The United States has shutout Mexico for 180 straight minutes in Estadio Azteca. Following a 1-0 friendly win in August, the USA earned only its second-ever World Cup qualifying road point against El Tri from a 0-0 draw on Tuesday.
Much of the credit for the clean sheet falls to the green center back pairing of Omar Gonzalez, 24, and Matt Besler, 26. Besler earned his second cap in Azteca. Gonzalez could count his international appearances on one hand before Tuesday.
"I have to give credit to our January camps. It gave us a chance to watch Omar and Matt together," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. The two defenders started together against Canada on Jan. 29 after a three-week training camp. "They worked hard that month. We were very calm, I knew that when Clarence (Goodson) couldn't go this was the logical move."
Goodson started against Costa Rica on Friday. However, he bowed out of the Mexico match with a hamstring injury, with Michael Orozco Fiscal joining the roster on short notice as a potential replacement. Goodson ended up on the bench.
"Off the warmup he said, 'You know what, I'm not sure I can play the 90 minutes,' but this was highly professional coming out and saying that," Klinsmann said. "We really appreciate Clarence's professionalism in that moment. It was huge."
The performances of Gonzalez and Besler loomed large. A combined 12-foot-5, they helped repel 20 open-play crosses by Mexico and 15 corners.
"As you know, having to guard Chicharito is a tough thing to do," Klinsmann said. Javier Hernandez put his three shots off target.
"We hoped that we would force them into those long, diagonal balls because we have really good players in the air. Still, they created good opportunities and chances as you saw, but we didn't allow them to play their usual combination play."
With Carlos Bocanegra left off the roster due to lack of club playing time and Geoff Cameron used at right back to compensate for a spate of fullback injuries, the inexperienced center back pairing convinced the German coach that the United States can count on sufficient depth in the position.
"I spoke to Matt after the first half and after the yellow card," Klinsmann said. Besler picked up a booking after 20 minutes for pulling down Giovani Dos Santos. "He told me, 'Coach, no worries.' It gives us more options in the future. Having Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler growing and maturing it gives us more options going forward."
Eric Gomez contributed additional reporting from Mexico City
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