The United States Men's National Team defeated Mexico in Azteca Stadium 1-0.
Read that again.
The United States defeated Mexico IN Azteca. 1-0. They did it. They finally won in Mexico after 75 years. It is a significant result, since it is the first time that the result has gone to the USA in this matchup in that venue. It was done without the presence of Clint Dempsey, and with only 45 minutes work from Landon Donovan. The goal came off a mad scramble in front of the Mexico goal, as Brek Shea took on a fullback and beat him badly, then slid a cross in front that Terrence Boyd slipped to Michael Orozco-Fiscal. It was tapped home. Tim Howard made two huge saves afterwards to preserve the lead. The USA ran the time off the clock, Juergen Klinsmann smiled on the sidelines, and a historical result was recorded.
So yes, it was a significant evening in the Klinsmann lifecycle. He's now won in Italy and Mexico, both by 1-0 scores, and he is starting to gain believers amongst the notoriously fickle American soccer online community. Klinsmann has taken a good long look at a lot of younger players (Shea is 22, Boyd is 21, and Orozco-Fiscal is 26, for example) in lieu of just sticking with the same old group of players that predecessor Bob Bradley always circled back to. The players are being encouraged to use a much quicker and much more inventive system of play, relying on them to make on-pitch decisions rather than having the system dictated from the sidelines.
Mexico was certainly expecting last night to be a grand celebration of their Gold Medal-winning Olympic team, along with yet another victory over the hapless Old Enemy. For some reason, Azteca was hardly the same cauldron it normally is when these two get together (although there was the typical "laser pointer in the keeper's eyes" and "let's all boo and hiss at the Star-Spangled Banner" behavior we have all come to recognize as normal at that stadium) and was nowhere near close to capacity. Nevertheless, the USA played a disciplined and simple style in the first 60 minutes. Mexico largely controlled the play in the first half but did not generate much in the way of legitimate chances. The US began to open things up in the second half and enjoyed a fair bit of possession. It was the insertion of Shea that paid the most dividends, as the big winger took to the attack as soon as he was on the green. The goal came because the USA made a strong move and made defenders uncomfortable. It is something they need to do more often, quite frankly. It turned out to be the only legitimate
The USA resumes World Cup qualifying next month with two matches in four days against Jamaica. It will be important that they take the confidence gained from last night's results and the feelings associated with getting that enormous monkey off their backs with them.
It remains to be seen what goal should be set for Brazil '14 (assuming they qualify, which as we learned with the 2012 Olympic effort, is no guarantee). Most would tell you that getting out of the group stages into the knockout rounds is the best that this country is capable of doing at this point. As of now, I would say that is still the likely response from just about everyone you would ask, too. The USA will have a full slate of WC qualifying to deal with in the new (and very complicated) CONCACAF cycle, plus Gold Cup 2013 next Summer. The Gold Cup is being held in the USA and I would expect that Klinsmann will try to take a good long look at as many players as he possibly can over the next year or so. American supporters should be seeing a lot of faces in the hoop kits.
Circling back to last night, the USA achieved a monumental result, albeit in a friendly. It is one more mark that Klinsmann can put on his chalkboard to say "We did that. We went there and won." Those words should mean a lot to this generation of players, a badge of honor that only they can wear. It was truly a night to remember.