With the chance to take an early lead in the CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, the Americans knocked off Mexico in Columbus, Ohio, 2-0. Michael Bradley scored both goals for the US with the first coming just before half-time on a corner kick volley and the second in extra time to ensure the victory for the Americans. Rafa Márquez was sent off in the 65th minute for a boots-up challenge on American keeper Tim Howard, reducing Mexico to ten men for the final twenty-five minutes.
The first half was mostly owned by the Americans in both possession and in momentum. Mexico’s young lightening bolt Gio dos Santos (of Tottenham fame) had an early chance on goal but was denied by Howard. After that shot the US largely controlled the tempo of the half. Clint Dempsey and DaMarcus Beasley alternated sides in the midfield and along with Michael Bradley helped feed Brian Ching and Landon Donovan up top. The Bradley goal came when Beasley’s corner was headed by Donovan and Oguchi Onyewu before the coach’s son sent the rebound into the back of the net on volley.
Unlike the first half, the Americans came out flat and dry in the second half. Where their passes were crisp and spacing well thought out in the first half, the exact opposite was true in the second. There were very few opportunities on goal, though possession was still a strong point for the Americans. They simply could not make that final through pass to get a shot on goal. But at the same time, Mexico did nothing to really write home about, leaving a boring and choppy second half. The game got fiesty for a bit surrounding Márquez’s red card but the match was free of fights and any other cards (Howard did receive a yellow card in the same sequence). Only in the final moments was the US able to get out into space with Donovan finding Bradley who rocketed in the game clincher.
While I’m glad that ESPN covered the game, it’s growing very tiresome having such pro-American color analysts. John Harkes was the man for the job tonight, refusing to give Mexico credit for anything and jumping all over Sven-Göran Eriksson’s halftime comments claiming bad luck for the Mexicans. To be sure, I was pulling for the Americans to win the match. But I don’t need someone on tv telling me how great MLS and the Americans are without even acknowledging the positive aspects of the other side. This is not a total criticism of Harkes, I happen to have liked him back in his UVA days. But he’s just the latest pool boy for USA Soccer and it’s incredibly annoying to hear every time.