SAN FRANCISCO -- Peruvian goalkeeper Jose Carvallo spoiled a joyous night Wednesday for a pro-Mexican crowd of 46,288 at Candlestick Park.
Carvallo, who plays for popular club Universitario of Lima, stymied the favored Mexicans in a scoreless exhibition game played on a clear, cool evening in San Francisco.
Mexico dominated play with wave after wave of attacks but El Tri just couldn't create the final touch to beat the determined Carvallo, a backup keeper on Peru's national team.
"We had chances," Mexico coach Jose Manuel de la Torre said in Spanish through a translator. --We didn't finish them."
Not even a gift penalty kick was enough for Mexico, which has tied in its past four games and has scored only two goals during that troubling span.
Almost any neutral observer would have celebrated when Carvallo blocked Angel Reyna's penalty kick shot in the 68th minute. Referee Ricardo Salazar awarded the kick on a dubious call after Omar Bravo fell down in the penalty box while marked by Peru captain Christian Ramos. It didn't appear Ramos had committed a foul.
Mexico got called for 26 fouls to Peru's nine, but that didn't satisfy Peru coach Sergio Markarian.
"Truthfully, I didn't like the referee tonight," he said through a translator.
But the coach liked the play of his goalkeeper, who was with D.C. United in a 2008 loan deal.
"He did a great job," Markarian said. "He passed the test. There were doubts
about our goalkeepers. We've grown a lot."
The bigger question for the Caribbean, Central and North American region known as CONCACAF is whether Mexico can move past its lackluster play that is causing a chorus of criticism at home.
El Tri plays Nigeria next month in Houston in its last friendly before a demanding summer that begins June 4 with the next stage of World Cup qualifying at Jamaica. Mexico is trying to recover after opening with three disappointing draws, including a scoreless tie against the United States in Mexico City.
Defender Jorge Torres Nilo was the only starter Wednesday night who also started against the United States. Torre wanted to get a good look at a young group he will need in July when Mexico competes in the Confederation Cup in Brazil and the CONCACAF Gold Cup, two marquee tournaments a year before the World Cup in Brazil.
De la Torre sent out a "B" team against Peru, which also auditioned young players for upcoming World Cup qualifiers.
De la Torre did not call any players from Santos Laguna or Monterrey because of conflicts with the CONCACAF Champions League final that starts April 24. He also didn't use his stars Javier Hernandez of Manchester United and Spanish club players Javier Aquino, Andres Guardado and Giovani dos Santos.
"It wasn't an easy team to play against tonight," Torre said of Peru, which is in seventh place in the South American World Cup qualifying region.
Peru had seven players in San Francisco who have been on the roster during qualifying matches. One of those strikers was Raul Ruidiaz, who had a great look on a counterattack in the 60th minute, but his shot sailed just right of the goal.
"The players knew they had to prove themselves to get called back to the national team," Markarian said. "We're proud of the way we went forward. We maintained a good rhythm."
Mexico's Torre brushed aside the criticism after another frustrating effort.
"They can say what they want to say" about the draws, he said. "You always want to win. But sometimes that's the way it is and you have to move on."
Torre sounded just as resolute regarding the blocked penalty kick.
"You always think he can make it," the coach said. "Sometimes the goalkeeper saves it. It's part of soccer."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond. ___