US continues decade of Dominance over Mexico 2-0

Published Thursday, February 8, 2007 8:29 AM by William Montero

The U.S. Men’s National Team shutout Mexico for the eighth straight time with a familiar 2-0 scoreline in front of a sold out crowd of 62,462 Wednesday evening at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The shutout kept Mexico scoreless on American soil in this decade, as the US has outscored their CONCACAF rivals 13-0 since 2000.

Jimmy Conrad scored the opening goal in the 52nd minute, stunning a predominantly pro-Mexico crowd with his driven header from a Landon Donovan corner kick. The goal marked the first international strike of Conrad’s career.

Donovan’s work-rate throughout the entire 90 minutes was rewarded in the game’s dying moments when he netted his 27th career strike on a spectacular breakaway finish past Oswaldo Sanchez. Donovan has scored in both games this year as the two-time US Soccer Athlete of the Year tallied the opening goal vs. Denmark in the USA’s 3-1 win on January 20 in Carson, Calif.

With his second-straight victory, head coach Bob Bradley became just the second US coach to win his first two games (Robert Millar, 1930).

"The main thing is how proud we are of the effort,” said Bradley. “The camp has been a hard camp and the players have put a lot into it, and the talk throughout the entire camp was that at the end the spotlight comes on real bright for an important game. I felt really good about the way the players held together. Obviously, there were some periods in the game where they had to deal with tough moments, and yet I still felt that on the field there was a mentality that all the work that had gone into the last month paid off for them and they got their reward. And that's my main thought right now."

While the second half provided plenty of fireworks on the field, much of the action in the first 45 minutes took place in the stands. As both teams struggled to find their rhythm, the raucous crowd was in full swing from the opening whistle with US and Mexico supporters trading chants and numerous waves sweeping through the stands.

Both teams’ nerves were apparent from the outset with each side collecting early cautions. Jonathan Bornstein was shown the yellow card for a miss-timed challenge in the 10th minute, while Carlos Salcido’s clumsy tackle was also punished just one minute later.

The play settled toward the end of the first stanza as dangerous chances materialized for both teams. Jared Borgetti was the focal point for a pair of Mexico opportunities. While a sliding U.S. defender defused his first attempt from 12 yards, the usually sure-headed front man had only himself to blame when he failed to convert a corner kick from half that distance as his glancing header narrowly cleared the far post in the 43rd minute.

At the other end, with halftime just seconds away, Donovan raced past the Mexico defense into the area with a chance to give the US the lead. He fired a left-footed shot, hoping to beat Sanchez to the near side, but the Mexico ‘keeper was equal to the task, sprawling to his right to parry the shot over the endline.

As the second half commenced, Donovan once again found himself in the middle of the action. A nifty combination with Clint Dempsey nearly sprung the newly minted Fulham midfielder, but a last-second tackle prevented the break.

Donovan was sure to connect on his next dangerous opportunity, this time the result of a corner kick. His out-swinger found Conrad who used some savvy moves in goal-mouth traffic to elude his marker and rose to bury his header from eight yards out. Conrad’s goal marked the 10th different goal scorer against Mexico in the USA’s last 10 goals.

"We've been working on set pieces and talked about them the last couple of days, and knew we had some dangerous guys,” said Conrad, who collected his 19th cap by starting in central defense. “And we knew Landon could serve in some good balls. I took a step to the near post and kind of ran the guy who was marking me into some traffic and Landon played a great ball and I just picked a good spot and put it away.”

As Mexico pressed forward in search of an equalizer, they found some cracks in a young American backline. Conrad and fellow central defender Carlos Bocanegra kept the unit organized helping to thwart a number of potentially dangerous Mexico chances. When they did break through, Tim Howard’s sound positioning continually frustrated the Tricolor attack.

Howard’s first big save of the second half came off a Mexico corner as the ball skimmed through the area to the back post, but the Everton ‘keeper tracked the play perfectly and hardly had to move as Omar Bravo steered his header low toward the corner. Just moments later, Howard again positioned himself perfectly, sliding off his line to cut down the angle as a Mexican attacker had gotten in behind the U.S. defense.

The U.S. did well to weather the storm and patiently waited for times to counter-attack. On one defensive clearance, the ball fell to the feet of Eddie Johnson who played a quick combination with Dempsey, allowing him to back-in a Mexican defender off the dribble before ripping a shot that Sanchez had to punch clear.

In injury time, Sanchez didn’t have any chance of pushing Donovan’s shot aside as the dynamic midfielder slipped behind the Mexican backline near the midfield stripe to run onto a Ricardo Clark through ball and dribbled around the Mexican ‘keeper before banging his shot into the open net with authority.

"It's always difficult to beat Mexico,” said Bradley. “It is a great rivalry. Our players get excited for every game against Mexico, so we knew their best was coming in tonight so we wanted to make sure that our players weren't afraid at all. I think they believe in themselves and that showed on the field."

The U.S. will return to action with a pair of friendlies against Ecuador (tickets) on March 25 in Tampa and Guatemala (tickets) on March 28 in Frisco, Texas. With the matches falling on international fixture dates, the camp is expected to complement a large number of European-based players. The March matches will serve as preparation for the two major championships the U.S. will compete in this summer.

The three-time champions will first try to defend their title against 11 other teams at the 2007 CONCACAF Gold Cup, scheduled from June 6-24 in several cities across the United States. Just a few days later, the U.S. will participate in the 2007 Copa America, the regional championship of South America. The 12-team tournament will run from June 26 to July 15 in nine cities across Venezuela. For the United States, the appearance will mark their third entrance into CONMEBOL’s signature event.