Having been on hand infor Wednesday’s mammoth and exciting clash and now having had over 24 hours to digest the outcome and impact let’s go through what we learned:
- Mexico has better talent and more skill than the U.S.
No real surprise here. With Carlos Vela, Mexico has a player who could be among the world’s best in a few years. Gio Dos Santos is also a skilled young player. Pavel Pardo’s work from dead ball situations has improved thanks to his current stint with reigning Bundesliga Champions Stuttgart. Johnny Magillion was fantastic not simply because of his two goals but the job he helped do shutting down the U.S. flank play almost completely. Mexico is entering a period where their talent level is going to be much higher than anyone in CONCACAF, but I remain unconvinced that the Mexican players have the mindset or the proper management to fully take advantage of the gap in talent between itself and the rest of CONCACAF.
- The US Has Lost it’s Psychological Edge on Home Soil
As we saw in 2001 when Honduras responded three times to defeat the U.S, in a critical qualifier at RFK Stadium (a qualifier which in many nations would have cost the Manager, Bruce Arena in this case his job), Mexico who previously became shell shocked when the US would score against the run of play learned how to respond and get a result on U.S. soil. The U.S. has now conceded five goals in the last 135 minutes of legitimate “A” international action of American soil. That is simply not acceptable for a nation trying to make its mark on the international scene.
- Communication Issues Continue to Plague the US Defense
We saw this in the World Cup and throughout 2007. American defenders regardless of who is in the squad communicate poorly on set pieces. Even against Italy in Germany 2006, the two most experienced US field players Claudio Reyna and Eddie Pope misread one another and gave up an all too easy goal to the Azzuri. Last year in the Copa America two different set piece goals were scored by US opponents on communications breakdowns between Kasey Keller and his backline. Wednesday saw Mexico score twice off set pieces with Tim Howard despite all his other good work, failing to organize the back line and the wall properly.
- Bobby Convey Should be Dropped
Convey has had his opportunity with DaMarcus Beasley’s injury and he clearly has lost his appetite for international football. His play was not only poor Wednesday, it was sorely damaging. By being out of position so often, Convey exposed unseasoned international Ramiro Corrales to the type of danger that Corrales couldn’t properly deal with. In addition, Convey’s meandering into the middle of the field forced Landon Donovan left to cover for him and thus took Donovan, the US’ most dangerous weapon completely out of his game. The US is deep at left midfield so it is a time to let Stuart Holden, Arturo Alvarez and Brad Davis have their shot and if need be continue to use aging, but steady Eddie Lewis for qualifying.
- Jozy Altiodre is the Real Deal
It’s not all stormy for the U.S. going forward. For the first time since Eric Wynalda began to bang in goals in friendlies before the 1990 World Cup the U.S. has a legitimate, young, potential world class attacking player (I saw Wyalda’s first U.S. goal in person versus Columbia in a friendly at Joe Robbie Stadium). Altidore has the size, pace, and stature to be a great one. He also has the right mindset, taking on defenders and making daring runs. Before the match I attended the Texian Army (Houston Dynamo Supporters Club) mid afternoon party and the subject on everyone’s mind was Jozy. Will we see him start and will we (to steal a quote from my co-host Dave Denolm) finally take the training wheels off him? With the expectations so high and seemingly the burden of an entire soccer fan community in this nation on his shoulders, Jozy delivered. Now the expectations are going to go through the roof, but I can assure you this kid is ready to handle it.
- Gooch is Back
After a forgettable 2007, the 2006 US Soccer Male Athlete of the Year signaled his presence in a big way again. Oguchi Onyewu was well position all night despite the frequent back line collapses and of course showed great skill in the air on his well taken goal. Onyewu also drew a yellow, when yet again a CONCACAF official misread a play and assumed that Onyewu had committed a violent foul because of his size advantage on the Mexican player.
- Qualifying is Around the Corner and Work Remains
As Bobby Convey’s play demonstrated some of the U.S. players of prime age have regressed since World Cup 2006. With the exception of Tim Howard, Steve Cherundolo, Rico Clark and Clint Dempsey, no U.S. players have proved consistently dependable over the past year. Jozy Altidore should join that list but potential qualifying trips to Guatemala, Cuba and Trinidad & Tobago looming, the U.S. needs to figure a great deal out in the next few friendlies all of which could incidentally be against arguably stronger opposition in more hostile territory than Wednesday Night was.