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U.s. 2 Mexico 0

U.S. gets the jump on Mexico

Bradley, the coach's son, scores both goals in the opener of final

February 12, 2009|Grahame L. Jones

COLUMBUS, OHIO — The United States national team took a significant step toward qualifying for next year's soccer World Cup in South Africa on Wednesday night when it defeated Mexico, 2-0, on a windy and rain-swept evening.

Two goals by Michael Bradley, the son of Coach Bob Bradley, and some tenacious defense earned the Americans three valuable points as the six-nation final round of regional qualifying for 2010 got under way.

In later games Wednesday, El Salvador scored twice in the last eight minutes and tied Trinidad and Tobago, 2-2, in San Salvador and Costa Rica shut out Honduras, 2-0, in San Jose, Costa Rica.

Mexico's chances of salvaging at least a tie were set back midway through the second half when veteran defender Rafael Marquez was tossed out of the match for driving his studs into the leg of airborne U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard.

It was a foul that deserved a red card and Guatemalan referee Carlos Batres obliged.

As a result, Mexico had to play the last 25 minutes a man down and seldom presented a significant threat. Afterward, Marquez apologized to his teammates and coaches and in the post-game news conference to Mexican fans.

There was a minor scuffle between the opposing players as they walked toward their locker rooms, but Bradley, the U.S. coach, downplayed the incident.

"There were some emotions. It got taken care of very quickly," Bradley said.

The loss was Mexico's third in the last four qualifying games and will immeasurably increase the pressure on Coach Sven-Goran Eriksson, who is 4-5-1 since taking charge of "El Tri" in June.

Bad weather had threatened the game, and early-arriving fans were cleared from the stands an hour before the start when driving rain and winds gusting to 60 mph hit the area.

The rain had eased by the opening whistle, however, and a sellout crowd of 23,776 saw a game in which the players battled the wind as much as each other.

"On nights when the conditions are bad, when the wind is like this, it's very important that the team moves well together," Bob Bradley said.

"I don't think it was necessarily a night where we got our best performances from each guy. But I think our collective sense of how to deal with things was good."

The opening goal came in the 43rd minute after right back Frankie Hejduk, whose tireless running belied his 34 years, earned a corner kick by chasing the ball to the end line and forcing Mexico defender Carlos Salcido to yield the corner.

DaMarcus Beasley floated the resulting kick deep to the far post, where Landon Donovan headed it back into the scrum of players in the front of the net.

Defender Oguchi Onyewu tried a shot that was blocked by Mexico goalkeeper Oswaldo Sanchez, but Michael Bradley was on hand to stab the rebound into the roof of the net.

Bradley picked up his second goal in injury time when he lashed a shot past Sanchez off a pass from Donovan.

"Any time we play against Mexico it's special," Michael Bradley said. "I'm happy we won. We have three points. We beat Mexico."

The elder Bradley echoed the sentiment.

"It's a good starting point and something to build on," he said.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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