I must admit having a new respect for the Mexican people today even if I still detest their national football team. They are a people who seemed to have so much hope that today they would finally remove the spell Landon Donovan (aka the Mexicutioner) and his mates have on their national team, and yet deep down they knew when they took the 1-0 lead it would not last. All morning long anticipation filled the air, even in this a glorified tourist town. The locals planned to shut down their businesses of bring in large TVs to the shops to watch the match. I watched the game as a promised at La Moreno in Cozumel where the restaurant owner had brought in a big film screen for patrons to watch the match. As the only American fan in the establishment (wearing a #17 DeMarcus Beasley jersey) I stood out like a sore thumb.
Nonetheless, the patrons were all more than kind and respectful of me. They must have known as a lover of the beautiful game back home that I must get lots of abuse from the adherents to the jockacracy that runs the American sports media and that I must be a real lover of the game to actually own a US jersey. (What they do not know is that I am a sucker who buys every new kit once Nike introduces it, and I probably could have given each and every one of them an old out of date US jersey) Moreover, since the US has become so dominant in the rivalry between the two nations, Mexicans fans have a begrudging respect for the American team even if they keep mentioning how dirty they feel Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra are. When the US tied the match at 1-1 the Mexicans all knew it was a matter of time before the roof caved in. Nonetheless, the comical finishing of Brian Ching and DeMarcus Beasley left the door open (and opened the door for me to be laughed at wearing a Beasley jersey) for a potential equalizer. But as the restaurant owner told me on the way out, “Your keepers always find a way to steal from our best attackers,” an obvious reference to the outstanding match Tim Howard had, and a retrospective of Kasey Keller and Brad Friedel before him who have often times won matches for the US against Mexico, that we otherwise had no business winning. But today was different. We should have won, but the suspect finishing that cost us all Gold Cup long reared its ugly head again today and forced Howard to be the hero.
The funny thing is when the match became 2-1 I had the same reaction as the Mexican fans. Having watched every match in the last ten years between these two nations, I fully expected us to get one or two more counterattacking goals, which we almost did if it had not been for some amazingly suspect finishing. I sensed the Mexicans fans were almost relieved the scoreline didn’t end up 4-1 or 5-1 as it could have, and now they can claim Howard robbed them while their manager Hugo Sanchez blames the officials for his no-call in the 88th minute. This match was wildly entertaining and back home I believe a tape of this match should be sent to the skeptics of the beautiful game. A packed Soldier Field, an intensity unmatched in most American professional sports matches and a wide open, free flowing game, particularly from minutes 30 to 65 would sell skeptics on Soccer, if they were ever willing to give it the time of day.