When Matt Besler was handed his first World Cup Qualifying cap, it wasn’t here in Columbus or in the familiar confines of Kansas City. Instead, just a couple months after making his MNT debut in a no-frills friendly against Canada, Besler was thrust into the starting lineup for the USA’s visit in qualifying to vaunted Estadio Azteca in Mexico City on March 26, 2013.
“To be honest I was probably naïve,” Besler told ussoccer.com about that experience. “I didn’t know exactly what I was getting myself into.”
Starting next to him in central defense at the iconic Mexican venue was Omar Gonzalez. Having amassed five previous caps, the towering defender was only slightly more seasoned than his back line partner that night.
And while neither had previously experienced the intensity of the USA-Mexico rivalry, the duo proved a successful pair as the MNT earned a 0-0 draw and gained just its second World Cup Qualifying road point on Mexican soil.
“Not knowing about everything probably worked out in my favor in that time since it was my first real game with the team,” continued Besler. “Now I know the history, I know the rivalry and exactly what it takes. Any time you get to play Mexico, no matter what it’s a special night.”
Flash forward three years later, and both Besler and Gonzalez are wily veterans in the squad. Both part of the U.S. roster at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they have a combined 70 caps and 18 World Cup Qualifying appearances between them. And with mainstay center back Geoff Cameron unavailable for Friday’s Mexico clash with a hyperextended knee, perhaps the most important aspect of the pair’s experience is their seven combined previous meetings with El Tri.
That familiarity with the USA’s closest rivals will serve them well should MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann call on either player Friday night. In the interim, the veteran defenders are working to make sure the younger players in camp understand the magnitude of the upcoming match.
“They need to realize just how big this game is,” said Gonzalez. “That’s we’re playing such a big rival, there’s so much history and Columbus has been such a big part of that history. It’s important from the moment you get here to take it seriously. This is big for us, big for our fan base and big for the future. A win here could put us on the right path for qualifying. They really need to think about what this game entails, what it means for us and to take it seriously and enjoy the moment.”
“I would say that every single play matters,” added Besler. “Whether it’s a throw in or a goal kick or corner kick, every single play matters. You have to be tuned in at all times and give everything you have at every second of the match.”
No matter who gets the call on Friday night, both players say they’re happy to be facing Mexico in Columbus, where the United States has been dominant for the last four World Cup cycles.
“Columbus has been great,” said Gonzalez. “I played in the last qualifier to qualify for Brazil and the fan base is amazing. Having a majority of U.S. fans fill up that stadium is incredible. This time around we’re going to have fans from all 50 states which is going to be incredible as well. It’s not the biggest stadium, but it’s intimate, it’s loud, and people are close to the pitch. I think Friday we’re looking forward to a raucous fan base and we’re ready to go.”
“Personally I’ve never gotten a chance to play for the National Team here in Columbus,” said Besler. “I’m looking forward to being part of the atmosphere.”Read more
U.S. MNT Earns Second Point at Estadio Azteca with 0-0 Draw Against Mexico in Final Round of 2014 World Cup Qualifying
- Brad Guzan Makes Three Saves as USA Defense Posts Second Straight Shutout
- U.S. MNT Resumes 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying on June 7 in Jamaica and Hosts Panama on June 11 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle
- USA Hosts International Friendlies on May 29 against Belgium at FirstEnergy in Cleveland and June 2 against Germany at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
Goalkeeper Brad Guzan made three saves to record his second-straight clean sheet, and the young center back duo of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler showed tremendous poise and grit in helping the USA earn a historic result. The only other World Cup Qualifying point earned by the USA in Azteca came during another scoreless draw on Nov. 2, 1997.
The draw in the USA’s third of 10 matches in the Final Round of 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying moved the Americans to 1-1-1 (4 points) in the Hexagonal and into a three-way tie for second place with Honduras and Costa Rica behind Panama (1-0-2, 5 points) at the top of the table. Mexico (0-0-3, 3 points) is in fifth place, and Jamaica (0-1-2, 2 points) sits in sixth. The top three finishers qualify directly to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
In other results tonight Panama blanked Honduras 2-0 at Estadio Rommel Fernandez in Panama City and Costa Rica moved up from last place with a 2-0 victory against Jamaica at Estadio Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The U.S. will resume World Cup Qualifying on June 7 when it faces Jamaica at National Stadium in Kingston, Jamaica (beIN SPORT, time TBA). The USA’s next home game in World Cup qualifying will be June 11 against Panama at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, Washington. The match kicks off at 6:30 p.m. PT and will be broadcast on ESPN, WatchESPN and Univision. Fans can also follow the game online via ussoccer.com’s MatchTracker and on Twitter @ussoccer.
Guzan made two saves in the first half, stopping a Giovani dos Santos shot in the 21st minute and turning away a Jesus Zavala header in the 28th minute as the Mexican forward slipped unmarked behind the U.S. defense on a free kick.
The USA’s best buildup of the first half came in the 39th minute with some quick passing between Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey. Bradley momentarily flashed free in the penalty area, but the play was broken up by Mexico’s Jorge Torres Nilo.
Mexico players pleaded with referee Walter Lopez for a penalty in the 76th minute after U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu bundled into Javier Aquino from behind in the box, but Lopez signaled for a corner kick instead.
Guzan’s biggest save came during a wild last few minutes of the match in which Mexico pushed hard for a game-winner and earned a series of corner kicks.
