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Blanc: PSG not in best shape

PSG 2 days ago
Read
Aug 12, 2009

U.S. versus Mexico play-by-play

Play-by-play

1st minute: And we're off.

2 mins: Guardado tests Howard early, but the U.S. keeper makes a comfortable save.

3 mins: Mexico finding space on the left flank, but the U.S. is dealing with El Tri's crosses so far.

6 mins: Mexico beginning to assert themselves. Dos Santos with a mazy run that ends with a blocked shot from Blanco.

7 mins: A shocking back pass by a Mexico defender leads to a corner kick for the Yanks. Donovan serves it up, but Onyewu can't quite get a clear head on it.

9 mins: GOAL! U.S. 1-0 Mexico. A stunner for the U.S.! A great through ball by Donovan springs Davies on a clear breakaway, and the U.S. forward with an authoritative finish past Ochoa.

11 mins: I could be wrong, but I think that might be the first time the U.S. has ever led at the Azteca.

13 mins: Another cross from the left wing results in a corner for Mexico, but nothing comes of it.

15 mins: Mexico really is really trying to attack the Yanks' right flank. Blanco is constantly drifting out to that side and trying to set up Guardado.

16 mins: DeMerit concedes a foul about 35 yards from goal. A clever set piece results in a shot from Blanco, but he doesn't catch all of it, and Howard has an easy save.

17 mins: Good entry pass into the box by Guardado to Franco, but Onyewu stands tall and strips the ball away.

19 mins: GOAL Mexico 1-1 U.S. Mexico equalizes. El Tri had begun to dominate possession and Blanco fed Castro at the top of the box. No one really closes him down, and his bomb from 30 yards goes in off the underside of the bar.

21 mins: The U.S. fell into the trap of dropping too deep defensively and Mexico made them pay. The U.S. is not doing a good job of possessing the ball either.

24 mins: Dos Santos nearly makes it two, but the linesman had his flag up for offside.

25 mins: Donovan is getting little help from the referee, who is letting a lot of stuff go. But Donovan is also hanging onto the ball a little too long.

26 mins: Better buildup from the U.S., but the attack is killed courtesy of a poor ball by Dempsey.

27 mins: Onyewu earns yellow for handball. He'll miss the next game against El Salvador.

29 mins: Now DeMerit goes in the referee's book, but he can have few complaints. He hacks down Dos Santos on the left side of the box. Blanco blasts the free kick, but Howard does well to parry it away. Osorio with the follow-up, but it goes over the bar.

32 mins: Dos Santos lucky to avoid getting a yellow card, as he shows the bottom of his boot on a challenge with Cherundolo.

33 mins: A rare spell of possession for the U.S. ends with Cherundolo getting fouled on the right wing, about 30 yards from goal. Donovan's delivery just misses finding Onyewu at far post.

37 mins: Every single U.S. clearance is going right to Mexico, making possession near impossible.

39 mins: Mexico threatening again. Dos Santos finds Juarez on the overlap, but Onyewu clears his centering feed.

41 mins: A series of set pieces yields nothing for the Yanks. Mexico back on the attack.

43 mins: Onyewu has been solid today. He stuffs a Franco shot near the top of the box.

45+1 mins: Now Bocanegra earns yellow for a foul on Dos Santos. That's three out of the four starting defenders who have yellow cards.

Halftime: If you had asked the U.S. if they would have taken a 1-1 scoreline into the half, I'm sure they would have said yes. Some worrying signs for the U.S. though. Spells of possession have been almost non-existent for the Yanks. If they are going to earn a result, they need to keep the ball better. Not only as the passing been downright poor at times, but the likes of Davies and Donovan have been a little to eager to take one, and sometimes two or three players on, rather than play a little bit safer.

For Mexico, Blanco has been pretty effective, and has created some confusion in the U.S. defense over who is supposed to pick him up. Both Guardado and Dos Santos have been threatening at times, but the U.S. has done a good job of cutting out their crosses.

