The United States Men’s National Soccer Team escaped with one point from the encounter with its south-of-the-border rival Mexico. This was a hard fought scoreless draw and it was only the second time in history that the U.S. earned a point in a WorldCup qualifying game against Mexico in Azteca Stadium. This draw moves the U.S. into third place in the Hexagonal group standings. The Americans are one point behind the group’s leaders Panama. The second place was claimed by Costa Rica which has the same number of points as USA but is placed higher in the table due to a better goal differential.
For the most of the game, Mexico dominated the U.S. For example, Mexico earned 15 corner kicks versus 2 for the U.S., Mexico outshot the U.S. by 17 to 1 and, of the three shots on goal, all of them were by Mexico. Perhaps not surprisingly given Mexico’s dominance and these statistics, all of the cautions in the game were handed out to Americans, including DeMarcus Beasly, Matt Bresler and Brad Davis in the 8th, 20th and 92nd minute of the game, respectively.
There can be little doubt that the U.S. should feel a bit lucky about this win. After all, in the 12th minute of the game, the assistant referee called for a penalty kick on what he perceived to have been a foul on Mexico’s Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez (see picture on the right). The alleged foul occurred inside the goal kick area but away from the action. As the replays showed, U.S. midfielder Michael Bradley appeared to make some contact with Hernandez in the penalty area but referee Walter Lopez waived off his assistant referee and let play continue. The assistant referee’s flag, however, went up somewhat late and Mr. Lopez also appeared to be in a good position to make the call himself. Then, in the 76th minute of the game, Mr. Lopez was in the center of attention once again. This time, in a desperate attempt to prevent a shot on goal, U.S. midfielder Maurice Edu rammed into Mexico's Javier Aquino from behind in the penalty area and felled him to the ground. Mr. Lopez, who was just a few feet away from the situation and appeared perfectly positioned to make the call (see the picture on top), decided that the challenge was fair. Mexican players immediately accosted Mr. Lopez, vigorously protesting his decision (see the play at 4:45 into the video clip below).
Based on our observations, Mr. Lopez was incorrect and should have awarded a penalty kick for the foul on Aquino. Edu challenged for the ball from behind and clearly chopped Aquino down. But, as Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa said after the game, "soccer is sometimes fickle" and the U.S. was lucky to escape with a 0:0 draw.
Let us know what you thought about the two challenges. Would you point to the spot?