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Winners and Losers: United States vs. Mexico

By Noah Davis 

MEXICO CITY, Mexico -- The United States Men's National Team took its first lead and almost made history in the unfriendly confines of Estadio Azteca, but ultimately fell 2-1 to a Mexican team that desperately needed three points. Charlie Davies goal in the 9th minute put the Americans ahead, but Israel Castro equalized 10 minutes later and Miguel Sabah won the match with his late tally. Despite the loss, the U.S. still remains in good position to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.  

Winners

Landon Donovan 

While the performance won't go down as the midfielder's most impressive one against his team's archrival, American soccer fans won't soon forget the lightning rod's day. Donovan showed off the passing touch he continues to develop, sending a brilliant ball in to spring Davies. Landon the assist man almost had another one in the 35th minute, when his well-struck curling free kick nearly found the head of Oguchi Onyewu. Playing on the sunny side of the field for most of the match, Donovan wilted just a bit and lost Efrain Juarez on the play that led to the second goal, but overall his performance was solid, if not outstanding (given the elevated expectations he inspires). Given the result, however, Donovan -- who says he's playing the best football of his career -- may need to get a bit better.  

Charlie Davies

He didn't look like a man playing in his first match at Azteca. Perhaps a surprise starter, the former Boston College Eagle repaid the faith Bradley's showed in his speedy striker with a beautiful right-footed finish off of Donovan's throughball that shocked and silenced the green-clad crowd. Davies' hustle and desire are wonderful to witness, and Mexico's defenders couldn't handle his speed and strength throughout the match. He fell to the turf, exhausted, in the 75th minute and had to be carted off, but his day was virtually flawless. (The only blemish on the afternoon was a missed diving header late in the second half on Stuart Holden's great cross.) Davies has had a good run of national team form since he opened the scoring against Egypt in the Confederations Cup, and likely cemented his place as a starter with his performance at 7,400 feet.  

Oguchi Onyewu

Partnered once again with Jay Demerit (more on him in a bit), AC Milan's American import was the brick wall the Stars and Stripes desperately needed as the waves of Mexican attackers crashed forward. As usual, he won virtually every ball in the air and was solid with his tackling as well. As always, his distribution to American midfielders and strikers could be better -- To feet, Oguchi! -- but without his head and heart in the back, the U.S. would have conceded at least one more goal. Unfortunately for the Red, White, and Blue, he picked up a yellow card and will miss the U.S.'s next qualifier against El Salvador on Sept. 5, which looms even more important given the American's inability to gain a point or three in Mexico.  
 

Losers

Clint Dempsey

The third-best player in the Confed Cup picked a terrible time to play poorly. He looked tired and was frequently unable to make runs forward. Davies seemed to be urging him on a couple of times. (The pair talked as they were walking off the field at half time.) As with any Dempsey performance, there were a couple moments of brilliance -- like the wonderful ball he sent to the Sochaux striker after fighting off three Mexican defenders in the 33rd minute -- but it was another moment that summed up the Fulham midfielder's day best: In one of the few instances where he had the ball at his feet, Dempsey spotted Donovan making a run down the left flank, but his crossfield ball fell woefully short.  

Michael Bradley

The coach's son, the hero of the match against Mexico in February, never looked comfortable on Wednesday. He won very few balls in the midfield and did little to slow Javier Aguirre marshaled troops. His performance wasn't all bad -- there was the world-class pass to Holden on the right flank that gave the Dynamo midfielder acres of space and enough time to hit an excellent cross -- but each good one was countered by long periods of invisibility. (Ricardo Clark, Bradley's partner in central midfield, played poorly as well and easily could have made this list.)  

Jay DeMerit

The Confed Cup revelation seemed intimidated by the surroundings in the early going. After the U.S. scored, he compounded his errors by jumping in too aggressively to challenge Mexican attackers, who frequently dodged around him. A reckless foul created a dangerous opportunity in the 16th minute, and he missed a pass that led to El Tri's first goal. DeMerit drew a deserved yellow card for a tackle on Dos Santos and the resulting free kick was nearly converted into another tally. Watford's centerback improved as the match wore on, even outplayed Onyewu for stretches in the second 45 minutes, but was unlucky to see his hard tackle on Efrain Juarez bounce directly to Miguel Sabah who didn't miss what would prove to be the game-winner.  

Noah Davis covers the United States Men's National Team for Goal.com.

For more on the U.S. National Team visit Goal.com's U.S. National Team page.