I trust we all watched the US match yesterday and if you did not see it, you didn’t need to. Barbados missing four of their five best players got rolled by a fired up US squad 8-0. While the scoreline was impressive, many concerns still persist for the U.S. like keeping proper spacing between attackers on the pitch and players knowing their respective roles while on the pitch. I’ll save these discussions and criticisms for another day because the US did what they had to do to avoid the pitfalls others faced in qualifying yesterday. The issues with the US remain today the same as they were last week. However, other nations that we compete with such as Mexico are showing themselves to be much weaker than anticipated. Player ratings are given at the bottom of this post.
Argentina and Brazil both struggled in their South American qualifiers. Argentina needed a stoppage time goal from Rodrigo Palacio to draw with Ecuador at home in Buenos Aires. Argentina looked unimpressive last weekend in a friendly against the United States after crushing Mexico 4-1 earlier in the week. This result is shocking as Ecuador has already changed coaches during qualifying and has been in the bottom three of the qualifying table throughout the tournament.
Argentina faces Brazil later this week in a qualifier. Roque Santa Cruz and Salvador Cabanas scored goals as Paraguay despite being a man down for much of the match crushed Brazil 2-0. Brazilian coach Dunga must be feeling the pressure despite winning Copa America last year. Brazil struggled to beat Canada in a friendly in Seattle last week and then got dumped by Venezuela 2-0 in Foxboro, MA.
Mexico’s performance yesterday against a team ranked 51 spots below Barbados in the FIFA world rankings made the rest of CONCACAF look like world beaters. Mexico used two controversial calls to notch late goals against the 172nd ranked team in the world, Belize 2-0. In what can only be described as a shocking display of football, Mexico was so bad that from minute thirty onward Belize was tempted go forward and attack. Particularly bad for Mexico from my eyes was Andres Guardado who was repeatedly dispossessed and repeatedly lost his composure.
Mexico’s two goals were controversial. A late foul call just outside the box in minute 67 led to a free kick which Carlos Vela cleaned up for a goal, and then deep into stoppage time after a Mexican shot went far wide, The referee stopped play and called a penalty because a Belize defender had clipped the Mexican shot taker on his follow through after the show was taken. Jared Borgetti, calmly booked the PK, and Mexico ran out a 2-0 victor. This performance paled in comparison to the impressive displays provided by Mexico’s likely second round group opponents: Honduras is already through to group stage with an aggregate 6-2 win over Puerto Rico, Canada crushed St Vincent 3-0 in the first leg even without injured Rob Friend, and Jamaica beat the Bahamas 7-0 in the first leg of their series. So in other words, Sven Goran Eriksson has a momentous task ahead of him, as Mexican football is suffering from a crisis of confidence and run of about two years of indifferent, if not simply poor results.
Trinidad and Tobago has been in a steady decline since thrilling the world in Germany 2006. Now T&T is in serious jeopardy of being dismissed from World Cup 2008 qualifying just two years after participating in the last tournament. Bermuda went to Port of Spain and won 2-1 yesterday. If Bermuda advances they will be grouped with the US, Guatemala and the Cuba/Antigua winner.
Brad Guzan 6
Nothing to do most of the day
Steve Cherdundolo 6
Some nice crosses
Oguchi Onyewu 7
Was active on set pieces
Carlos Bocanegra 7
Great set up for Dempsey’s first goal
Heath Pearce 6
Had more difficulty marking than he should have but served a great ball to Eddie Johnson for a goal
Pablo Mastroeni 6
Injured, after a nice shot on goal which an apparently offside Brian Ching redirected into the net.
Landon Donovan 10
Pure quality and and off the ball
Michael Bradley 7
Nice bounce back match
DaMarcus Beasley 4
Beasley is perennially coming inside or pushing out of position causing the US to lose its shape in the attack. Should be dropped in favor of Eddie Lewis as long as Lewis can go. Beasley isn’t healthy and quite frankly is useless against better opposition when he is healthy.
Clint Dempsey 7
Two goals and some nice work on the ball in midfield.
Eddie Lewis 8
Has a quality and composure totally lacking in the other American wide players
Freddy Adu 8
Tried to get too cute at times, but his presence is always felt on a match.
Brian Ching 8
Two goals but some questions about positioning and work off the ball. I’d still prefer a healthy Taylor Twellman to Ching.
Eddie Johnson 7
As my CSRN colleague, Peter Brown texted me, why couldn’t EJ hit that header against Spain?