Feb. 7, 2007
GLENDALE, Ariz. (AP) -The sellout crowd belonged to Mexico.
The game went to the United States, as usual.
Former Bruin Jimmy Conrad (1996-97) scored his first international goal, Landon Donovan converted a late breakaway and the Americans defeated Mexico 2-0 in an exhibition Wednesday night, extending the dominance of their regional rival.
"We've clearly done well. I think mentally we do have an edge," Donovan said. "But we were also a little bit lucky."
Playing in front of a heavily pro-Mexican sellout crowd of 64,462, the Americans improved to 8-2-1 against Mexico since 2000. The United States is 7-0-1 against Mexico on home soil in that stretch, outscoring its southern neighbor 13-0.
"Right now, we're on top, and we're going to try to stay there," U.S. defender Chris Albright said.
The victory provided a boost for interim coach Bob Bradley, who is hoping to persuade the U.S. Soccer Federation to lift his interim tag. Before the game, USSF president Sunil Gulati told reporters the result "is not going to lead to a direct decision as to who the national team coach will be."
Bradley is 2-0 since he was hired Dec. 8 to replace Bruce Arena.
"The work that we put in this month has been very good," Bradley said. "Not only to prepare us for these two games but to establish a foundation for every camp."
The United States started slow but finished in a rush.
Conrad, playing his 19th international game, headed home a corner kick by Donovan in the 52nd minute, beating goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez inside the left post. It was the 24th career assist for Donovan, the U.S. career leader.
Donovan added the clincher in the 90th minute off a pass by Ricardo Clark. It was the 27th goal in 86 international appearances for Donovan, who scored in his second straight game after going scoreless in 18 consecutive national team appearances over 1 1/2 years.
"I think we showed what we're made of," said Conrad, who played an outstanding two-way game.
But Mexico didn't go quietly in the first game under coach Hugo Sanchez. The Mexicans had nine shots, seven in the second half, and pressured the Americans relentlessly after Conrad's goal.
"I think the way the team functioned, the way it looked on the field, left us satisfied," Mexican captain Rafael Marquez said through a translator. "All the same, it hurts because of the rivalry between the two teams and the importance of the match. However, we have to take the positive from the match. We created a lot of opportunities but we just couldn't convert. It's just the beginning."
Sanchez had assembled a veteran team in a clear attempt to win rather than evaluate players for the upcoming World Cup cycle. "They made it pretty open that they came to win this game and they were bringing everybody, and maybe mentally now (we) have even more of an advantage," Donovan said.
Tim Howard, bidding to take over from Kasey Keller as the top American goalkeeper, shut out the Mexicans in his first national team appearance since last May.
Both teams are preparing for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean, and the start of 2010 World Cup qualifying next year.
It was the first game for the Americans against the Tricolores since Sept. 3, 2005, when the United States clinched its fifth straight World Cup berth with a 2-0 victory at Columbus, Ohio.
Emotions flared late, with Marquez and American forward Eddie Johnson exchanging shoves. After the final whistle, the Mexicans strode off the field without shaking the Americans' hands or exchanging jerseys, as is customary.
"The sportsmanship - it would be nice if you guys (reporters) and the Mexican press talked about it, because it's really poor," Donovan said. "When we lose to them there, we shake their hands and say, `Good job.' There's none of that reciprocally, and it's kind of disappointing."
Indeed, Marquez gave the Americans little credit for the victory. "They were a little opportunistic and stayed in their own end for the majority of the match, but they did beat us," Marquez said. "Considering the tactics that they utilized, I think that is the credit I would give them considering the fact that on the field, they were not superior to us."
The Americans were on the defensive early on. Sanchez had promised to bring an aggressive style, and the Mexicans were on the attack from the start, led by forward Cuauhtemoc Blanco.
Mexico had a good opportunity in the fourth minute, when Howard dropped the ball in front of his goal with two Mexican forwards nearby, but Conrad made the clearance.
Mexico's best chance of the first half came when forward Jared Borgetti headed a cross just wide of the goal in the 44th minute. In the 67th minute, second-half sub Omar Bravo was stopped by Howard on a close-in shot.
The Americans had a chance to put the game away in the 73rd minute, but Sanchez stopped Bobby Convey wide-open shot from 20 yards.