USA Earns Crucial Point in 2018 World Cup Qualifying vs. Mexico

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistJune 12, 2017

US player Christian Pulisic (L) is marked by Mexico's Diego Reyes during their 2018 FIFA World Cup Concacaf qualifier football match, in Mexico City, on June 11, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / Alfredo ESTRELLA        (Photo credit should read ALFREDO ESTRELLA/AFP/Getty Images)
ALFREDO ESTRELLA/Getty Images

The United States earned a hard-fought draw against Mexico on Sunday to help in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

The two rivals battled to a 1-1 finish in Estadio Azteca, a place Team USA has not seen too much success in the past. It's only the third draw in qualifying matches, with the other five appearances resulting in losses.

Although the Americans weren't able to avenge an earlier loss in Columbus, the dramatic lineup changes by manager Bruce Arena coming into the game netted a positive result.

The team's official account noted the positive feelings from the finish:

Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated described the effect of the draw:

Mexico remains in first place in the Hexagonal table with 14 points in six matches, well ahead of the rest of the field. The United States now has eight points and is tied with Costa Rica for second place, although everyone else in the pool has played one fewer game.

Considering the team lost the first two matches of this qualifying round, it is in a favorable spot.

Per ESPN's Soccer Power Index, Mexico had a 70 percent chance of earning a win in this game with an additional 19 percent chance of ending with a draw. Despite this underdog status and a lot of young players in the lineup, the Americans came out with a lot of confidence in the early going.

Michael Bradley kicked off the scoring with this outstanding goal from distance off a Mexico mistake:

There was plenty of excitement following the opening score:

While the United States had other opportunities, it was Mexico who scored the next goal on a long counterattack. Carlos Vela ended up firing home with his left foot:

It remained 1-1 heading into halftime, with the home team dominating possession but unable to turn that into quality chances around the net.

Each side had opportunities in the final third as the second half continued, including a Hector Herrera free kick off the crossbar and a Bradley long shot off the post, yet neither was able to break through with the go-ahead score.

The United States became more conservative as the match continued and eventually held on for the draw. The defense, especially Geoff Cameron and Tim Ream, played well to avoid turning an early lead into a loss.

The Americans will reconvene for a July 1 friendly against Ghana before the start of the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

World Cup qualifying will resume in September with an important matchup against Costa Rica, while Mexico will take on Panama.

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