On Wednesday, the United States lost 2-1 to Mexico at Estadio Azteca, making them 0-23-1 on Mexican soil. Many had thought this was the time for the Americans to reverse their trends south of the border, but ultimately, the result was no different from past circumstances. Up early thanks to an eighth minute Charlie Davies brace, the United States were not able to hold on, giving up goals on either side of halftime to once again leave Mexico City in defeat.
Although getting off to a promising start, the Americans put forth a lackluster performance, clearly struggling with the high altitude of the Azteca. They were dominated in terms of possession and managed four shots, only one of which was on goal. Their offense lacked creativity, if any presence at all, and behind the ball, the American squad was maimed with gaping holes, allowing the Mexicans too much time to work in the midfield. For individual critiques, see the below post, but overall, the performance by the United States was poor.
The American display on the field, however, was not the most disappointing aspect of the match. Terrible refereeing, classless Mexicans, and an abnormally high altitude tainted the latest chapter of this storied rivalry, and as a result, the United States leave Mexico feeling quite hard-done-by. It is a shame in both football and in any sport should outside influence on the game be greater than that of the competitors, as happened Wednesday evening.
First and foremost, referee Roberto Moreno was a disgrace. The Panamanian had no control of the game and as Tim Howard put it, “It makes [the game] a lot harder when the most intimidated person in the stadium is the referee.”
Moreno was clearly influenced by the banter of 100,000-plus El Tri supporters. He not only unjustly cautioned American players multiple times, but failed to reprimand Mexican individuals for even harsher fouls. Carlos Bocanegra picked up an undeserved yellow for an all-ball tackle in the first half, and while Benny Feilhaber was carded for protecting an under-attack Charlie Davies, Neri Castillo received no punishment for twice striking an American player and later on, time wasting. Even worse, Moreno at times awarded Mexico free kicks for fouls they had committed against the US. This is absolutely unacceptable from a referee.
While Moreno’s mistakes are almost unforgiveable, it is clearly evident that behavior in the Azteca stands is not just influential, but threatening, too. Only in Mexico would spectators’ boos drown out the American national anthem. And only in Mexico would fans be as vulgar as to throw vomit-filled beer cups at a player on the field. (Landon Donovan was pelted with various items as he awaited to take a second half corner kick.) Ultimately, the Mexican fans are absolutely classless.
And while the deafening screams of El Tri supporters were able to withstand the extreme altitude of Estadio Azteca, the United States lungs were not. American players looked abnormally unfit and lackadaisical throughout the entire match. By competing in the sweltering afternoon heat of Mexico City at 7,400 feet above sea level, conditions new to the United States and familiar to the Mexicans, El Tri experience, as former national team coach Bruce Arena put it, “One of the most lopsided home-field advantages in the world.”
Overall, every aspect of the Azteca match was disgusting: poor play, poor gamesmanship, poor refereeing, etc. In the end, the Mexicans come out on top and are obviously quite happy with the win. Realistically, however, the result is deceiving, for El Tri will rarely have the comfort of the Azteca on the international stage. Now, Bob Bradley admitted the final tally to be a “fair score,” but certainly feels bitter, and rightly so, because in typical fashion, the Mexicans have stolen another result.