HOUSTON - JANUARY 25: Good night for Salcido (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
In the frontera region, there were two international friendlies last night. The U.S. Men's National Team defeated Panama 1-0 in Panama City to conclude the annual "Camp Cupcake," while Mexico defeated Venezuela 3-1 in Houston. Both North American teams and their fans are happy with the results, despite being B internationals.
The USMNT were coming off their dramatic 1-0 victory over Venezuela, and as I noted in the preview, the players involved in the January camp were looking to impress head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The match got off to a fantastic start for the Americans, when Graham Zusi scored in the 8th minute. Zach Loyd, starting in place of Chivas USA's Heath Pearce at left back, sent a cross into the box that bounced to Teal Bunbury. The Sporting Kansas City striker, who has had a difficult couple of matches with the national team, took a bad touch on the cross, in my opinion, and it squirted between his legs behind him. Fortunately, Zusi was in position to get on the ball, and he scored with power. The Americans were in a position that has been sadly unfamiliar over the past couple of years - they had the lead.From there, the quality of play took a big dip, and while it was useful to see how these players played with a lead on the road, the game itself got ugly. For Chivas fans, a notable site was the substitution of Pearce for Loyd just before halftime. Initial speculation was that Loyd was hurt, but later comments emerged that Loyd was yanked for poor play. Any player can have a bad night, but it looks like Pearce is definitely ahead of Loyd at left back on the depth chart. For this match, Pearce played pretty well, but I don't think he did anything really remarkable. Still, being involved in two consecutive clean sheets could help his cause moving into competitive fixtures.
The only other notable event in the match came when Geoff Cameron was given a straight red card in the second half when he made contact as Panama striker Blas Perez was streaking into the box with the ball. Although many American fans were up in arms about the call, I thought it was a 50/50 call and I think it wasn't unreasonable. It gave the players a chance to play down a man with a lead, but it also led to another drop in overall quality. Still, morale is probably high at the moment among the participants and fans, but remember, this was a B international.
Meanwhile, Venezuela traveled from Phoenix to Houston to take on Mexico. La vinotinto used the same pool of players as Saturday's game against the USMNT, although Chivas USA forward Alejandro Moreno did not start this match, instead coming on in the 75th minute. Unfortunately for him, Mexico were moving into a new gear at that stage of the game. Venezuela took the lead in the 54th minute on a header off a set piece from Edgar Greco, which was a little surprising in a match that had been open until that point, although Mexico seemed to have an edge on form. Following the goal, Venezuela attempted to grind the proceedings to a halt, and their tactics worked for a time. But Mexico, featuring a domestic-based squad, rallied and capped the night off in spectacular fashion. First, Carlos Salcido leveled the score in the 69th minute on a long range shot, which was a fair reward for a strong night by the veteran.
Then, in the 87th minute, a pass from Javier Aquino reached Marco Fabian, who hit a point-blank shot straight at Venezuela's keeper. The rebound came off the ground, and Rafael Marquez Lugo hit a volley straight into the goal. If that wasn't enough, Oribe Peralta hit an absolute rocket in the 89th minute to bring the score to 3-1. Mexican fans were likely thrilled at the result, while Venezuelan fans probably were disappointed their team couldn't hang on for just a few more minutes. While both teams were not as fluid as their first teams could play, it was a far more entertaining match than the U.S.-Panama tilt. Still, fans on both sides of the local border came away happy Wednesday night.
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