Sometime around the 70th minute I started mulling over ideas for a postgame analysis article for the USA versus Mexico friendly. Even if it were to end in a tie, which at that point it looked as though that was the best the U.S. could hope for, I was still going to write of the United States' failure in Azteca stadium.
If you look at the game stats, the United States was destroyed. They were out-possessed 66-34, lost total shots by 19-7 and were awarded ZERO corners to Mexico's 11.
That said, all too often stat sheets don't show the entire story of the game. Despite seemingly never having the ball in a scoring position, and having their closest scoring opportunity come on an awesome defensive deflection by Kyle Beckerman to prevent a counterattack opportunity, the U.S. was able to net a late winner.
Brek Shea got a ball outside and made a move toward the middle. He made a cheeky play past a Mexican defender, put the ball in front of the net for Boyd to place a back heel on which Michael Orozco Fiscal was able to get a foot on for the game's difference.
Although the U.S. was able to make history in the second half of the match, it didn't start well. Landon Donovan was substituted out because of an injury scare, and I'm sure at that point many fans began to lose hope. With Donovan out, the Americans were left without all three of their biggest names for the rest of the game, as dominant forward Clint Dempsey and ace midfielder Michael Bradley were left off the roster due to club commitments.
The U.S. was able to win this game because of a combination of Tim Howard and the up-and-coming talent on the roster.
Tim Howard is obviously the man of the match. He had two highlight saves and a clean sheet. He has been a dominant keeper for the U.S. for five years, and in Wednesday's match he showed no signs of slowing down.
When we talk about the play of Shea, we need to keep in mind that he has had a rough year. After a breakout year in 2011 at both the club level for FC Dallas of the MLS and international play, his 2012 has been lackluster. The composure he displayed on his run to the middle is what his club has been waiting for him to display all season.
The question of "What does this really mean?" is one that always comes up after friendlies. This friendly win means a lot. Winning in Azteca Stadium is huge, even bigger than the 1-0 win in Genoa, Italy earlier this year. In that game, The U.S. certainly played a better 90 minutes, but the atmosphere in Azteca Stadium cannot be duplicated, especially when two of the biggest rivals in the world in the USA and Mexico collide there. Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann spoke of the importance of finally winning a game in Mexico before the game, and his squad did it.
Of course, both teams didn't have their "full" squads, but a win is a win. The U.S. has been starved for wins against international elites until this year, and winning tonight is a huge step in "bridging the gap" between the United States and international relevance.