• Mexico and USA play out intriguing draw at the Estadio Azteca
  • Michael Bradley’s sensational strike gave Stars and Stripes the lead
  • Carlos Vela earned Mexico a point with a first-half equaliser

CONCACAF giants Mexico and USA played to a 1-1 draw on Matchday 6 of the final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF zone for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ on Sunday evening.

In what was another intriguing battle between these two North American rivals at the Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, it was the Stars and Stripes that stunned the predominantly Mexican crowd with a sensational early goal from captain Michael Bradley. After winning possession on the halfway line, the Toronto FC midfielder made a forward run before catching Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa off his line with a superb long-distance chip that sailed into El Tri’s net on six minutes.

Bradley’s goal gave life to an open and attack-minded first half that had fans on the edge of their seats for large spells. It led to Mexico drawing level on the counter-attack midway through the opening period. Carlos Vela cut in off the right flank and ran across the edge of the USA box before slotting a low left-footed shot past Stars and Stripes goalkeeper Brad Guzan.

Though there was a sense that more goals were in the offing, those first-half strikes were the only ones to make the scoresheet in this 68th all-time meeting, as both sides played out a fairly even second half. There were chances for a winner from either side, but after Mexico’s Hector Herrera hit the USA crossbar with a powerful free-kick strike, Bradley struck the outside of El Tri’s post with a half-volleyed effort.

The visitors were forced to hang on in the latter stages for a point that further boosts USA’s hopes of qualifying for Russia 2018 following a poor start to the Hexagonal stage. They draw level on eight points with second-place Costa Rica after Sunday’s result, while Mexico continue to lead the Hexagonal standings with 14 points. Both teams return to World Cup qualifying action on 1 September, with Mexico hosting Panama, while USA play host to Costa Rica.

"We were positioned to get three points today,” said USA coach Bruce Arena. “We were close, I'm proud of the result, but I am a little greedy. We played 90 minutes to win, not 90 minutes to not lose... Both teams had a lot of challenges."