Michael Bradley scored a goal in each half to help the United States beat arch-rivals Mexico 2-0 in Columbus and take an early joint-lead at the top of the CONCACAF standings.
The United States beat ten-man Mexico in a frigid, windswept and soggy Columbus Crew Stadium in central Ohio on Wednesday night. A goal two minutes before the interval from Michael Bradley, son of head coach Bob, had the Americans on their way against their biggest rival in North, Central America and the Caribbean. He repeated the feat with a low drive in the dying moments of the game, to see the Americans take an early lead in top spot of the final round ‘hexagonal' qualifying group for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ after matchday one.
The Americans looked the brighter side early on in, hardly slowed down by the soggy pitch and buoyed by the strong support of the 23,776 fans in attendance. Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley and the big target man up front, Brian Ching, combined to good effect as the Mexicans looked content to advance on the occasional break.
On the half hour, Donovan signalled the home side's intent with a well-disguised free-kick that had Oswaldo Sanchez rooted to the spot as the ball spun narrowly past his post. The Americans were steadily improving as the first period wore on and in the 43rd minute they looked like scoring with the best chance up to that point. A fine ball in from the left from Beasley picked out Donovan, who headed back to Clint Dempsey, but Sanchez was at his best to prevent the Fulham striker's shot from hitting the back of the net.
When the US breakthrough finally came it was via a similar pattern. This time Beasley's ball came in from the other side, through a corner kick, and it was again headed back across the face of goal by Donovan. Sanchez saved again, this time from Oguchi Onyewu's shot, but Bradley was Johnny-on-the-spot to hammer the bouncing ball home from point-blank range.
When the whistle went for half-time, Sven-Goran Eriksson's men looked forlorn. Down a goal and without Nery Castillo, subbed after a hamstring injury, there was no cause for celebration in the Mexican dressing room.
The 65th-minute brought even more consternation for the visitors. After a near miss that should have been an equaliser, a frustrated Rafa Marquez lashed out at American goalkeeper Tim Howard, who had precious little to do up to that point, and was promptly shown a red card.
The Americans took full advantage of their numerical superiority. After captain Carlos Bocanegra cleared off the line with ten minutes to go to keep the 1-0 scoreline safe, Bradley added a stoppage time second to make the scoreline 2-0.
"Obviously it's great to start with a win, especially when it's against our big rivals Mexico," USA boss Bob Bradley said after the game. "I don't think individually we played as well as i would have liked tonight, but we got the job done as a team. Now we need to get better, and we're looking forward to the rematch at the Azteca."
Mexico have now failed to win on US soil in 11 attempts, a period spanning back to 1999. The USA, for their part, have turned Columbus Crew Stadium into a virtual fortress, and are undefeated at the ground.