Chiles, Perera Lead USA to 7-5 Win over Mexico

by Gunnar Berndt

High-caliber exhibition features reunion of former USMNT stars Jones, Donovan

By Gunnar Berndt

Ontario, CA. – In a high-caliber international exhibition that made history for seeing ex-FIFA World Cup aces Jermaine Jones and Landon Donovan join forces once more to represent their country, the U.S. National Arena Soccer Team defeated rival Mexico by a final score of 7-5 on Friday night. While Jones and Donovan taking the field together was all the hype leading up to the match, the thrilling win was largely powered by one-goal, two-assist and two-goal, one-assist performances from forwards Kraig Chiles and Nick Perera, respectively.

Defender Ismael Rojo contributed to the close contest by setting up a total of three Mexican strikes.

El Tri nearly took an early lead when Fury standout Juan Carlos Gonzalez rattled the crossbar with a powerful shot. Not long thereafter, the Americans had a golden chance of their own, but opposition netminder Raul Sarabia displayed outstanding positioning to deny Donovan at the doorstep. As if inspired by the save, U.S. ‘keeper Danny Waltman subsequently produced an excellent outstretched parry that kept Hiram Ruiz’ stinging drive from opening the scoring.

Following the series of close looks on both sides, the Red, White and Blue showed perfect aim three times in quick succession. First Chiles picked out Israel Sesay with a beautiful flick and the Ontario captain wowed the crowd with an acrobatic side-volley that whizzed inside the left upright. Then Gordy Gurson found a way to one-up Sesay with the same type of finish but from way outside the area and lobbed deftly over the top of goalie Sarabia, who had rushed off his line a split-second earlier. Recent Fury signing Franck Tayou finally tapped home from Chiles to make it 3-0 before the end of the quarter.

The visitors from south of the border nearly answered back after the day’s first short break, Rene Flores seeing his short-range effort blocked by shot-stopper Waltman. That set the stage for a fourth American tally. On the game’s best combination play, first-time passes in tight space by Uzi Tayou and Perera released Chiles for a determined finish into the back of the net. Indoor legend Chiles should have added a third assist moments later, a wide open Franck Tayou inexplicably hitting the inside of the post while standing on the goal line.

The home side was punished for the missed opportunity when Christian Gutierrez put Mexico on the board on a Rojo setup play. Cesar Cerda then nearly pulled another one back, but his shot bounced off the inside of the post and back into play. The quality chance was followed by a superb one-handed reflex down low by U.S. ‘keeper Waltman that stifled Kevin Pizeno’s dangerous shot and saw the half conclude at 4-1.

After intermission, the visitors quickly cut their deficit to two, Brandon Escoto scoring from a Cerda assist. The opposing sides subsequently exchanged dangerous looks as U.S. ace Jones’ low drive forced a one-handed parry by Sarabia and Mexico’s Flores fired a rocket off the bar at the other end. Flores’ teammate Pizeno finally did find the net to finish of a sequence of dizzying foot skills by Escoto that left Jones and the entire U.S. defense in the dust and made for a 4-3 match heading into the final 15 minutes.

The Americans had the better start to the closing quarter, Perera quickly extending his team’s lead to 5-3. However, Mexico struck back on a Flores netter following the helper by Rojo, and netminder Sarabia kept it a one-goal affair by parrying another stinger from American midfielder Jones. When Ruiz then produced the 5-5 tally on Rojo’s third assist of the contest, the many El Tri fans at Citizens Business Bank Arena thought they might witness their squad pull off an unlikely come-from-behind victory, only to instead see the Red White and Blue strike back with consecutive blows.

First Brian Farber bagged the game-winner after being picked out at the doorstep by Gurson. Then Jones provided the assist on the assurance strike from Perera, who posted the final tally of a fast-paced contest that left all in attendance well-entertained and looking forward to the next edition of the rivalry.