HOUSTON – It took 11 years as a pro for Brad Davis to make his World Cup qualifying debut, and it happened on the region’s grandest stage.
Davis had been on the fringes of the US men's national team picture after showing well in the January camp and being called in, but not playing in the team's Hexagonal opener against Honduras. But a week to the day after getting a late call into camp, he got the nod in easily the most notable game of the qualifying cycle.
In the 71st minute Tuesday night at the Estadio Azteca against Mexico, the US’ biggest rivals, the Houston Dynamo winger took his first steps on the field in a World Cup qualifier.
"Since January, I hadn’t had a chance to play any minutes,” Davis said. “To be put on at Azteca in a game like that and with importance like that, it was great to know that [head coach Jurgen Klinsmann] had the faith in me to put me on the field and to go out and help the boys get a result.”
Davis’ appearance at the end was an adventure as the team tried to see out a result, which meant considerable defending. Davis did get a chance late but his 40-yard free kick fell at the back post. He also committed a foul in Mexico’s attacking half that produced a yellow card but was much ado about nothing in the end.
At the final whistle, Davis was on the field as part of just the second US squad to secure competitive points at the Azteca in the long history between the two nations.
The rivalry is certainly intense wherever it plays out, but the games played in the Mexico City cathedral carry a special magnitude. The World Cup feel, the angry fans and the massive stadium all contribute to an experience unlike any other for a US player.
"[Playing] any game in the World Cup would be something special, but right behind that would be playing in Azteca,” said Davis' Dynamo teammate Tally Hall. “There’s something special about it. To have a teammate and friend in that environment, I was so happy for him.”
Ultimately, the game will go down in history as a golden draw for the US. For Davis it could also be a sign that he has worked his way further into Klinsmann qualifying plans, though only time will tell on that matter.
For now, the focus shifts back to helping the Dynamo against the San Jose Earthquakes (Saturday, 7:30 pm CT, BUY TICKETS). And while the MLS schedule marches on, Tuesday's clash in the Azteca will always hold something special for Davis.
"It was an unbelievable experience. It was a complete honor for me personally,” Davis said. “Stepping on the field in front of 110,000 people that aren’t your biggest fans. All in all, it was great to be there, a wonderful experience and a great result for the team.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.