The United States entered today's World Cup Qualifying match in Mexico 0-22-1 all time in Mexico. They left 0-23-1.
Mexico got a late goal to defeat the US 2-1.The United States got an early goal to look like they would seriously scare away the ghosts of the past, but it was all for not.
About 10 minutes in Clint Dempsey put Charlie Davies through on an early long ball. Davies took a couple of touches and put in a beautiful shot to the far post.
After that the US went into an unnecessarily deep defensive shell. Mexico knotted the game less than 10 minutes later on an impressive deep crack by Israel Castro.
Less than two minutes before the goal I asked my girlfriend why the US had dropped so deep. There was no need for them to go into a defensive shell only 10 minutes into the game. That's just not smart soccer. I'm not sure if Bob Bradley wanted his guys to conserve energy in the altitude, or whether he wanted to avoid a quick counter attack, but it was a clear tactical decision to drop into the shell.
Mexico dominated possession for much of the remaining 25 minutes of the first half, but the half ended square, 1-1. In the first half the did far too much chasing and did an awful job of passing and possessing the ball. The inability of the to conserve energy at the debilitating 8,500 foot altitude of Mexico City would prove costly.
The second half will be remembered for the exhausted group of American players and the truly despicable refereeing.
The US continued to have little bite in the midfield for much of the second half. The Yanks were unable to connect on many passes in a frustrating sign of past matches. To me the one thing that sticks out as the true weakness for the United States is the inability to control passes. Mexico created several beautiful long balls that were tactfully trapped down. That ability to control passes led to several promising opportunities for the Mexican squad. The inability to control such passes clearly was a downfall for the United States. Ultimately this is the skill that the US must address before next summer's World Cup.
Onto the refereeing. One of the referee's assistants botched 3 different offside’s calls, two in the first half and a third in the second half. The second blown call, 35 minutes in, gave Mexico a great chance to score but the shot skipped wide of the goal. The third blown call was close, but a blown call. Michael Bradley tried to play Charlie Davies through and was able to connect. Davies was 1 on 1 against the Mexican keeper, but alas the offside’s flag was up. It would have given the US a 2-1 lead.
The disturbing trend of FIFA referees to ignore blatant dives by Central American dives is beginning to border on comical. I know that diving / accentuating / drawing an undeserved advantage for your side is part of international soccer. American soccer fans despise this practice. I think the biggest reason is because Fakers are ridiculed in football, baseball and most especially basketball.
Back to my original point. Mexican soccer looks a lot like synchronized platform diving for distinct portions of the game. There were 4 laughable dives acknowledged by the referees and at least 5 other questionable dives. Split the questionable dives and that is 6 free kicks awarded the the Mexican side when possession should have belonged to the US. One such possession led to Mexico's game winning goal.
After a truly bogus dive was recognized and possession was awarded to Mexico. Efran Juarez made a beautiful run right at an exhausted Landon Donovan. The ball was tackled away by Jay DeMerit, but bounced right toward an eager Miguel Sabah. A poised Sabah blasted the ball right over the outstretched arms of Timmy Howard.
The heartbreak was on for the US. Mexico celebrated like Cinco de Mayo to the infinite power.
When all is said and done the US can take some positives from this game. They acquitted themselves well and played pretty well. Charlie Davies continued to show why he must be in the starting lineup for the US. Jay DeMerit and Gooch Onyewu were dominating as center backs once again. It was clear by the end of the game that the US was gassed. If the game were played at sea level there is little doubt that the US would have held up better. That is of little solace today, but going forward for the remainder of qualifying and the World Cup it is a point worth noting.
I have to seriously question Bob Bradley's decision to start Brian Ching over Jozy Altidore. I have to think this is a one time thing. Altidore and Davies work extremely well together. Ching looked lost. Michael Bradley was awful for 75 minutes of the game. His challenges were often late and without focus. The inability of Bradley and Ricardo Clark to control the ball in the midfield is disturbing for the US.
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