The U.S. National Arena Soccer Team, boasting a total of six Empire Strykers players, made an emphatic statement in Ontario, CA. They triumphed over Mexico 6-5 in a nerve-racking international exhibition soccer game on a Sunday evening. This blog will delve into the action-packed game that thrilled both sets of spectators. `
In front of a majority pro-Mexico audience, the Red, White and Blue came back from a two-goal deficit to secure a riveting victory. Central to their win was an excellent performance from Tacoma Stars forward Nick Perera, who netted two goals and provided two assists. How did the game pan out?
Competing against them was El Tri roster- a team featuring Hector Reynoso, a veteran of the Mexican Primera Division and Chivas de Guadalajara legend. Their side boasted many players from the Chihuahua Savage, one of the top sides in the Major Arena Soccer League(MASL). Did this star-studded opposition intimidate the U.S. team?
The spectators at the Toyota Arena were treated to a fast-paced, heated opening quarter. A remarkable incident involved Mexico's Edgar Gonzalez and Strykers defender Howard Miller Jr, who collided mid-air while battling for a high ball. Both players fell to the ground in pain, with Miller Jr. appearing worse off before finally leaving the field on his own two feet. As the second quarter commenced, Jorge Miller-Madero put El Tri in the driving seat by finishing a strong attempt from Jorge Leal. The U.S. nearly drew level when David Ortiz unleashed a long-range rocket, denied by the crossbar via a fantastic save by 'keeper Ivan Munoz. Swiftly, the Americans equalized thanks to Perera, who seized a loose ball following a dangerous attempt by Miller Jr. Mexico should have reclaimed the lead, but Jaime Romero hit his close-range shot off the board above the goal frame. This missed opportunity became even more costly when Jorge Rios put the U.S. team ahead 2-1 with a well-executed pass. Capitalizing on this pass with lightning speed, Rios found himself one on one with 'keeper Chris Toth and calmly finished inside the near post.
The visitors from the south of the border faced a golden opportunity to change the game's dynamics. Midfielder, Jose Lopez, was suddenly in the limelight when team-mate Miguel Diaz set him up perfectly. With his hips open and the advantage of a nearly empty penalty area, what could go wrong? Well, soccer is a game that thrives on unpredictability. Much to the spectators' disbelief, the ball ended up missing its target, veering wide right, thus, squandering an opportunity to double their advantage. As the saying goes, "when one door closes, another opens." Following El Tri's squandered chance, the unexpected happened. Perera again from team USA, displayed brilliance on a restart near the box's right edge in which he assisted Zach Reget for team USA to take the lead. With the scoreline tied at 2-2 at the break, it was anyone's guess which direction the game might take.
As the game resumed, Mexico quickly found the go-ahead goal, setting hearts racing and adrenaline pumping. This hard-fought advantage came by way of Romero's easy tap-in after a Roberto Escalante shot was deflected into his path by Strykers' superstar Franck Tayou. Perera, however, missed another chance to level the match, after being set up by Michael Ramos. He sent the ball wide right from close range - a miss that added to the chain of unexpected events in this unforgettable game.
After U.S. forward Sebastian Mendez forced an excellent kick save from El Tri stopper Bryan Saul, Escalante tallied at the other end to double his side’s advantage. The defender toe-poked the ball inside the left upright, having taken it off the foot of Perera, who claimed foul play to no avail. However, Perera quickly made amends by cutting the Americans’ deficit to 3-4, showing great strength to hold off a defender, turn toward goal and fire home an unstoppable shot.
In the midst of the third quarter, the U.S. managed to draw level with a spectacular penalty shot by Tayou. The opportunity arose after a handball was committed outside the area by goalkeeper Saul. It was an intense moment that showcased both skill and precision. The U.S. team's determination and resilience were on full display as they capitalized on this crucial penalty shot. This turn of events has undoubtedly injected new energy into the game, setting the stage for an exciting conclusion. The Red, White and Blue would continue their momentum into the game’s closing period, jumping out to a 5-4 lead when Ramos sprinted into the box on the right and unselfishly squared the ball to an open Miller Jr. for a simple finish. Mexico found a leveler yet again, Edgar Gonzalez making it 5-5 on a penalty shot after a foul by U.S. backstop Toth.
That set the stage for the day’s final tally, a gorgeous game winner from Stars and Stripes striker Mendez, who put the finishing touch on a textbook counter-attack. Strykers midfielder Jesus Pacheco picked out Perera on the right side of the area and the 37-year-old set up Mendez with a perfect first-time centering pass.
The game’s dramatic closing stages saw chances on both sides of the field, one of which was denied by ‘keeper Toth, whose one-handed diving parry kept out a powerful drive from Mexico’s Luis Esteban. Ortiz nearly added an insurance goal for the Americans, but his long-range rocket rattled the crossbar.