In the third minute of stoppage time, Guzan dove to his right to bat away Angel Reyna’s strike from distance that looked bound for the left corner. Guzan and the U.S. defense repelled every Mexican cross at the end of the game and kept the hosts off the board despite Mexico’s 15-2 advantage in corner kicks.
Next up for the U.S., will be a pair of international friendlies. The USA faces Belgium on May 29 at FirstEnergy in Cleveland (8 p.m. ET; ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas) and then will face Germany on June 2 at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C. (2:30 p.m. ET; ESPN2, WatchESPN, UniMas)
- Jurgen Klinsmann made two significant changes from the USA’s 1-0 win against Costa Rica. Maurice Edu replaced an injured Jermaine Jones (left ankle injury) in the midfield while Matt Besler got the start at center back in place of Clarence Goodson (hamstring injury).
- Besler, playing in just his second National Team game, made his World Cup Qualifying debut. Edu made his first start since the USA’s 2-1 loss in qualifying to Jamaica on Sept. 7, 2012, in Kingston.
- DaMarcus Beasley, starting for a second-straight game at left back, collected his 99th-career cap. With his next appearance, Beasley would become the 13th MNT player to reach the century mark, and would match Tony Meola and Joe-Max Moore, who are tied for 11th all-time with 100-career appearances each.
- The match marked Brad Guzan's fifth shutout in seven-career World Cup Qualifying matches.
- Omar Gonzalez is the only player on the MNT to have started in all four matches this year.
- The U.S. is now 0-13-2 in World Cup Qualifying matches in Mexico and 1-23-2 all-time internationally in Mexico.
- U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsman made all three allowed substitutions: Eddie Johnson replaced Jozy Altidore in the 55th minute, Brad Davis entered for Herculez Gomez in the 71st minute and Brek Shea subbed for Graham Zusi in the 82nd minute.
- Davis, who was a late addition from Klinsmann prior to the Costa Rica match, did not dress for the 1-0 victory against Costa Rica and made his first World Cup Qualifying appearance tonight.
- Mexico defender Francisco Rodriguez was suspended for Tuesday’s match after picking up his second yellow card of World Cup Qualifying during Mexico’s 2-2 draw against Honduras last Friday.
- The USA is now 16-32-13 all-time in international competition against Mexico and 5-15-6 in World Cup Qualifying.
- Mexico is unbeaten in 26 straight home World Cup Qualifying matches and unbeaten in 17 straight at Estadio Azteca.
- Seven U.S. players on the current roster are carrying yellow cards in World Cup Qualifying: DaMarcus Beasley, Matt Besler, Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Brad Davis, Maurice Edu and Graham Zusi. Beasley (eighth minute), Besler (20th minute) and Davis (second-half stoppage time) were shown yellow cards in Tuesday’s match against Mexico. Their next caution will result in a one-match suspension.
- Head coach Jurgen Klinsmann is now 12-7-6 at the helm of the U.S. MNT and undefeated at Estadio Azteca (1-0-1).
-U.S. Men’s National Team Match Report-
Match: U.S. Men’s National Team vs. Mexico
Date: March 26, 2013
Competition: 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifier – Final Round CONCACAF
Venue: Estadio Azteca
Kickoff: 10:30 p.m. ET
Weather: 64 degrees, partly cloudy
Scoring Summary: 1 2 F
USA 0 0 0
MEX 0 0 0
USA: 1-Brad Guzan; 20-Geoff Cameron, 4-Omar Gonzalez, 14-Matt Besler, 7-DaMarcus Beasley; 4-Michael Bradley, 6-Maurice Edu; 19-Graham Zusi (11-Brek Shea, 82), 8-Clint Dempsey (capt.), 9-Herculez Gomez (13-Brad Davis, 71); 17-Jozy Altidore (18-Eddie Johnson, 55)
Substitutions Not Used: 2-Tony Beltran, 5-Kyle Beckerman, 10-Joe Corona, 12-Nick Rimando, 15-Justin Morrow, 16-Sacha Kljestan, 21-Clarence Goodson, 22-Sean Johnson, 23-Terrence Boyd
Head coach: Jurgen Klinsmann
MEX: 1-Guillermo Ochoa (capt.); 13-Severo Meza, 16-Diego Reyes, 15-Hector Moreno, 20-Jorge Torres Nilo (8-Angel Reyna, 72), 17-Jesus Zavala, 3-Carlos Salcido, 11-Javier Aquino (9-Omar Bravo, 81), 18-Andres Guardado, 14-Javier Hernandez, 10-Giovani Dos Santos
Substitutions Not Used: 4-Hugo Ayala, 5-Carlos Alberto Peña, 6-Gerardo Torrado, 7-Hector Herrera, 12-Jesus Corona, 19-Jonny Magallon, 21-Jesus Molina, 22-Raul Jimenez, 23-Alfredo Talavera
Head coach: José Manuel de la Torre
Stats Summary: USA / MEX
Shots: 1 / 17
Shots on Goal: 0 / 3
Saves: 3 / 0
Corner Kicks: 2 / 15
Offside: 1/ 4
USA – DaMarcus Beasley (caution) 8th minute
USA – Matt Besler (caution) 20
USA – Brad Davis (caution) 90+2
Referee: Walter Alexander Lopez Castellanos (Guatemala)
Assistant Referee 1: Gerson Otoniel Lopez Castellanos (Guatemala)
Assistant Referee 2: Hermenerito Leal Mo (Guatemala)
Fourth Official: Oscar David Reyna Moller (Guatemala)
Budweiser Man of the Match: Brad Guzan Read more