Mexico blanked the United States in the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup final 5-0.
Mexico came from behind in the 2011 Gold Cup final 4-2, which led to U.S. Soccer Federation relieving head coach Bob Bradley.
Then Mexico won the gold medal in the Olympics August 11 by beating Brazil while the United States team failed to even qualify.
With the likes of young, rising stars Javier Hernandez, Oribe Peralta and Giovani dos Santos the talk of the town has been large the gap is between Mexico and the U.S.
With the United States’ historic 1-0 victory over Mexico in a friendly at Azteca Stadium Wednesday, the first time in 75 years the U.S. has beaten Mexico in Mexico, the gap may not be as big as people have made it out to be.
Sure, Mexico’s roster didn’t feature any of the players from the gold medal-winning team, but Hernandez was playing as was goalie Guillermo Ochoa. Mexico was still supposed to have an advantage in quality over the U.S., especially an American roster without Clint Dempsey, Carlos Bocanegra, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.
Mexico was 23-0-1 against the U.S. in Mexico for the past 75 years and was 19-0-1 at Azteca. Mexico had outscored the U.S. 81-14 in that time frame.
Even in the game the odds were stacked against the U.S. Mexico spent most of the game, especially in the first half, attacking. Mexico outshot the Americans 15-6. They had 10 corner kicks compared to zero for the U.S.
But the U.S. defense, led by goalkeeper Tim Howard and the unusual pairing of Maurice Edu and Geoff Cameron at center back, was strong all night and never broke.
The team was also opportunistic, taking advantage of its shots on goal, and doing so before Mexico did, and got a goal from the unlikeliest source—Michael Orozco Fiscal, scoring his first international goal off a nifty back-heel from Terrance Boyd.
The difference in this U.S. team may be the man who took over for Bradley, Jurgen Klinsmann.
Klinsmann has his team doing things it’s never done before. Not only did the team get this monumental victory in Mexico, but it also defeated Italy for the first-time ever—in Italy nonetheless—in a friendly in February.
“I think it’s huge. It’s huge for all American fans and it’s huge for the team. It’s historic. We were well aware that we’ve never won here at Azteca and this is an amazing experience for all the players. We told them before the game, ‘This moment is for you, go and grab it.’ We are aware that is was a lot of work,” Klinsmann told the press after the game. “Tim Howard kept us in the game I don’t know how many times. It was an absolutely fantastic performance by Tim. Also, the back line were holding their strength for the whole 90 minutes. It was a fantastic team performance. We know we still have to improve in many elements. We have to keep the ball longer, we have to create more chances and we have to do a lot of work still, but I think this gives us a lot of confidence.”
With Klinsmann providing encouragement, a new attitude and a new vision for the federation and the team getting these big results the future is bright for American soccer.
Mexico may be getting all the press right now, but the long-term goals are winning World Cup Qualifying and the World Cup.
Moments like these will steer the American team in the right direction and make people believe that the gap between Mexico and the U.S. is not as large as they once perceived.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Tom Mihalek