United States coach Jurgen Klinsmann praised defensive duo Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler after their 0-0 draw against Mexico.
Following a 1-0 friendly win in August, the USA earned only their second-ever World Cup qualifying road point when they held out their southern neighbours on Tuesday.
And Klinsmann said much of the credit fell to the centre-back pairing of 24-year-old Gonzalez and Besler, 26, who excelled during a three-week training camp earlier this year.
“I have to give credit to our January camps. It gave us a chance to watch Omar and Matt together,” Klinsmann said.
“They worked hard that month. We were very calm.”
The performances of Gonzalez and Besler were critical factors in keeping Mexico at bay, the pair helping repel 20 open-play crosses and 15 corners.
“As you know, having to guard Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) is a tough thing to do,” Klinsmann said.
“We hoped that we would force them into those long, diagonal balls because we have really good players in the air. Still, they created good opportunities and chances as you saw, but we didn’t allow them to play their usual combination play.”
With Carlos Bocanegra left off the roster due to lack of club playing time and Geoff Cameron used at right back to compensate for a spate of fullback injuries, the inexperienced pairing convinced the German coach that the United States can count on sufficient depth in the position.
“I spoke to Matt after the first half and after the yellow card,” Klinsmann said of Besler’s booking for pulling down Giovani Dos Santos.
“He told me, ‘Coach, no worries’. It gives us more options in the future. Having Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler growing and maturing it gives us more options going forward.”