Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It was historic, as coach Jurgen Klinsmann
said. Mexico just does not lose at home. Especially against the United States.
It had never happened before Wednesday. But keep it in perspective.
Michael Orozco Fiscal, an American midfielder with Mexican parents, scored the
lone goal at the famed 105,000-seat Estadio Azteca, as the Americans won their
first-ever game in Mexico. It took only 25 tries over 75 years.
Consider, the United States had 23 losses and one draw in 24 previous games on
Mexican soil. That is astonishing.
The U.S. players had every reason to celebrate. Coach Klinsmann, just over one
year into his tenure, had every reason to describe it as "historic."
Just weeks after Mexico, well - its Under-23 team with three overage players -
won its first Olympic gold against Brazil, the United States accomplished what
just eight other teams have done at the Azteca in 120 matches.
And this Mexico team was near full strength. The United States was without its
best players, at least some of them, as Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley were
not called up for the match.
This win could ultimately help the United States turn a corner in its rivalry.
No longer will it consider a visit to Mexico so daunting. Even if it struggles
to win again in Mexico. In some ways, the wall of invincibility is gone.
But keep in perspective what was at stake.
"At the end of the day, we don't win any trophies, and we don't get any points
for it," United States attacker Landon Donovan said candidly.
The jubilation, captured well with a locker room photo of the team celebrating
after the match, was subdued by the critique of the overall performance.
A win is a win, no doubt about that, but Klinsmann is not a fool. This fixture
was not a snapshot of what he envisions the future of American soccer will be.
The United States can play better. They can play technically cleaner. And that
just scratches the surface.
"Does it mean a lot to us winning at Azteca Stadium even if we have some luck?
Yes, it does," Klinsmann said. "We have to do a lot of work still, but I think
this gives us a lot of confidence. It's important for us to understand that we
can compete with big teams at their stadiums."
The United States proved that in Slovenia last year, and in Italy earlier this
year. The Mexico triumph is just the latest of an impressive list of road wins
in the short Klinsmann era.
But, all three matches had one thing on common: They were friendlies. Although
that term may not fit the rivalry with Mexico very well.
"It's not the end of the road," U.S. goalie Tim Howard said, "we've got a long
way to go and we'll keep working, but this is a huge step forward for us."
"Now, we've got to improve ourselves day-by-day," Orozco Fiscal added.
Klinsmann wants to develop the United States into a squad that can "get closer
to the top 10 nations in the world." To reach that level, the United States is
in desperate need of some consistency.
Do not forget that just two months ago, the United States tied Guatemala, 1-1,
on the road in World Cup qualifying. And that was only in the semifinal group
stage. A trip to Jamaica on Sept. 7 for another qualifier is the next test.
How quickly will euphoria of the "historic" win disappear should the Americans
struggle, or even lose, in Jamaica? Winning on the road, consistently, against
CONCACAF opponents is a level the United States needs to attain.
If the United States advances to the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, as it
should, five more road matches against its regional rivals will gauge just how
much its win in Mexico really mattered - if at all.
And one of those matches (should Mexico also advance), will take the Americans
back to Mexico City and the Estadio Azteca. Then, even if both nations will be
favored to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, there will be much more at stake.
"The odds," Howard said of winning in Mexico, "are against you."
The United States proved it could win in Mexico, but can it do to again - with
so much more on the line? It was a win that should be celebrated, but also one
to keep in perspective.
The Sports Network