U.S. team finally breaks Azteca jinx
And heading into Wednesday night’s friendly against Mexico, the U.S. Men’s National Team faced some pretty unpleasant numbers.
The U.S. team had never beaten the Mexican team in Mexico, despite trying for 75 years.
The U.S. was 0-23-1 against El Tri in those 75 years.
The U.S. was 0-19-1 at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City, being outscored 81-14.
But that all changed Wednesday night, and now the only number that counts is the final score:
USA 1, Mexico 0.
Michael Orozco Fiscal scored in the 80th minute and Tim Howard had what had to have been one of his best days in goal to give coach Jurgen Klinsmann another signature win (the squad also beat Italy in Genoa in March).
“I think it’s huge. It’s huge for I think all American fans, it’s huge for the team, and it’s historic,” Klinsmann told ESPN. “We were very well aware that we’ve never won here at the Azteca Stadium. This is an amazing experience for the all the players. We told them before the game: This moment is for you, go and grab it. We are all aware that it was a lot, a lot of work.”
As for Howard, he came up big when it mattered most, twice denying Javier (Chicharito) Hernández – once on a header and another time on a bouncing shot that seemed destined for the back of the net.
“I just tried to get a full hand on it, and it ended up hitting the top of my thumb, which gave it spin,” Howard told Sports Illustrated about the save on the header. “I thought, ‘Here we go again.’ But we deserved a little bit of luck.”
Even though some will try to downplay the win because it came in a friendly, make no mistake – this is huge for the U.S. No longer do they have to wonder if they can win against Mexico on its home turf – now they know and so does the Mexican team. Just like when the Cleveland Browns finally broke the Three Rivers Jinx against Pittsburgh in 1986, the U.S. team will no longer have that fear in the back of their mind that somehow, something will go wrong.
“It’s important to us to understand that we can compete with big teams at their stadiums,” Klinsmann said. “With Azteca it’s like when you play at Wembley in England or the Stade de France or in Berlin. Those are very special locations, and I want the players to appreciate that. I want the players to understand and take it all in, because you never know if you’ll get another occasion like that. We told the players: You have nothing to lose here. Give it all you have.”
The win also sets up what is sure to be an insane scene the next time the two teams meet at the Azteca Stadium – which will very likely come next year during World Cup qualifying.
Maybe the U.S. can start a streak of its own.
(Photo by The Associated Press)