Bradley's stunning early goal helps US to 1-1 tie at Mexico

Bradley's stunning early goal helps US to 1-1 tie at Mexico

Bruce Arena said he would make seven changes between Thursday's match against Trinidad and Tobago and last night, to the bewilderment of most fans.

Mexico's Carlos Vela scored midway through the first half to cancel out a spectacular early opener from Michael Bradley as the United States took a point from Mexico City in Sunday's World Cup qualifier.

Sunday's match between CONCACAF rivals Mexico and the United States was hotly contested battle on Mexico's home turf in Estadio Azteca, a stadium where the U.S. has struggled to win.

Quite a turnaround since November, when a 2-1 home loss to Mexico and a 4-0 wipeout in Costa Rica caused the U.S. Soccer Federation to fire coach Jurgen Klinsmann and bring back Arena, the U.S. coach from 1998-2006.

"It is going to be very challenging right until the end", head coach Bruce Arena said, after his team secured a hard-fought 1-1 draw against Mexico on Sunday night, "But I feel good about where we are".

"At the end of previous year, a lot of little things started to drop", he said.

Not so with Arena.

In a dream start to proceedings, Bradley chipped Ochoa from distance for a sixth-minute lead, much to the delight of the travelling fans - the first United States of America player to score at the Azteca since Michael Orozco in August 2012. 'Anytime you can get a point here, it's great.

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With its second draw in three road qualifiers, the US team continued to recover from its bad 0-2 start last fall under Klinsmann. It was an important point for Bruce Arena and his team as the Americans seek to qualify for the World Cup next summer in Russian Federation. No Tim Howard, no Fabian Johnson, no Jozy Altidore, and no John Brooks.

Now, under Juan Carlos Osorio, it is a much different story. That leaves the USA, with eight points after six games, needing six more from its final four matches - a schedule that includes home games with Costa Rica and Panama (neither of whom the Americans have beaten during this hexagonal) and a hard trip to Honduras, where the US lost four years ago. Mexico has more talent, top to bottom, than the USA does. More than 81,000 fans attended Sunday's rivalry matchup.

Mexico were able to get out and run in the 23rd-minute, though, and that's when they were able to break through.

Overall, Osorio deserves credit for the work he has done. This was the second straight draw between the teams in Mexico City.

Typically, from match to match, a coach will make a few lineup changes.

The final four weeks of the Hexagonal will have no shortage of intrigue and just like in 2013, Panama will be a major player.

Panama hosts Honduras on Tuesday and Costa Rica is home against Trinidad and Tobago. Although Costa Rica has a game in hand and the lead in point differential, the top three teams of The Hex will all automatically qualify for the World Cup.

Panama's 0-0 draw at Costa Rica last Thursday was a ideal example of the influence of coach Hernan Dario Gomez, who took over in 2014. But the USA played the percentages, stuck to a gameplan of absorbing pressure and hitting on the counterattack when they could, and they got a point because of it. The hexagonal concludes with matches October 6 against Panama at Orlando, Florida, and at Trinidad on October 10. You dropped two points, but you earned one.