Bobby Wood scores, but disastrous start sees U.S. fall to Mexico
Mexico arrived in Columbus, Ohio, to open the Hexagonal round of World Cup qualifying intent on ending the "Dos a Cero" tradition. Thanks to a dominant first half and a late set-piece tally, El Tri did just that in a 2-1 victory over the United States on Friday.
It's difficult to pull many positives from the match for the U.S., as the team saw a 15-year unbeaten run in home World Cup qualifiers come to an end against its biggest rival. Bobby Wood's play was the highlight of the evening for the Stars and Stripes, and he combined well with Jozy Altidore in what coach Jurgen Klinsmann will hope is a sign of things to come. If we're being generous, the United States' response after the first 45 minutes was good, though playing so poorly in the first half counts among the negatives.
The opening 25 minutes were an absolute disaster for the Americans. A new formation led to mass confusion, especially through the midfield and defense. Though a switch to a 4-4-2 brought some improvement, falling behind a goal at home put the U.S. in the difficult position of chasing the game. A better second half was undone by shoddy set-piece defending when Rafa Marquez slipped to the near post and flicked a late header past keeper Brad Guzan.
Manager rating out of 10
2 -- Yes, the U.S. controlled most of the second half and found an equalizer through Wood. But Klinsmann's tactical plan to start the game, a 3-5-2 that his personnel were not suited for, killed any chance the team had of taking the game to Mexico to open the match. Klinsmann might have played a role in getting his team up for a much better second half, but because his choices led to the atrocious first-half performance, he can't be given credit there either.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Tim Howard, 4.5 -- Forced off in the 40th minute due to injury. Made one excellent save early on, but was unable to get across to stop a deflected shot from Miguel Layun.
DF Omar Gonzalez, 4.5 -- Dragged out of position on numerous occasions in the first half because of the unfamiliar three-man back line. Made a couple of solid interventions when required.
DF John Brooks, 5 -- Had a decidedly uneven night. Baited into fouls by Mexico too often. Played an excellent pass that led to the American goal, but was beaten by Hirving Lozano late in the game.
DF Matt Besler, 5 -- Fought hard throughout his 81 minutes of action and did not shy away from the physical side of the clash. Struggled through the first half, but looked more comfortable at left-back after a formation switch.
MF/DF Timmy Chandler, 5 -- Looked lost at wing-back in the 3-5-2 the U.S. rolled out to start the game, but improved dramatically in the second half. Became a crossing threat late.
MF Jermaine Jones, 4 -- Looked slow and unfit in the first half, but found the game in the second 45 minutes. Helped the U.S. match Mexico physically, but was very lucky not to see yellow on more than one occasion.
MF Michael Bradley, 4.5 -- Clearly uncomfortable with the formation in the first 25 minutes. Misplaced passes throughout the first half before improving in the second.
MF/DF Fabian Johnson, 5 -- Lacked sharpness in the first half. Contributed more to the attack in the second and provided a few key defensive moments.
MF Christian Pulisic, 5.5 -- Grew into the game in his first big test as a starter. Drew multiple Mexican defenders with every touch.
FW Bobby Wood, 7 -- Limited in his influence in the first half, largely because of the dysfunction of the U.S. midfield. Bossed the second 45 minutes alongside Altidore and scored the goal that drew the game level.
FW Jozy Altidore, 5 -- Found an understanding with Wood that probably should have delivered more than one goal. Set up one tally with an excellent turn and pass. Looked to have been caught flat-footed on Rafa Marquez's winning goal.
GK Brad Guzan, 5 -- Held down the fort after Howard's injury and didn't see much action. Was not at fault for Mexico's goal.
MF DeAndre Yedlin, N/R -- Brought energy as a substitute and tracked back well from midfield. Did not find the rhythm of the game quickly enough.
DF Michael Orozco, N/R -- Did not feature prominently.
Jason Davis covers Major League Soccer and the United States national team for ESPN FC. Twitter: @davisjsn.