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USA vs. Mexico at the 2002 World Cup: The Game Plan

by Glenn Myernick, U.S. Men's National Team assistant coach

CHICAGO (Sunday, May 4, 2003) - In advance of Thursday's rematch of the USA's 2-0 victory over Mexico at the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Korea, U.S. Men's National Team assistant coach Glenn Myernick breaks down the team's unique strategy which helped defeat Mexico.

Having watched Mexico in all of their first round games, we thought they had been one of the best teams in the tournament. We identified two key elements that we wanted to address.

First was the play of midfielder Gerrardo Torrado. We felt he had been the engine of their team in group play. He was given far too much time and space, and had an awful lot of impact on Mexico's attack.

When Bruce put together our game plan, that was a very strong consideration. We wanted to do two things with regards to Torrado: make sure that he needed to spend a lot of energy defending in the middle of the field, and making sure that we had someone whose main defensive responsibility was to pick him up and lessen his impact.

That player became Landon Donovan. As it turned out, Torrado spend a lot of time chasing Donovan, and Landon did a great job of picking him up early when the ball turned over and forcing him to play the ball back and square.

What I'll always remember from that game is that the killer goal, the goal that Landon scored, became a 65-yard foot race between Donovan and Torrado as John O'Brien played the ball out to Eddie Lewis. Landon beats him to the spot that counts by about a yard to head home the goal that clinches the game. 

The other big consideration was Mexico's ability to keep possession of the ball. Bruce made a very wise decision, which was borne out by the result of the game, in removing Claudio Reyna from the middle of the field where he would not have to spend the vast majority of his time defending.

By pushing him out to the right, it allowed him to do a little bit of playmaking from there, which obviously had a huge impact on our first goal. He was so effective from that spot that Mexico was forced to make a rare tactical adjustment with a first half substitution. 

While a game plan certainly doesn't always come to fruition, it's pretty rewarding when you give players certain jobs and they go out and perform them, especially when the result is a victory in the biggest game in U.S. Soccer history.