The United States and Mexico played to 0-0 tie in front of a sellout crowd at Reliant Stadium in Houston on Thursday night in their first meeting since their memorable World Cup encounter of a year ago.
The crowd of 69,582 was the largest to see a soccer game in Texas, surpassing the 63,998 who turned out at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to watch the Netherlands-Brazil quarterfinal at the 1994 World Cup.
While the fans in Houston might not have received their money’s worth in terms of goals, what they did get was a hard-fought, competitive game reasonably free of the nasty fouls that marked the teams’ match last June, when the U.S. won, 2-0, in Jeonju, South Korea, to advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
The closest either team came to scoring was in the 24th minute, when U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard was forced into a finger-tip save, deflecting the ball up and over the crossbar after Jesus Arellano, Mexico’s most dangerous player, had unleashed a shot from 20 yards.
The Americans, meanwhile, created a half-dozen half-chances, the best of which came late in the game when the Galaxy’s Cobi Jones, making his U.S.-record 160th national team appearance, crossed the ball from the left flank and Chris Klein powered a header just over the bar from close range.
Moments later, DaMarcus Beasley, lively as always, sent the ball in to Earnie Stewart from a similar position, but Mexican goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez was alert enough to smother that threat.
Earlier, Brian McBride was just a fraction of a second late when running onto a cross by Bobby Convey, also from the left.
In the first half, the U.S. took advantage of Beasley’s and Frankie Hejduk’s speed down the wings to try to open up the Mexican defense. On three occasions, Beasley worked momentarily free, but the 20-year-old Chicago Fire winger could not quite take advantage.
First, Landon Donovan sent a through ball that Beasley fired wide left. Later, Clint Mathis found him with an astute pass, but a superb last-minute tackle by Mexican defender Duilio Davino cleared the ball off Beasley’s foot just in time. Finally, a header across the goalmouth to Beasley from Mathis just failed to connect.
The tie brought the all-time record between the teams to 28-10-10 in Mexico’s favor, but the U.S. has a 5-3-1 edge since Bruce Arena became coach in 1998.
Thursday’s result will increase the pressure on Mexico Coach Ricardo Lavolpe. Mexico has won only once and scored only three goals in six games since Lavolpe took charge last fall and has been shut out by Argentina, Colombia, Brazil and the U.S.
Next up for the U.S. is a game against Wales at San Jose on May 26. Mexico’s next match is against El Salvador on July 6 at the Home Depot Center in Carson in a game honoring the Galaxy’s Mauricio Cienfuegos.
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U.S. vs. Mexico
The record of the U.S. national soccer team against Mexico under Coach Bruce Arena:
*--* Date Site Result 1999 March 13 San Diego L, 2-1 Aug. 1 Mexico City L, 1-0 2000 June 11 East Rutherford, N.J W, 3-0 Oct. 25 Los Angeles W, 2-0 2001 Feb. 28 Columbus, Ohio W, 2-0 July 1 Mexico City L, 1-0 2002 April 3 Denver W, 1-0 June 17 Jeonju, South Korea W, 2-0 2003 May 8, Houston T, 0-0