Rapid React: U.S. finds way to beat El Tri

Posted by Roger Bennett

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. When the United States wants a win, they come to Columbus. History was preserved tonight amid delirious scenes, and thanks to a late Clint Dempsey penalty miss, so, too, was the famed Dos A Cero scoreline.

All in all, an evening that ran high on adrenaline and emotion but low on creative, controlled football ended with Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. side qualifying for Brazil 2014 in the finest of styles with a 2-0 victory over wilting regional rivals, Mexico.

U.S. wins without a midfield
The game was both a psychological test of the United States' ability to rebound from defeat and also a battle to control the midfield. Both teams were nervy early, with the emotion propelling the U.S. into a reckless, helter-skelter brand of football. The cut and thrust of Alejandro Bedoya, who gained his first World Cup-qualifying cap, was largely peripheral. Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones took it in turns to concede possession cheaply. Andres Guardado would often gift it right back.

Michael Bradley's propulsion was missed down the middle, as was, some would say, Steve Cherundolo's dynamism on the flanks. But just as it had against Honduras, Mexico's initial energy burned off within the opening 15 minutes. After that, the game boiled down to the U.S. battling against itself as Jones & Co. attempted to maintain possession and conjure creativity without a ball handler.

They worked out how to score without one such player in the 49th minute, as Eddie Johnson leapt high to head home Landon Donovan's corner. The only man who jumped higher was Jurgen Klinsmann, who sprung off the bench like a man who can dunk.

When a real creative midfielder entered the game, his impact was instant. Mix Diskerud crafted a delightful tap-in for Landon Donovan to do what he does so well: score against Mexico.

Reports of Tim Howard's demise are greatly exaggerated
Columbus became a fortress in part because of its unforgiving winter clime, yet the fact that it was 92 degrees before kickoff made it hotter in Ohio than it was in Tijuana. In some regard, Mexico thrived at the outset. Chicharito and Giovani Dos Santos buzzed around Omar Gonzalez and Clarence Goodson, a raw pairing who had shared only two starts.

That the El Tri duo failed to score was largely due to Tim Howard. A goalkeeper who had been the subject of some consternation after the Costa Rica game, with some suggesting he should cede his place to Brad Guzan, the Everton keeper bailed out the team repeatedly with three athletic saves in the first half alone. Mexico has now failed to score against Jurgen Klinsmann’s team in the past 443 minutes.

Columbus is a magnificent footballing city
To build a sold-out crowd of 24,584, U.S. Soccer reported ticket sales in 49 states (Wyoming! Really?). Flotillas of RVs poured into Columbus from all points. Their chants, tifos and energy will be the lasting memory of Tuesday night's game. When Jurgen Klinsmann walked out onto the Crew Stadium field for warm-ups the crowd went wild, causing the vigorous German to momentarily "raise the roof." The emotional choreography that preceded the game was a beautiful noise.

As an Englishman who has lived in this country for 20 years, it felt overwhelming to hear and hard at first to believe I was in America. Many U.S. internationals who toiled in the 1980s and early '90s will agree with me. The growth and passion of America's buoyant fan base is as important as the development of its football team. The fans passed the test with flying colors.


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