Morris and Agudelo goals, solid defense allow U.S. to blank Mexico 2-0.
By Robert Wagman
(Thursday, April 16, 2015) -- Striker John Morris and the man who replaced him, Juan Agudelo, scored after intermission, leading the United States men to a 2-0 triumph over Mexico before a capacity crowd of 64,369 yesterday at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas.
Neither nation fielded anything resembling it best side.
The dos a cero is a familiar score-line with the Americans defeating their southern neighbor 2-0 eight times since 2000. Seven of those shutouts came on U.S. soil; more memorably, the Americans downed Mexico by that count in the 2002 in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea.
Importantly, the U.S. was able to clamp down and record its second clean sheet in five 2015 outings. In the eight previous games, the U.S. had allowed eight goals in the 80th minute or later,
The U.S. jumped ahead 1-0 in the 49th minute when midfielder Michael Bradley spun free and pushed a pass ahead to forward Gyasi Zardes. His attempt on goal ricocheted into the path of Morris who collected it, gathered himself and struck a hard shot that skipped under goalkeeper Cirilo Saucedo.
Seven minutes after entering, Agudelo doubled the advantage in the 72nd minute. Again, Bradley started things with a long pass. Agudelo collected at the top of the penalty area and cut inside. He seemed to slip and then recovered to send a low, hard shot under Saucedo and into the net.
Mexico had its chances. It had a majority of possession (54 to 46 percent) and outshot the Americans 12-8. Its best opportunity came when striker Eduardo Herrera hit the side netting in the 40th minute with an open goal staring him in the face. Otherwise, it had no success in beating U.S. keepers Nick Rimando and William Yarbrough.
This was not a match for the ages. U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann did not call in most of his European-based players and was also without the services of three Major League Soccer-based players -- defender Jermaine Jones (February sports hernia surgery), and forwards Clint Dempsey (hamstring problem) and Jozy Altidore (red card against Switzerland). So, once again, he was forced to experiment using a new combination of players and had to play others out of position.
El Tri manager Miguel Herrera found himself in much the same situation. He was not able to call in players from Europe, such as midfielder Héctor Herrera, attacker Giovani Dos Santos, defender Miguel Layún and striker Javier Hernández. So, he too had to depend on a lineup drawn from Mexico’s domestic league, featuring players who have had a secondary national team role in the past or had little or no first-team experience.
Additionally, the pitch was in absolutely dismal condition. The artificial playing surface at the Alamodome was lifted on Saturday and a temporary natural-grass surface was laid down directly over the concrete base. On Monday inspection, Mexico threatened to pull out of the match. The game went on, but the field was barely playable.
Three of Klinsmann’s experiments paid real dividends. Starting 22-year-old Stanford University sophomore Morris -- whom developed in the Seattle youth system -- and pairing him with Zardes gave the U.S. two young players with high work rates up who both bedeviled the Mexican back-line. Then, he substituted Agudelo, who had not played since March of last year and he who promptly scored his first international goal since 2011.
Pairing Ventura Alvarado and Omar Gonzalez in the middle of defense also worked out beautifully. The two worked together well and were not beaten in the air and were rarely pulled out of position.
So. Klinsmann came out of this match with three more players -- Alvarado, Morris and Agudelo -- to give prime consideration to for this summer’s Gold Cup.
Next for the Americans are two matches in Europe: against the Netherlands on June 5 and three days later against Austria.
U.S. Player Ratings
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando - 5: He had some troubles with the playing surface, including once on a back-pass and his distribution was again not up to par.
Defender DeAndre Yedlin - 6: He is starting to get playing time in England and it has started to show. He was able to get forward on occasion while still tending to his defensive responsibilities.
Defender Ventura Alvarado - 6.5: Next to Bradley, he was the best U.S. player. This was a huge game for the Mexican-American who plays professionally in Mexico. He was more than up to the task. He has put himself in position to be in the picture, perhaps for a start in the Gold Cup.
Defender Omar Gonzalez - 6: In his first start since the World Cup, he showed he has recovered from injury and seems ready to reclaim his starting role.
Defender Greg Garza - 5.5: He did fine, making several good defensive plays in his 45 minutes. Alvarado did have to cover for him on more than one occasion..
Midfielder Michael Bradley - 7: Klinsmann continues to insist Bradley should play in an attacking midfield position when he clearly is more comfortable playing deeper in the midfield. Both his assists on the two U.S. goals came on plays that started deep in the midfield. He continues to be the most important American.
Midfielder Kyle Beckerman - 6.5: Put n a strong performance until he was injured just after the hour mark. The injury appeared to be to his knee..
Midfielder Mix Diskerud - 6: He is a player who always brings a high work rate to a match. Tonight, he was active on both ends of the field as he cemented his position in the starting 11.
Midfielder Joe Corona - 5.5: At times, he was very good, while at other times he was pretty bad. He needs to play with much more consistency.
Forward Gyasi Zardes - 5.5: An active, solid evening. He was somewhat held back by the fact that he was the center of attention for the Mexican defense with Altidore absent.
Forward Jordan Morris - 6: He used pace and a high work rate to his advantage in his first U.S. start. When the ball dropped to him, he reacted perfectly, calmly lining up a shot and placed it under the keeper for his first international goal. He seems to have a huge upside.
Goalkeeper William Yarbrough (46th minute for Rimando) - 6: He had a strong 45 minutes and is clearly becoming a Klinsmann favorite in the competition for fourth keeper on the U.S. roster.
Defender Brek Shea (46th minute for Garza) - 6: He probably should have started. He was better than the player he replaced. His problem continues to be finding a role when the U.S. is at full strength.
Midfielder Miguel Ibarra (46th minute for Corona ) - 5.5: Second-division player from the North American Soccer League made no glaring missteps.
Midfielder Perry Kitchen (63rd minute for Beckerman) - 5.5: He continues to improve and is developing into a MLS scoring threat. Here as an unexpected injury replacement, he was solid and launched one strong shot on goal.
Forward Juan Agudelo (65th minute for Morris) - 6.5: Scored a nice goal and played hard, making many wonder what he’s been doing lately.
Midfielder/defender Brad Evans (65th minute for Diskerud) - 5.5: No player has more to prove than Evans, who was very public in his unhappiness at being left off the World Cup roster. He did fine as the right back. Hopefully, this is the start of a comeback.
SoccerTimes U.S. Player of the Match: Michael Bradley.
Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent.
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