The United States has walked away from Estadio Azteca on level footing. The 100,000 fans, lung-sucking altitude, suffocating smog and a very talented Mexico team couldn't crack the Americans, who batted back the Mexicans time and time again to earn a 0-0 draw at the famed stadium in Mexico City.
It is just the second time that the U.S. has ever gotten a result at the Azteca in qualifying and it was due in large part to Omar Gonzalez. The 24-year-old was absolutely sensational in the center, clearing everything away with the dominant aerial performance we've come to expect from the hulking centerback, but also turning and running with the skillful Mexican attackers.
The U.S. had trouble early on dealing with the Mexicans' attack down the flanks. DaMarcus Beasley had serious problems in the early going at left back and Geoff Cameron was a mess at right back, while neither received any help from Graham Zusi or Herculez Gomez. But after a rough spot in the middle of the first half when Mexico was all over the U.S. and the Americans were lucky to survive, things evened out. The U.S. grabbed their fair share of control and the defense settled down.
Michael Bradley did a lot to help the U.S. pressure the Mexican defense, but he also made waste of the Americans' best chance. A good, quick build up saw Jozy Altidore play Bradley in, but a bad touch wasted what could have been a U.S. goal.
That chance aside, the U.S. didn't do much going forward, but that was fine. They kept possession decently and did well to force the Mexicans wide, where they had to cross and the massive Gonzalez was there to clear the ball away. Matt Besler did his part too, overcoming a slow start to really stabilize the U.S. central defense.
Mexico turned up the heat to start the second half and needing fresh legs, Jurgen Klinsmann brought on Eddie Johnson. His pace helped keep Mexico a little more honest and El Tri took their foot off the pedal some.
All of the Americans' work almost went to waste in the 77th minute when Maurice Edu bowled over Angel Reyna in the box for what was a clear penalty, but luckily for the U.S., the referee did not give it. Mexico was rightly livid, but the Americans didn't care. Shocking results require some luck and this was the luck that the U.S. got.
A couple shaky plays late on made for a nervy U.S. finish as a bad Brad Davis foul and poor clearance gave Mexco two set piece opportunities, but the Americans cleared them easily.
Finally, with four minutes of stoppage time gone, the referee blew the final whistle. The fans at the Azteca booed and chanted for Chepo de la Torre to be fired, while the players bombarded the ref.
The U.S. didn't care about the Mexican meltdown, though. They had done their job.