For channel surfers, even the ones who can’t tell a soccer ball from a cantaloupe, the sight last Friday was irresistible.Soccer in the snow. Team USA on the frozen tundra of .. . well ... suburban Denver.For visiting Costa Rica, the idea of playing in a steady snowstorm in mid-March had to be unnerving, as its post-match protest attested.But that’s the idea in World Cup qualifying. When it’s your turn to host, you don’t roll out a red carpet — you dig a flaming moat. When the U.S. team makes the return trip to Costa Rica in September, they won’t be playing at Club Med.Which makes Tuesday night’s 0-0 draw in Mexico all the more remarkable for a U.S. side that was alleged to be in disarray just a week ago.In an article last week in The Sporting News, anonymous players contended that coach Jurgen Klinsmann was playing favorites and tearing the team apart.Instead, a Christmas miracle occurred. The Denver weather turned what could have been a troublesome night of inconsistent offense, tough questions and postgame denials into a TV snow-globe spectacle.Americans TV viewers who would never have thought to watch soccer in the middle of basketball season lingered long enough Friday to be impressed with the gritty determination that Klinsmann’s team showed.A lot of them, no doubt, were back watching Tuesday night, as the U.S. national team ventured into one of global soccer’s most storied and demanding venues, Azteca Stadium.In 14 previous World Cup qualifying matches at Estadio Azteca, the U.S. record was 0-13-1.They’re still winless. But on a night when Mexico had been backed into a qualifying corner of its own, a night when it outshot the United States 17-1 and had 15 corner kicks, the Americans were right to joyously celebrate earning a historic draw.The day turned out to be a veritable double-header sweep. Earlier Tuesday, soccer’s world governing body, FIFA, officially ruled against Costa Rica’s protest of the playing conditions Friday night. The United States’ 1-0 victory stands.In World Cup qualifying, whining about the venue seldom seems to fall on sympathetic ears.Each nation in this round plays the other five qualifiers in the CONCACAF region twice. For the U.S. team, this home-and-away arrangement usually translates to traveling to a traditional site, with a hostile, Spanish-speaking crowd intent upon making the Americans’ 90 minutes as miserable as possible, followed by a return match in some place decidedly Uncle Sam-ish.Like Columbus, Ohio. Or Seattle. Or like last Friday’s contest at cozy 18,000-capacity Dick’s Sports Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.That’s right. In a nation of Rose Bowls and Jerry Jones-designed palaces, the U.S. men’s national soccer team has to retreat to a band box rigged to be home team-friendly. And we can blame the Statue of Liberty for that.We are a nation of immigrants. A lot of our best friends probably came from elsewhere. And chances are, those friends grew up in their homelands going to soccer games.If Owner Jones’ Cowboys Stadium, to cite the most obvious example, were to host a USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier, a vocal majority of the audience would be wearing the so-called visiting team’s tricolors. It wouldn’t really be a home game at all.Man, by nature, can be fiercely territorial. The pages of the World Cup and Davis Cup history books can attest to that.Insults. Flying beer bottles. Intimidated officials. It comes with the schedule.The objective in World Cup qualifying, therefore, is to win all of your home games and hope to sneak away with a random victory or a draw somewhere on the road. In the qualifying standings, victories are rewarded with three points and draws earn one point.Much is made of Mexico’s Azteca Stadium, and with good reason. The stadium is like playing at the bottom of a steep concrete canyon, where the walls are lined in red, white and green. When the home team, El Tri, is playing well, the noise is constant. The high-altitude air is tellingly thin.The Cup qualifier that I saw in Azteca Stadium was on an Easter Sunday, but I didn’t see or hear any Easter Bunny.El Tri had its own baggage to deal with as it headed into Tuesday’s game. The 2-2 draw with Honduras had turned Mexico fans restless.Coach Manuel De la Torre’s name was again being taken in vain.With a backup goalkeeper, Brad Guzan, however, and inexperienced defenders, the U.S. team somehow found a way, especially in the final minutes when the Mexicans teed up set-piece opportunity after opportunity and were unable to score.Two huge breaks came the United States’ way. In the game’s 12th minute, Michael Bradley’s two-handed push of Javier Hernandez was waved off by the referee. Mexico also should have been awarded a penalty kick in the 76th minute, but Maurice Edu’s sliding tackle on Javier Aquino went uncalled.Those strokes of fortune have seldom graced Team USA on the World Cup qualifying road. But Christmas continued Tuesday night at, of all places, Azteca Stadium.U.S. soccer has seldom had a more arresting week.