I'm sure U.S. fans are wondering when Jozy Altidore is coming on, but where the U.S. really needs help is in the midfield. I wouldn't be surprised to see Bradley take a page out of his Confederations Cup playbook, and pull off a forward, push Dempsey up top, and try to shore up his midfield.

Continuing the thought on Bradley's substitution options, my money is on Benny Feilhaber to be the first option off the bench. In the meantime, players like Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark need to have more of an impact, especially in terms of helping the U.S. keep possession.

46 mins: Mexico makes the U.S. wait on the field for the start of the second half. A little gamesmanship perhaps?

And we're under way.

48 mins: A poor ball from Clark kills a nice sequence for the Yanks.

50 mins: Mexico is making like an Everest assault party and setting up camp in the U.S. half. Unlike Everest -- and unfortunately for the Yanks -- this base of operations doesn't come equipped with supplemental oxygen.

51 mins: A bad giveaway by Bradley results in a quick cross by Mexico, but Onyewu bails the U.S. out. Franco volleys a corner kick over the bar. The U.S. marking needs to be tighter there.

52 mins: Davies almost latches onto a long ball over the top, but Magallon does well enough to snuff out the threat.

53 mins: Carlos Vela looks set to come on for Mexico.

55 mins: Guardado picks out Franco in the box, but Bradley with a vital challenge to break up the play.

Vela comes on for Blanco.

57 mins: DeMerit with a nice interception. He tries to spring Davies on the counter, but Davies is whistled for phantom foul.

58 mins: Double switch for the U.S., Benny Feilhaber comes on for Ching, while Stuart Holden comes on for Clark. I can't argue with either of those moves by Bradley.

59 mins: Howard with a monster save. Guardado finds Dos Santos at the far post, but Gio takes a bit too long to tee up his shot, ahd Howard parries it away.

60 mins: Vela tries to buy a foul near the top of the box, but the referee waves play on.

61 mins: U.S. is defending well, but the passing out of the back has been pretty suspect.

To update the U.S. formation, Dempsey has indeed been moved up top, with Feilhaber in the middle, and Holden out wide.

64 mins: Feilhaber bringing some peace to the game, playing some good one-touch soccer.

66 mins: Guardado nearly pounces on a loose ball in the box, but Cherundolo with a key challenge.

68 mins: Holden with a nice ball to pick out Donovan, but his pass into the box is cut out.

69 mins: DeMerit whistled for a foul deep on the left wing, but the ensuing free kick is cleared.

71 mins: Great cross into the box by Holden, but Davies can't quite get to it and ball goes out for a goal kick.

Nery Castillo has now come on for Guardado.

72 mins: Bradley appears to put Davies through, but the U.S. forward is just fractionally offside.

74 mins: Dos Santos wins a dangerous free kick near the top of the box. Dos Santos takes it but it goes into the wall. Howard appeals for handball on Mexico, but ruled Mexico throw. Davies is down and a scrum breaks out. Mexico players tried to get Davies to his feet, he wanted nothing of it, and then the pushing and shoving started. Feilhaber wades in and may have been booked. Davies is carted off.

76 mins: Jozy Altidore comes on for Davies who was cramping. Corner kick into the box, and it looked like Franco had a great chance, but Howard covers up the loose ball.

77 mins: Bocanegra hauls down Dos Santos, but avoids another booking (and a red card).

U.S. continuing to look long rather than try to play through midfield.

78 mins: Turns out Torrado got the yellow. He'll now miss the Costa Rica game. Miguel Sabah comes on for Franco.

Mexico corner cleared out again by Bocanegra for another corner. Howard claims this one.

81 mins: Castillo beginning to lose it. Tries to grab ball away from Onyewu. That's a mismatch right there.

82 mins: GOAL! Mexico 2-1 U.S. Mexico scores. Tragedy for the Yanks. Juarez beats Donovan down the right wing, DeMerit tackles ball away, but it falls right to Sabah, who hits his shot into the roof of the net.

84 mins: Bocanegra's positioning was a little suspect on the goal, as he got sucked out wide, creating space for Juarez to exploit.

