Despite hostile ‘home’ crowd, U.S. earns draw against rival Mexico in Glendale

A large contingent of Mexico fans showed up at State Farm Stadium for their friendly against the United States Men’s National Team at State Farm Stadium Wednesday night. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

GLENDALE – The United States Men’s National Team battled from behind to grab a late equalizer in the final 10 minutes of play, securing a 1-1 draw against Mexico in the 75th edition of the rivalry at State Farm Stadium Wednesday.

Although the friendly was a “home” game for the U.S., the vast majority of the 55,730 in attendance were less than friendly toward the hosts. Most of the fans were there to support Mexico in the first Allstate Continental Clásico.

In fact, after Jesús Ferreira scored the late goal for the U.S., cups and cans rained down on him as he celebrated the equalizer in front of the stands.

Mexico has drawn well at State Farm Stadium in the past, as has the United States, but it was clear which side the crowd supported Wednesday night. Still, although previous editions of the rivalry at State Farm Stadium have drawn slightly larger crowds, the attendance was impressive for a mid-week game.
On the field, things were relatively uneventful as far as the U.S.-Mexico rivalry goes. Three yellow cards were handed out, all to U.S. players, while only four shots were put on target by both sides combined.

Although the game lacked the typical fireworks that come when these two teams meet, that won’t matter to the U.S., which extended its unbeaten streak against Mexico to five games over the past two years. The game also marked interim U.S. coach Anthony Hudson’s first match in charge of the rivalry.

“I guess my takeaway from the game is I’m proud of the effort of the players,” Hudson told Cronkite News. “I’m proud of the fact that when we made the changes they really, really went after the opposition. And even right at the end, I think if the game had gotten on longer, I think we would have had a chance to win.

“It could have gone either way, but we were feeling confident to the point where we had players going up – which I wasn’t sure I really wanted – but players were eager to go up and get on the end of the free-kick at the end, so yeah, overall proud.”

Given that the game didn’t take place in a designated FIFA international window, it was played mid-week to accommodate for MLS games on the weekend that feature many of the U.S. players. The tight time frame meant Hudson only had two days on the field with his players ahead of this game, far shorter than in the average international break.

Thus, there was limited time to implement a game plan, but with plenty of new faces on the squad, any experience is good experience – especially against a bitter rival like Mexico.

“It was two days together with the team, and I think it’s just another two or three days together concept time with the players,” Hudson said. “And as I’ve said before, we have a very large group of players and a large player pool, a large amount of players in and around the group … so yeah, it was a good test for us.

“I have to give credit to Mexico. They were really good tonight. We knew the game was going to be chaotic and intense, but I felt (with) the change at the end that the players really responded well. Overall we’re very proud of the players.”

The U.S. started eight players that traveled to Qatar for the World Cup, including three – Walker Zimmerman, Sergiño Dest and Ferreira – who all started in the round of 16 defeat to the Netherlands.

The game began as a back-and-forth affair with each side taking turns possessing the ball and working their way into the attacking third. Mexico began with a back-three formation, a change unexpected by Hudson but eventually matched with a shape change by the U.S. later in the game.

“I think the change in the Mexico shape was something … unexpected and we tried at half-time to adjust our shape so we could, one, get certain players in positions on the ball and then also allow us to be able to put pressure on the back-three (of Mexico),” Hudson said.

“Then as I’ve just said before, I think that the challenge was we found it difficult to get pressure on the ball. And then also, I think you saw maybe seven or eight diagonal passes out to their wingbacks. It was tough in a back-four to really get across and get pressure on the ball.”

At the half-way mark the game remained deadlocked at 0-0. Mexico was just edging the U.S. in possession and shots, with some good opportunities coming from mistakes at the back by the U.S.

It seemed Mexico would eventually capitalize upon U.S. errors at the back and Mexico finally broke the deadlock ten minutes after halftime.

U.S. midfielder Kellyn Acosta played an errant long ball to center-back Aaron Long, who was caught in a 50-50 chase at the halfway line with Mexico’s Uriel Antuna.

Antuna took the ball off of Long and all the way into the box, unchallenged, where he calmly finished past U.S. keeper Sean Johnson.

The goal broke Johnson’s USMNT record of 814 minutes played without conceding a goal, a streak which spanned more than 12 years.

The United States continued pushing, but Mexico ramped up its pressure after scoring, controlling the ball and continuing to create dangerous chances. The pressure culminated in the 81st minute when Mexico struck the crossbar off a shot at the top of the box, nearly doubling the lead.

Walker Zimmerman of the U.S. Men’s National Team battles Roberto de la Rosa of Mexico during the friendly at State Farm Stadium that ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

Walker Zimmerman of the U.S. Men’s National Team battles Roberto de la Rosa of Mexico during the friendly at State Farm Stadium that ended in a 1-1 draw. (Photo by Shaun Clark/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

After striking the crossbar, the ball was cleared out to the feet of Dest who took on and beat three Mexico defenders with some silky dribbling. The ball was played out to Jordan Morris on the left flank. He took a touch to compose himself, then whipped an inch-perfect cross into the box with the outside of his boot.

It barely deflected off the boot of a Mexican defender before finding the feet of a wide open Ferreira, who tapped the ball in to equalize the game.

“Jesús is always making good runs in the box, and I just tried to put it out there for him,” Morris said after the game.

The goal marked the eighth of Ferreira’s international career and his first in 2023.

“It’s amazing. As a player and representing our country you always want to provide joy to the fans and being able to score for the national team it’s a feeling that I can’t describe and now doing it in front of 50,000 people, mainly representing and supporting Mexico, it’s amazing,” Ferreira said.

“So to be able to show what I can do and knowing that, today I didn’t have my best game, and being able to have a strong mentality to be able to flip the page, have a good touch … and focus on the next play, you know, you can tell that the mind is powerful.”

In a battle of managers experiencing their first match in charge of their respective sides in the rivalry, Hudson walked happier than Mexico’s Diego Cocca, who was also making his debut in the U.S.-Mexico series.

After coming within inches of securing his first win in charge in the rivalry, 16 seconds later Mexico Cocca and his side found themselves tied and with not much time with which to work.

In addition to extending the recent American unbeaten run against Mexico, the draw gives the U.S. momentum heading into a rematch this summer in the CONCACAF Nations League semifinal. In 2021, the U.S. defeated Mexico in the final of the inaugural version of the tournament and repeating as champions has been on the minds of the Americans since the World Cup.

That game will take place outside of the European club season, in a designated FIFA international window, meaning both sides will have all their top players available for selection, compared to this game where both managers had primarily domestic-based players from which to choose.

If Wednesday’s friendly is any indication, the two sides should be evenly matched again.

Harrison Campbell HAIR-i-son CAM-bull
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Harrison Campbell expects to graduate in May 2023 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in film and media studies. Campbell has interned as a reporter at O’Rourke Media Group and worked as the lead boxing reporter at Fight Club.