long way toward helping them qualify for the World Cup.