The United States put together a near-flawless first half of soccer in Arizona on Wednesday night, but the second half was a far different story as Mexico roared back and scored two goals en route to a 2-2 draw. Michael Bradley and Chris Wondolowski provided the fireworks for the U.S. in the opening half, while Rafael Marquez and Alan Pulido leveled things later on.
The match also marked Julian Green's first appearance in a Yank jersey, which may yet go down as a historic moment if the Bayern youngster lives up to his hype. Green showed his pace and ideas, but also looked like an 18-year old without much professional experience, as expected.
The Nats came out swinging in the first half and put together an excellent performance. Brad Davis sent in a typically-dangerous free kick from a good spot in the 14th minute that Omar Gonzalez got a head to, but the big center-back's glancing effort was saved by the Mexican keeper Munoz.
On the ensuing corner, though, Graham Zusi's delivery dipped and swerved all the way to the far post, left uncovered by El Tri, where Michael Bradley was able to simply slot home from point-blank to give the Americans the lead.
Mexico barely got a sniff of the ball through the entire first half. Their only meaningful chance came in the 23rd minute when the left back Layun cut inside and drilled a shot from distance that buzzed the top of the crossbar.
The U.S. doubled their advantage in the 28th with a well-worked move. Zusi again put in an excellent cross, and Bradley - who was everywhere in the first half - charged the near post to deliver a flicked header to the far post. Wondolowski was lurking at the edge of the six and he buried it to give the Americans a familiar "dos a cero" advantage.
The second half was a different matter. Mexico made several substitutions and came out looking for blood. It would take them just four minutes to find it, as Rafa Marquez badly exposed Gonzalez on a set-piece to drill a free header past Nick Rimando to cut the deficit to one.
The second goal was a bit more of a defensive unit failure, but Gonzalez was still culpable in the 67th minute. Mexico worked a move into the box and the ball was cut-back to a wide-open Mexican player who had a shot and beat Rimando to the far post, but not the post. However, the rebound came to Pulido, who buried from close range. Gonzalez was ball-watching instead of tracking Pulido.
Replays proved that the Nats were wrongfully denied a winning goal late in the match. A good move sprung Eddie Johnson in behind and he finished superbly past substitute goalkeeper Talavera, but the assistant referee incorrectly flagged for offside.
Despite the Jekyll and Hyde sort of split between the halves, the match did tell us a few things about the fringes of the World Cup roster. Wondo's stock absolutely rose with that goal, as he's now at nine scored in his last eleven caps. Michael Parkhurst was solid, as was Rimando. Many of the major starters like Bradley, Matt Besler, and Zusi continued to reinforce their importance to the squad. Eddie Johnson may also have given Jurgen Klinsmann a lot to think about despite his goal being disallowed.
There were some falling stocks, too, though. Gonzalez might have actually lost his starting position as he once again proved that he lacks agility and awareness when it counts. Clint Dempsey won't be missing out on Brazil, but he looks a shell of his former self, and while there were bright spots, they were outnumbered by disappointments. Brad Davis might have lost his spot on the roster, and he almost certainly won't be starting.
Whose stock do you think rose and fell?
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