US falls to Mexico – Again

Miguel Sabah Scores the Winner

Miguel Sabah Scores the Winner

The result was the same as it ever was – Mexico 2 USA 1. The storyline of how it unfolded is the bigger story.

For the first time on Mexican soil, the US took the lead on a Charlie Davies goal. Landon Donovan making his biggest contribution of the day sent Davies through on a perfect pass and Davies calmly hooked the ball just inside the far post.

Ten minutes later, Donovan lost the ball trying to dribble deep in US territory. After a quick one-two, Israel Castro found himself alone at the top of the box and unleahed a blistering shot that dipped ever so slightly over the outstreatched arms of Tim Howard and clipped the crossbar falling into the goal.

Mexico dominated posession but ten minutes from time, the Americans looked on their way to a well deserved draw. The end came when Efrain Juarez split Carlos Bocanegra and Landon Donovan and took the ball to the end line. Donovan gave a half hearted attempt to chase Juarez down giving him the opportunity to cross the ball. Jay DeMerit blocked the cross but the ball fell to Miguel Sabah who blasted the ball past Tim Howard for the game winner.

The loss won’t damage US hopes to qualify for World Cup 2010 but it was a lost opportunity to gain FIFA’s attention and possibly get seeded in December’s World Cup Draw.

It was a disappointing result for US fans who could point to a number of villians. Bob Bradley always a lightning rod for criticism put aging vets Bring Ching and Steve Cherundolo in the starting lineup in place of Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Spector.

Ching struggled to hold the ball on long clearances and was slow to anticipate some decent passes that came his way. Age and injury have robbed him of what little speed he had and Ching now simply lacks the pace to play at the international level. Steve Cherundolo has been a solid choice at right back but it seems he either hasn’t recovered from his injury problems or time has passed him by.

Its debatable if either Altidore or Spector would have produced better results but Bradley’s tendency to stick with his trusted vets too long has become perhaps too predictable.

Two players that had the game of their lives in the win against Spain, Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey failed to show up against Mexico. Both are in the argument as the most skilled players this country has ever produced. Both are enigmas, disappearing for long stretches of time in critical games. They present a no-win situation for Bob Bradley or any coach that might come along. Donovan and Dempsey aren’t the offensive weapons they imagine. Neither can realistically attack opposing offenses with enough consistancy to draw double coverage discouraging counterattacks down their flanks in fact the reverse is true. They are serious defensive liabilities that track back half heatedly and provide little if any cover for the defenders behind them. Donovan was the primary culprit in both goals Mexico scored by losing the ball and not fighting to win it back on the first and not shutting down the cross on the second.  

The midfield performance was a source of concern. The defense did a good job of clearing balls away from danger but after winning the ball, none of the midfielders gave the defenders targets to play simple balls that would have broken up Mexico’s momentum. Adding to the problem was the group failed to put enough pressure on the ball to prevent penetrating passes that put the defense in bad positions. Jay DeMerit and Oguchi Onyewu cleared numerous balls from danger that could have been prevented with a little more effort fromt he midfield.

None of the above mentioned problems alone were sufficient to deny the US a draw. What sealed the deal was the horrific performance of referee Ricardo Moreno of Panama. The 105,000 screaming Mexican fans clearly swayed Moreno who handed out a bushel of yellow cards to US players while ignoring the hacking and diving tactics of the Mexican players. Moreno’s crew didn’t decide the outcome of the game but they gave home field advantage new meaning.

Mexican Players Run Amok as Referee Ricardo Moreno Watches

Mexican Players Run Amok as Referee Ricardo Moreno Watches

The fans at Azteca Stadium have become legendary for their passion and their vile behavior. This game was no exception with Mexico fans throwing urine filled cups, beer, and other objects at US players. Security raised riot shields late in the game to protect Landon Donovan from flying missiles late in the game but no one ever seemed to do anything to deal with the fans. For reasons that can’t be explained here, FIFA and the media turn a blind eye to Mexico’s horrendous fan behavior. It would be an international scandal if either the US or England held games where its fans hurled body fluids at opposing players. If Mexico can’t control its fans, then maybe its time for the Mexican National Team to face some serious consequences. A World Cup Qualifier in an empty stadium or at least the threat of one could bring Mexican soccer fans into the modern era. Alexis Lalas in a pregame interview on ESPN compared playing at Azteca to Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome. His analogy is sadly on target. Its a shame, Mexico has the quality to play winning soccer but the lack of class by its fans shows their massive sense of inferiority.

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~ by zrwoodard on August 13, 2009.

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