For nearly 80 minutes the U.S. Men’s National Team’s international friendly against Mexico at Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca on Wednesday night was shaping up to be perhaps the most lackluster installment in recent memory of the two nations’ storied rivalry. The game looked headed to a scoreless draw – one with very few quality chances for either side. It was a result the U.S. would’ve taken given their 0-23-1 all-time record in Mexico City.
Then, a bit of magic happened. Brek Shea, fresh off the bench, got the ball on the left flank in the 80th minute and immediately nutmegged a Mexican defender to get into the box. The 22-year-old FC Dallas winger dribbled towards the six yard box before sending a square ball to Terrence Boyd, a halftime substitute. Boyd, a 21-year-old Rapid Wien striker, back heeled the ball to another fresh sub, defender Michael Orozco Fiscal, who tapped it into the net for his first international goal.
That goal would hand the U.S. their first ever win in Mexico City – a shock 1-0 defeat of Mexico, despite the U.S. missing the likes of Carlos Bocanegra, Clint Dempsey, Steve Cherundolo and Jozy Altidore from its squad.
But the match wasn’t always so exciting. The two sides slogged their way through a first half in which Mexico dominated possession and the U.S. looked to hit on the counterattack. Neither team was able to test the opposition’s ‘keeper as Attleboro, Mass. native Geoff Cameron led the U.S. defense with a fantastic performance to keep the home team quiet.
It wasn’t until after the hour mark that the game finally began to show some signs of life. The U.S. had its first chance on frame in the 61st minute when a Herculez Gomez free kick from just outside the box forced Guillermo Ochoa into a fairly standard save. Seconds later Kyle Beckerman missed just high with a long lob.
In the 64th minute it was Mexico’s turn with a free kick, but Andrés Guardado curled his effort just wide.
Mexico should’ve scored first in the 76th minute when Elias Hernandez picked out Javier Hernandez just a couple yards from goal with a cross. The Manchester United striker known as Chicharito somehow sent his close range header wide of the far post.
The Mexicans would come to rue that missed chance as just four minutes later the three U.S. substitutes would combine to give the visitors a shock lead on their first great chance of the match.
Then it was U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard’s time to shine. Five minutes after the U.S. grabbed the lead, it was Mexico who nearly equalized when Javier Hernandez got the ball at the top of the box and volleyed a shot on frame. His effort deflected, sending Howard the wrong way, but the Everton ‘keeper recovered just enough to keep the ball from crossing the line.
Howard again came up huge again in the 89th minute, denying a header from Javier Hernandez from just four yards out with an incredible acrobatic save.
Those saves would preserve the shutout and the historic win for the U.S.
The USA returns to CONCACAF qualifying for 2014 FIFA World Cup when it takes on Jamaica at 9:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 7, at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica.