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Mexico vs. U.S.: Stars Of The Match

When it comes to players who stood out in Wednesday’s match, there are a handful that cross my mind. Mexico controlled the majority of the match, but there was a U.S. player who deserves some recognition. Goalkeeper Tim Howard, aside from allowing two goals, showed he’s still a force to be reckoned with in goal. But when it came to players that stood out among others, Mexico had two that immediately come to mind. 

After the Americans took a 1-0 lead in just the ninth minute, it looked as if Mexico might be in a bit of trouble. Well, that only lasted only for a few minutes. Israel Castro saw things differently. And 10 minutes after the USA scored, Mexico tallied a goal of their own. Cuauhtemoc Blanco fed the ball to Castro, who launched a shot toward goal. The ball bounced off the crossbar and in, tying the match at 1-1. The 28-year-old set the tone for the rest of the match with the 19th minute goal. Mexico soon turned up the pressure as the USA looked for the draw.  

Efrain Juarez stood out in defense for Mexico. With under 10 performances for Mexico, Juarez had big shoes to fill with star defender Rafael Marquez out of the lineup. He started out a bit shaky, but soon turned his play up. And at the same time, he created runs and space to spark Mexico’s attack. Juarez assisted Miguel Sabah on his game-winner.

At just 21 years old, Juarez proved that he has staying power. After a youth career which included training at FC Barcelona, Juarez has earned a starting spot on the UNAM Pumas' roster. And after another strong performance, could have a regular spot for the Mexican National Team. A defender who can also be an offensive threat is a must-have for most clubs.    

U.S. Star of the match: Tim Howard  

Tim Howard isn’t afraid to make the big plays. He stood strong in goal for the Americans for 90 minutes. Howard allowed two goals, but came up with four huge saves to keep the USA in the match until the final seconds. Howard was able to get a hand or a punch on almost every chance that Mexico had. Miguel Sabah’s late goal however, was just over Howard’s head. Regardless, Howard’s presence was well felt in goal for the U.S. Men, even though he did sneak pretty far out of the box a few times.    

Surprise of the match: Mexico’s Cuauhtemoc Blanco

Mexican veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco looked half his age out there on Wednesday afternoon. Well, maybe not quite that young. But regardless, he showed poise and passion as he created opportunities for the club during his 55 minutes of play. Like him or hate him, Blanco still has what it takes to get the job done.  Castro couldn’t have found the net without a perfect cross, courtesy of Blanco.    

Spoiler of the match (for the USA at least):
Mexico’s Miguel Sabah  

Ten minutes isn’t long for a player to make a mark in a game – especially a World Cup qualifier. But for Miguel Sabah, three minutes proved to be enough. Sabah entered the match in the 79th minute and in the 82nd, Sabah rained on the USA’s parade. While the Americans may have been holding on for the draw, Sabah took advantage of a loose ball and quickly shot it over USA goalkeeper Tim Howard’s head for a 2-1 lead.

Kathryn Knapp, Goal.com

For more on the Hex and on Mexico vs. USA visit Goal.com's CONCACAF page.