ANDREW VORCE - Thursday, August 13, 2009
With a 25-0-1 record at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, it would have been wishful thinking for any fan or player from the United States to come away with a solid victory in the heat and smog south of the Rio Grande.
After a stand out performance in the recent CONCACAF Gold Cup, Houston Dynamo midfielder Stuart Holden was selected by Bob Bradley to enter the match in the second half. It was an effort by the head coach to change the flow of the game as the US were struggling to keep up with a dominant home side.
"The guys had been working really hard," Holden told YA. "Our job was to provide some fresh legs and to try to give the team the spark, and I think we created a chance or two that gave us a little bit of energy, a little bit of a lift."
Azteca is the largest stadium any team is forced to play in within the CONCACAF region, the 105,000 seat stadium is situated at over 7,200 feet above sea level which slowly squeezes the breath out of players unfamiliar with playing in such thing air.
"The crowd was loud but once you're sitting there and you take it in after the first five to ten minutes, it becomes normal," Holden said. "You're just focused on what's going on [down] on the field.
"The bigger shock's just getting used to running around at that pace and getting into the pace of the game. Whether a substitute or from the start, you're expected to be ready to contribute, and that's what I was trying to do today."
One of those chances to contribute came from one of the rare spells of possession in the second half when Holden seemed to pick out Charlie Davies with pinpoint accuracy. As the cross soared into the Mexican 18-yard box, Davies narrowly missed his chance at a diving header.
"I think the ball moves a little bit weird here," Holden explained. "We were talking earlier about how it doesn't really spin too much. It might have knuckled at the last second, or thrown him off somehow.
"I'd have to see it on replay, it was all in the moment. We had a number of other chances as well, that happened to be another good one. We're disappointed to come away with a 2-1 loss."
The United States is currently tied for second place with Honduras on 10 points in the qualification format, with Mexico in fourth with nine points. Up next for the American's will be a home game against El Salvador on September 5th in Sandy, Utah.