USA vs. Mexico: Winners and Losers from Confederations Cup Playoff
Mexico will represent CONCACAF in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup after El Tri defeated the United States 3-2 after extra time in a thrilling one-game playoff on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.
Javier Hernandez gave Mexico the lead in the 10th minute, but Geoff Cameron headed the Americans level just five minutes later from a Michael Bradley free kick. The score remained the same until extra time, when the teams combined for three goals.
Oribe Peralta restored Mexico's lead in the 96th minute, but the U.S. again equalized 12 minutes later through Bobby Wood. With penalties looming, Paul Aguilar netted the winner with a spectacular 118th-minute volley.
Here B/R selects winners and losers from the match.
Winner: Paul Aguilar
Paul Aguilar's 118th-minute goal was worthy of winning any game. The full-back latched onto a high ball on the right-hand side of the box and volleyed an unstoppable shot past Brad Guzan from a tight angle.
In addition, Aguilar set up Oribe Peralta's go-ahead goal in the 96th minute, cushioning the ball into Peralta's path following another high ball into the box.
Having scored a goal and assisted another in 30 high-stakes minutes of extra time against the U.S., Aguilar likely won't forget this night any time soon.
Loser: Jurgen Klinsmann
Sure, the U.S. fell to a spectacular 118th-minute goal, but let's be honest, Mexico was the better team all night. The Americans were decidedly second best for almost the entire 120 minutes, apart from a bright spell following Bobby Wood's unlikely equalizer in extra time.
Four years into Jurgen Klinsmann's reign, where do we stand? The U.S. advanced to the round of 16 at the World Cup last summer, losing to Belgium in extra time. In 2015, the Americans crashed out of the Gold Cup in the semifinals and failed to qualify for the Confederations Cup.
In the past, Klinsmann has explicitly listed winning the Gold Cup and qualifying for the Confederations Cup as goals for his senior team. At the under-23 level, he has also targeted Olympic qualification. This year, the U.S. has failed in all three areas—though there is still hope for the U23 side. Klinsmann should be held accountable.
Admittedly, Klinsmann is trying to bring about a long-term revolution in U.S. soccer. His view is long term, and in that sense, it makes some sense for the U.S. federation to keep showing him unyielding support. But over the past year, the trend for this team has pointed downward, and once again, Klinsmann should be held accountable.
Earlier Saturday, the U.S. under-23 team lost to Honduras in Olympic qualifying and faces a tough road to qualify for next year's tournament in Brazil. It might seem unrelated to Saturday night's senior match, but Klinsmann is the technical director of the entire U.S. program. That means he's responsible for the program's successes and failures at multiple levels.
Four years ago, after the U.S. lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup final in Pasadena, then-coach Bob Bradley lost his job. Like Klinsmann, he had guided the U.S. to the round of 16 at the World Cup the year before. And like Klinsmann, he had previously won the Gold Cup.
After Saturday's loss, it's hard for Klinsmann to claim the program is making progress. But it's highly unlikely that the U.S. Soccer Federation will do anything about that.
Winner: Bobby Wood
For a short time, it seemed as though Bobby Wood was about to write an unlikely success story.
With the U.S. losing 2-1 in extra time, Wood popped up with a clutch goal in the 108th minute, briefly pulling the Americans level. DeAndre Yedlin set up the strike with a superb through ball, but Wood timed his run perfectly and beat Mexican goalkeeper Moises Munoz with a cool finish.
Had the U.S. held out for penalties, Wood might have become the game's hero. Instead, his goal will be a footnote. But it will be an interesting footnote because of the clutch nature of his goalscoring record with the U.S.
As ESPN's Paul Carr noted, Wood has scored three goals for Jurgen Klinsmann's team. All three have come against tough opposition: Germany, the Netherlands and now Mexico. And all three have come in the 88th minute or later.
That's the definition of clutch goalscoring.
Losers: Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore
Clint Dempsey played the full 120 minutes. Jozy Altidore lasted 98 minutes before making way for Bobby Wood. Neither of the two starting strikers for the U.S. warranted so much time on the pitch based on how he played.
Simply put, neither Dempsey nor Altidore was good enough against Mexico. Dempsey was almost anonymous in the first half, and although he improved somewhat after halftime, he was unable to influence the match in the way the U.S. needed. Dempsey is one of the team's most experienced players. He needed to produce more.
Altidore, meanwhile, missed a good chance in the first half and otherwise generally failed to trouble Mexico's defense. How long will Klinsmann keep giving him chances?
Winner: Geoff Cameron
Yes, the U.S. defense gave up three goals. And yes, Geoff Cameron was one of the several players at fault for Mexico's opener.
But after that goal, converted coolly by Javier Hernandez, Cameron settled down and turned in a strong performance at the heart of the U.S. defense. The Stoke City man headed in his side's first equalizer in the 15th minute and thereafter provided a steady presence at the back.
It's tempting to wonder whether the U.S. would have done better at the Gold Cup last summer if Cameron had played. Instead, Stoke requested that he skip the tournament, per Goal, to rest up ahead of the new season.