The main takeaway from Tuesday night's scoreless draw between the United States and Mexico may be the non-call after Maurice Edu clearly fouled Javier Aquino in the box in the second half, but for the United States, the game should be remembered for far more than that.
In a number of contexts, this game proved just how bright the future is for the United States. What some may see as a somewhat controversial scoreless draw, I saw as a building block for the next several years of USMNT soccer.
Historically, this result was huge. In the past year, the United States has now won for the first time in its history at Estadio Azteca (a 1-0 win in an August friendly) and last night earned just its second draw at the stadium in a World Cup qualifier.
For this generation of players, the Azteca fortress that was previously impenetrable for the USMNT now seems far less daunting.
But the United States wasn't just battling history last night; they were also battling a very talented Mexico team that really could have used the three points. And they faced that stiff challenge with a pretty depleted starting lineup.
Landon Donovan, long this team's talisman, remains on sabbatical. Regulars such as Clarence Goodson, Jermaine Jones, Tim Howard, Timmy Chandler, Fabian Johnson and Steve Cherundolo were out with injuries, while ex-captain Carlos Bocanegra wasn't even named to the squad.
That left Matt Besler and Omar Gonzalez as the central-defending pair, who have combined for all of four World Cup qualifier caps in their careers. Against the clinical Javier Hernandez and crafty Giovani dos Santos, that seemed like a recipe for disaster.
Instead, the pair were the men of the match for the United States. Mexico had its chances, sure, but Besler and Gonzalez played smart, physical football throughout, maintained excellent position and spearheaded a very strong defensive effort from the United States.
Sure, DeMarcus Beasley left a lot to be desired at left back, but the United States still survived employing him as the emergency left back in a position he clearly isn't comfortable playing.
Sure, Clint Dempsey wasn't much of a factor, but the United States still came away with the result they wanted.
This is a United States team that no longer needs its top stars playing at an extremely high level to earn results (though obviously it helps). This is no longer a United States team that lacks depth or players who are contributors on the club level in Europe (even if Jozy Altidore could do so much more for this team).
Soccer has a long way to go in this country compared to the major players in the sport around the globe—and this United States team can still be maddeningly inconsistent—but on Tuesday night, the United States felt like a country on the rise in the world's most popular sport.
Sure, the U.S. will probably never be a world power like Brazil, Germany, Italy or Spain—we have far too many sports stealing top athletes that will diminish the talent pool soccer has to draw from in this country—but we're on the upswing.
And Tuesday night, that seemed abundantly clear to me. I'll probably forget a few non-calls, but I doubt I'll forget the generation of United States' soccer players that were no longer intimidated by the Azteca and no longer considered themselves second-hand citizens once they stepped onto the pitch.
Hit me up on Twitter—my tweets didn't see no stinkin' foul! (Okay, yes they did, but they ignored it and you should too.)
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