It was kind of funny how much importance I put on this game before it started last night. I had it on my calendar and was all set to tune in for Jurgen Klinsmann’s debut as coach for the United States Men’s National Team (USMNT.) I am not sure what I really expected, though. The USMNT plays friendlies on occasion. They don’t mean a whole lot except as pre-season type games for bigger events like tournaments. Hiring Klinsmann has really raised the interest level up a notch, though. It is a commitment to widespread culture change in the program. At the same time, it isn’t like he was going to be able to enact much change in the 10 days since he was hired.
Last night’s 1-1 tie was more about symbolism. Klinsmann removed the names from the back of the jerseys of the players to show that it is only about representing the United States. It is a pretty universal statement, but it still seems so odd to get lessons in patriotism from a German.
As for the game itself, Mexico seemed pretty dominant throughout the first half. The goal that Oribe Peralta scored to take the 1-0 lead was pretty spectacular. As opposed to the previous affair against Mexico in the Gold Cup, the U.S. defense seemed to be playing pretty well. Even a defense playing great won’t be able to keep every cross from occurring. Peralta was being guarded closely by Michael Bradley, but still managed to get his foot on the ball to weakly re-direct it into the back of the net. Sometimes you just tip your cap to the opposition.
The United States went into halftime without a shot on goal trailing 1-0. Things continued to look bleak in the second half, but this team found a way. Brek Shea did amazingly well to hold off defenders and get his cross past the Mexican goalkeeper to a wide open Robbie Rogers for the equalizer.
The game wasn’t without controversy. The refereeing was decidedly bad. A U.S. player, Robbie Rogers, was dragged down by his jersey on a pretty clear path to goal and the Mexican player Gerrardo Torrado. He was shown a yellow, but there isn’t any realistic argument that it shouldn’t have been a red card. Even if he had been removed, there is no telling that the United States would have been able to capitalize as it was already the 88th minute of the game.
So, the United States did pretty well to tie on a night of massive change that is just a hint of changes to come. Jurgen Klinsmann gets off to a decent start in the eyes of the world, even if the end result doesn’t make much difference in any true reality.