U.S. 2-0 Mexico: Bradley sinks El Tri
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Michael Bradley scored twice to lead the United States to a 2-0 victory over Mexico in a World Cup qualifier Wednesday night, preserving the Americans' domination in the series over the last nine years.
"I think everybody on our team was really excited to play tonight," said Bradley, the son of U.S. coach Bob Bradley. "Anytime you play against Mexico, it's special. On top of it, it's for a World Cup qualifier."
On a wet and windy night at Crew Stadium -- under the threat of a tornado watch -- the Americans ran their record to 9-0-2 on U.S. soil against Mexico since 2000. Tickets had sold out in 90 minutes, with many of the 23,776 fans showing up hours before to stand in the rain while waving flags and wearing their national colors.
"It's never easy to beat Mexico," Bob Bradley said. "They're a good team, they have very good players. Our players love these games, the atmosphere. It's ironic that we start this round playing against them. But everyone was excited about it."
After both teams played cautiously at the outset, the Americans finally broke through.
DaMarcus Beasley's corner kick found Landon Donovan at the far side of the 6-yard box, with Donovan heading it back into the scrum. Oguchi Onyewu's header was stopped by diving Mexico goaltender Oswaldo Sanchez, but the rebound came right into the path of Bradley, who kicked it in from 6 yards.
"It was a great corner from Beas, and Landon did a great job heading it back," Bradley said. "It was not so hard for me to put it in."
That touched off a wild celebration just a few feet from the red-clad Sam's Army, which danced in the aisles and threw confetti up into the jet stream winds.
Then, in second-half stoppage time, Bradley took a pass from Donovan and his shot from 28 yards dipped under Sanchez's arms. It secured the third straight 2-0 win for the Americans over Mexico at Crew Stadium in World Cup qualifying.
"Clearly there's an advantage [in Columbus] for us, and a disadvantage for them," Donovan said. "Mentally it's got to weigh on them. I can't imagine they like coming here. And we love playing here."
Mexico captain Rafael Marquez was ejected in the 65th minute when he went high to spike goalkeeper Tim Howard as they went for a loose ball. Howard, who angrily threw the ball down while he flexed his leg, also picked up a yellow card for delay of game on the ensuing free kick.
"I apologized to the team," Marquez said. "I know I'm important to the team. And I shouldn't set this kind of example. But this is just starting. There are still many important games."
The loss could mean more trouble for Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson. His team, with just one win in its last seven outings, barely made it into the final round of qualifying. A former manager of England, he had been brought on to stop what many Tricolores fans consider an almost unforgivable sin: losing to the United States. Mexico easily controlled the series for decades, but the U.S. team has now gone 13-7-8 since 1990 to narrow Mexico's advantage to 29-15-11.
"Football is a big sport and, face it, sometimes it's not a friend of [patience]," Eriksson said. "But I'm optimistic because I think we have a good team. We have to score goals -- that's our biggest problem."
Michael Bradley said it was the Americans' defense which spelled the difference.
"We did a real nice job of getting after them and not letting them breathe," Bradley said.
The match was the first of 10 in the final round of qualifying for each team. The United States next plays at El Salvador on March 28 before taking on Trinidad and Tobago on April 1 in Nashville, Tenn. Mexico entertains Costa Rica on March 28.
Both teams played somewhat guardedly in the opening minutes, thrusting and parrying to determine how the ball would react in the windy conditions and what the opposition strategy was.
Mexico had one strong scoring chance stopped by Howard's leg save and another shot was high over the crossbar in the first 6 minutes. The United States' best early scoring chance came in the 22nd minute after a foul just outside the box. From 22 yards, Donovan's hard, low kick was just wide left.
The Americans also had another prime opportunity in the 31st minute when Donovan headed the ball to Clint Dempsey for a hard shot that Sanchez deflected with the lower part of his body.
Bradley then broke the impasse.
Mexico's best shot at tying came in the 71st minute when Carlos Ochoa was wide right on a kick from 34 yards.
The weather was relatively calm once the game got under way. A steady rain pelted the stadium most of the afternoon. Then around 90 minutes before the start, a mammoth storm front rolled through, shaking the windows around the stadium, blowing away anything that wasn't tied down and reducing visibility to almost nothing.
Shortly after, crews came out twice to squeegee the field. Stadium officials warned the early-arriving spectators to seek shelter under the stands after a violent lightning strike not far away.
With temperatures throughout the day in the 60s, a cold front came through to create dangerous possibilities. At gametime, it was 52 degrees.
Fans from 43 states, the District of Columbia, Canada and, of course, Mexico snapped up the tickets. Hours before the game, the fans were singing, chanting, drumming and blowing on horns while wearing 3-foot wide sombreros, national flags and Uncle Sam hats.
Notes: The United States has not lost a home match to a continental rival since 2001, going 37-0 with 10 draws. Included in that domination is a sterling record at Crew Stadium, home of the 2008 Major League Soccer champions. The Americans are unbeaten in eight international games (5-0-3) in Crew Stadium and are 4-0-2 in World Cup qualifiers. ... On Feb. 28, 2001, the Americans won 2-0 in 28-degree weather, with ice fringing the field -- a match now called Guerra Fria, or the Cold War. They won by the same score