In two days time there will be a soccer game of epic proportions. This may be an overstatement, but at the very least, it is an important game between two North American soccer rivals.
Mexico – or El Tri as they’re often known – and the United States Men’s National Team – or the Yanks as they’re more affectionately called these days – play the first of two matchups against each other in World Cup Qualifying games on Tuesday, 26 March.
In the summer of 2012, Mexico ran away with Olympic Gold in London after beating Brazil 2-1 in the final at Wembley. Although most teams including Mexico, came into the London games with a younger squad, – the men’s tournament for the Olympics is technically a U-23 team with three over-age players that can be allowed – don’t expect much to change, stylistically, even if they have different team members representing Mexico. El Tri also can boast about their team by featuring certain players like hotshot Manchester United forward, Chicharito (Javier Hernandez) and forward for Spanish side Mallorca, Giovani dos Santos.
On Friday’s game between Wigan midfielder Roger Espinoza-led Honduras and ‘the little pea’s’ (Chicharito’s) Mexico in San Pedro Sula’s 107-degree heat, the final match result could have been nicer to El Tri as Honduras, in the 77th and 78th minutes, came back to tie the game 2-2.
Also on Friday was the ‘Snobowl,’ (dubbed by USMNT fans) between the US Men’s National Team and Costa Rica, which was played in blizzard conditions at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Colorado. With Carlos Bocanegra and Tim Howard – both having been captain before – out for the game (and not on the roster), Tottenham Hotspur mid/forward, Clint Dempsey, brandished the armband and led the Yanks to victory with the only goal of the game.
Here are highlights:
That World Cup Qualifying game will be one of legends: one of those games where you tell the grandkids that you were not only watching the game, but in 10 years you were there, 20 years you were shoveling the field (you may have been the person Geoff Cameron so kindly pushed off the pitch), and in 30 years you built a snowman with Matt Besler and Joe Corona from the bench.
So as the US team goes from blizzard conditions in Denver to sunny and 80s in Mexico City, there are some pluses to take from the match against Costa Rica and apply it to the Mexico game (and here is a more in-depth analysis from MLSsoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle):
1. DaMarcus Beasley at leftback.
Definitely not the worst decision Klinsmann’s has made. Beasley cut down on the Costa Rican attack enough that they only had a handful of chances, mainly in the second half. Obviously numbers don’t mean everything, but with 58 successful passes and his play ranging on the left side of the field from the United States’ 18 to Costa Rica’s 18, Beasley covered a lot of ground.
2. The makeshift back four isn’t AS bad as people (yes, I’m including myself) thought.
Yes, I understand that every one of our ‘want’ players was out of this lineup with some sort of affliction, illness, lack of playing time, etc., but that doesn’t mean we have a bad backline with our ‘need’ players. They just haven’t played together. Goodson and Cameron were solid with Beasley (mentioned previously) looking nice and LA Galaxy’s centerback, Omar Gonzalez, was sans kinks from the Honduras game.
3. Our defensive midfielders control the game
Though this was a good game from Jermaine ‘SnoFro’ Jones and should be applauded (especially after not drawing any cards – and with a hole in his ankle (that will forgo him playing against Mexico) from a bad tackle from a Costa Rican player), AS Roma’s Michael Bradley is, seemingly these days, the unsung hero of every US game.
4. Every team the US plays against needs to have a ‘Roy Miller.’
He’s a veteran, but he’s made some questionable moves that end up screwing a game for his respective team. Case in point: San Jose Earthquakes vs. RBNY.
5. Brad Guzan is a more than capable backup to injured Tim Howard
With the aforementioned makeshift defense in front of him, some fans might get a little nervy with the not-often-called-into-national-duty keeper. However, if his playing time and incredible form for Aston Villa have anything to do with it, US fans should be unrelenting in their praise for the goalkeeper and his shot-stopping abilities.
As the Americans step onto the storied pitch at Estadio Azteca, they will come into a…how should I say it…hostile environment.
The USMNT only win against Mexico – in Mexico – in their 75-year rivalry was on 15 August 2012.
Here are highlights, including the goal (from Brek Shea to Terrence Boyd’s cheeky back heel pass to the close finish by Michael Orozco Fiscal):
Although historic, that win will not only fuel the fire between the USMNT and El Tri, but it’ll be burning even brighter now that Mexico squandered a 2-nil lead against Honduras and will look to gain three points against their own noisy neighbors to the north. The Yanks on the other hand, come to Mexico City in good spirits and with at least a little bit of winning confidence from Friday’s game against Costa Rica.
Going into these upcoming games, Honduras leads the group with 4 points, USA in second with 3 points, Panama, Mexico and Jamaica all tied for third with 2 points and Costa Rica sitting in last place with 1 point.
If my dreams were to become reality, the US would have – after this next game – six points, after another epic win in Mexico, with Dempsey bagging a hat trick, Michael Bradley with one assist, Zusi the other assist, and Gomez the last assist and Sporting Kansas City’s Matt Besler coming in as a super sub and dominating the backline. Hey, a girl can dream, right?
Obviously a win at Estadio Azteca is not going to be easy, but if the US at least shoots for a tie (or if they accomplish my dream scenario), they’ll be sitting pretty.
Here’s looking to for a little bit of that American grit and grind that this country was founded upon.
Come on you, Yanks. I’m USA proud.