February 11, 2009
By Michael Lewis
PLAY IT AGAIN, SAM'S (ARMY)
U.S. beats Mexico by a familiar 2-0 score as Bradley strikes twice
Columbus, Ohio -- After the U.S. National Team vanquished Mexico yet again, it was left to Sam's Army to put the exclamation point and make a poignant point to the victory.
|Michael Bradley closes in on his second goal of the night.
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
After sitting in the rain and the wind at Columbus Crew Soccer Stadium, the ardent fans of the U.S. team proudly sang the national anthem for the second time -- the first time was prior to the game. They might not have realized it, but they were sending a not so-subtle message to the Mexicans: two, as in yet another 2-0 victory in a match that counted.
The history is undisputable.
Three qualifiers played here and all three results were two-zip (the other games were in 2001 and 2005). Add the Americans' 2-0 victory over Mexico at the 2002 World Cup in Korea and there is a trend
With midfielder Michael Bradley leading the way with a goal in each half, the U.S. started the final round of CONCACAF qualifying on the right foot with three points. Bradley became only the fourth U.S. player to score twice in a match in 55 games against Mexico and the first since former Cosmos forward Steve Moyers did the trick in a 2-1 win on Nov. 23, 1980.
The win also improved the Americans' unbeaten streak against their archrivals to 11 (9-0-2).
"Great to start the final round with a win against Mexico," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. “It’s never easy to beat Mexico."
The game was not a total victory for the U.S.. Another former MetroStar, goalkeeper Tim Howard, who survived a dirty challenge by Mexican defender Rafael Marquez in the 65th minute (he was red-carded), received his second yellow card of qualifying. He will miss the March 28 qualifier in El Salvador due to a yellow-card suspension.
It was a night to remember for the 21-year-old Bradley, the son of the U.S. coach. The younger Bradley played another strong game as a defensive midfielder before 23,776 spectators. Bradley entered the match with three international goals in 25 appearances.
When asked about his performance, Bradley replied, "I'm happy with the win. We have three points. We beat Mexico. It's the best part."
Like it or not, controversy has always followed the Bradleys, first when the two were with the MetroStars from 2004-05 and now with the National Team. There were whispers of favoritism, although Michael Bradley's performance has put that all to rest.
During the post-game press conference, the senior Bradley was asked if he was the father or coach.
"Right now I'm the coach," he said. "It's about the team. When you coach a the professional level there is a way you want to do the work, the environment that you create. Michael . . . gets a steady dose of that when he's with the team, but also in terms of the father-son relation that we have."
After squandering virtually the first half after the U.S. took the wind behind their backs, Bradley saved his team much embarrassment by connecting in the 43rd minute.
DaMarcus Beasley sent a corner kick from the right corner to the far side of the penalty area to Landon Donovan, who headed the ball to defender Oguchi Onyewu. Standing some six yards out, Onyewu fired a shot on the net that goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez knocked away. Bradley, standing on the doorstep three yards out, slotted the ball home.
"Landon did a great job of heading the ball across the goal," Bradley said. "There were a bunch of guys there. It bounced loose for me."
Two minutes into second-half stoppage time, Bradley struck again. This time former Red Bulls forward Jozy Altidore sent Landon Donovan the ball. Donovan feed Bradley, who beat Sanchez from just outside the penalty area.
"Jozy and Landon made a good play to get behind the defense," Bradley said. "Landon played a good ball."
The 2001 qualifier here forever will be remembered for the 29-degree temperatures, the 2005 encounter for the match in which the U.S. booked a spot in Germany. Wednesday night will be remembered for an incessant wind. Prior to the kickoff, there were gusts recorded up to 61 miles per hour.
The U.S. won the coin toss and picked the south goal to attack, with the win at their backs. Until Michael Bradley scored, the U.S. had squandered most of the first half. Playing against the wind in the second half, the U.S. actually controlled the ball for most of the time, taking valuable time off the clock.
"On nights when the conditions are bad, when the wind is like this, it's important the team moves well together," the senior Bradley said. "You have to feel tactically that you are disciplined."
The loss left Mexico coach Sven-Goran Eriksson on the hot seat. Combined with only one win in the team's last seven games, a loss to the U.S. could mean the end for Eriksson.
“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.”