Guzan in goal helps US earn rare point in Mexico City

McClatchy news servicesMarch 27, 2013 

Brad Guzan swatted away shot after shot, and the U.S. national team hung on for a 0-0 draw with Mexico on Tuesday night, earning only their second point in a World Cup qualifier at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

The tie moved the U.S. into third place in World Cup qualifying for the North and Central American and Caribbean region (CONCACAF) after three of 10 matches, one point behind Panama and behind Costa Rica on goal difference. The Americans and Costa Ricans both have four points, but the Ticos, who earlier Tuesday lost their appeal over Friday’s loss to the United States in a Colorado snow storm, are ahead on goal difference.

Mexico coach Manuel de la Torre is sure to come under fire after a third straight draw, which dropped El Tri to second-to-last place in the standings. Mexico had plenty of chances, but El Tri was plagued by poor finishing and dismal execution on set pieces. Mexico had 15 corner kicks, including three in the last two minutes of stoppage time, and Guzan body-blocked a dangerous shot by Angel Reyna.

Azteca is one of the world’s most imposing venues, and the Americans have a miserable track record there. They are 0-13-2 in World Cup qualifiers in Mexico, with their only other point — also from a 0-0 draw — coming in 1997.

But the Americans got a boost of confidence from their win in an exhibition last summer, and not even a patchwork — and inexperienced — lineup could shake them. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann gambled by starting Matt Besler at center back, only the second appearance for the Americans by the young defender. But he and Omar Gonzalez — the last two Major League Soccer defenders of the year — looked like grizzled veterans as they repeatedly snuffed out shots by Javier Hernandez, Javier Aquino and Jesus Zavala.

Guzan, who made his first start since 2010 in Friday night’s qualifier, was superb. When Carlos Salcido lobbed a gorgeous chip shot to Zavala in the 43rd, Guzan ended the threat by coming out and slamming into Zavala.

The United States never really challenged Mexican goalkeeper Guilermo Ochoa. But their defense was offense enough.

BLIZZARD WIN UPHELD

FIFA has upheld the U.S.’ 1-0 win over Costa Rica in a snowy World Cup qualifier in Colorado last week, saying the protest was not filed correctly.

World Cup regulations required Ticos captain Bryan Ruiz to “immediately lodge a protest” with the referee if he believed the field became unplayable.

Protests also must be filed in writing to FIFA’s administration “no later than two hours after the match,” the regulations state. FIFA said it received the protest letter two days after the game.

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