85 mins: Dos Santos booked for time wasting.

88 mins: Bradley with a good ball to Donovan on the right flank. His cross is headed out for a corner. Donvoan's corner punched away by Ochoa.

90+1 mins: The U.S. passing has just not been sharp enough today.

Mexico taking its own sweet time now on a throw-in.

90+2 mins: Scramble in the box, but Mexico finally clears the ball away. Ball resets but Cherundolo challenge sees ball go out of bounds for a goal kick. Ochoa dawdling on ball now.

90+3 mins: U.S. launches free kick into the box, ball half-cleared, but Feilhaber looks like he slips, and Mexico gets possession.

FULLTIME: Mexico 2-1 U.S.

The U.S. battled hard, but this will go down as a missed opportunity for the Yanks. In a game in which the U.S. looked fatigued at the end, the team's inability to keep possession was its undoing. They simply spent so much time defending that they wore down. The sight of Juarez beating Donovan in the run-up to the winning goal was telling. Donovan is one of the fittest players on the team, yet even he looked gassed.

I've never thought much of Sabah, but he will wear the hero's mantle today. He was in the right place at the right time.

Who looked good for the Yanks? It was a mixed bag all around I'd say. The back line defended tough, but the passing was very shaky. The midfield had its moments, but didn't seem to give the defenders too many passing options. I'd say Ching was a non-factor, although he was largely starved of service. Davies impressed given the limited number of opportunities he had, and his finish was fantastic.

Credit to Mexico. They did what they had to do, and their insistence on attacking the flanks finally paid off. World Cup qualifying is officially a dogfight now.

That's it from my end. Thanks for joining us today.

Pregame

We're about 30 minutes from kickoff in Mexico City, where the U.S. has a brutal record of 0-18-1. (They've lost four other games in places like Puebla and Monterrey.) Just one goal scored in the last 25 years, by Eddie Lewis back in 2005. A gazillion goals conceded.

The U.S. would gladly take a draw today, which would put Mexico's qualification campaign in serious jeopardy.

Here are the lineups:

For the U.S.:

GK: Tim Howard

D: Carlos Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyewu, Jay DeMerit, Steve Cherundolo

M: Landon Donovan, Ricardo Clark, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey

F: Charlie Davies, Brian Ching

For Mexico:

GK: Guillermo Ochoa

D: Efrain Juarez, Ricardo Osorio, Carlos Salcido, Jonny Magallon

M: Israel Castro, Gerardo Torrado, Cuautemoc Blanco, Andres Guardado

F: Giovani Dos Santos, Guillermo Franco

A couple of key matches jump out at me. Dos Santos going up against Bocanegra is definitely one to watch, especially given the Mexican attacker's pace, although Gio does tend to float all over the field.

Blanco is another guy who pops up in unexpected places, so the U.S. will need to keep tabs on him and make sure he has little time on the ball.

The battle in the middle, where Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark will be going up against Gerardo Torrado and Israel Castro, will also bear watching. The U.S. successfully took Mexico's midfield out of their game back in February. Can they do it again?

Dos Santos has gotten a lot attention in the last month, and deservedly so. But I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Andres Guardado. The guy can flat-out play, and his pace is why Bradley opted to go with Steve Cherundolo at right back instead of Jonathan Spector. He was injured during the last qualifier between the two teams in February and didn't play.

One criticism of Landon Donovan over the last few years is that he didn't show up in big games against difficult opponents. That changed at the Confederations Cup, where he was one of the Yanks' most consistent players. He'll need to deliver another huge performance today if the U.S. is to get a result.

It looks like the soccer gods have smiled on the U.S. in at least one way, and that is with the weather. When the match was originally scheduled for 3 p.m. local time, it was done in the hope that the heat would add to the already difficult conditions brought on by the smog and altitude. It's apparently only about 75 degrees.

The U.S. tried a similar tactic back in February in the hope that it would be cold in Columbus, Ohio. But what ensued was a warmer than expected night. Looks like things have evened out in the return encounter.

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