Photo from Reuters
Mexico was fortunate to escape with a 2-1 win at Azteca tonight over a Honduran side filled with quality. Honduras played some quality football and was unfortunate not to secure at minimum a point as Mexico despite being out thought and flustered much of the night used two Pavel Pardo goals in a three minute span late in the match to escape. Controversy surrounded the winning goal as it appeared Cuauhtemoc Blanco appeared to be offsides and obstruct the goalkeeper. However the goal stood and Mexico triumphed. Despite the win Sven Gorn Eriksson’s side has lots of work to do to improve on what was a poor performance.
Mexico’s two Premier League based attacking players, Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela were outclassed and over their head in such a big setting. Eriksson would be wise to recall Jared Borgetti for the next set of qualifiers. With Jamaica’s draw in Toronto against Canada, The reggae boys must be considered in the drivers seat to claim second spot and a ticket to the hexagonal from the CONCACAF Group of Death. Long time MLS midfielder Andy Williams, one of the true gentlemen of the league scored Jamaica’s lone goal to secure the 1-1 draw.
Bob Bradley’s US side on the other hand played the perfect tactical match in a hostile road environment and escaped with three points. The Americans never really lost their shape and the two center backs, Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra were outstanding. Brian Ching validated his selection with a fine performance which also makes my questions about his recall from yesterday’s American Soccer Show look silly. Clint Dempsey as has become on the norm for the National Team was poor and appeared to be weary from the long travel after playing Saturday for Fulham. While I question some of the officiating which prior to Steve Cherundolo’s sending off seemed to favor the US at critical moments, nobody can doubt that Bradley and his team had a massive victory tonight.
This win is perhaps the biggest by the United States since World Cup 2002. It is the first US victory in Central America since a 2001 win over Honduras. On the return trip to the US, Honduras defeated the US at RFK Stadium and came within an eyelash of qualifying for Korea/Japan 2002. Guatemala however lacks the quality and composure of that Honduras side. Led by master provocateur Carlos Ruiz, the Guatemalans were quick to the ground and quite unsporting for large portions of the match. As I stated last year, I believe Rico Clark was probably justified in lashing out Ruiz and that his suspension by MLS was unjust. In Ruiz and Blanco, MLS has attracted two of the most unsporting players in this region. Sadly as fans of the beautiful game in the United States we continue to be subjected to the childish and immature behavior of both superstars. Thankfully class footballers like Andy Williams and Eddie Lewis who also featured tonight in qualifying give MLS a good name. Lewis who was seriously injured by a rash Guatemalan challenge is a warrior whose spirit exemplifies the best hybrid of American and British football around.
Trindiad and Tobago defeated Cuba behind the efforts of several current and former US based players. T&T now has a leg up on Guatemala to join the US in the hexagonal out of the group. Cornell Glen who played several years in MLS scored one of the Soca Warriors goals.
Player Ratings for the US
Tim Howard 7
Lost his head literally and figuratively in an exchange with Carlos Ruiz but otherwise a solid effort.
Heath Pearce 5
Got away with a hand ball in the box and was beat often in the first half. Was steadier in the second half
Carlos Bocanegra 9
Outstanding. Glad he’s out of the mess that is Fulham FC! That does wonders for a player’s confidence
Oguchi Onyewu 8
Was excellent in the air and a commanding presence on set pieces going forward
Steve Cherundolo 3
Reckless and silly in one outing. Not what you’d expect from a seven year Bundesliga veteran
Michael Bradley 5
Inconsistent as usual. Spectacular one moment, terrible the next. A typical outing for Bradley
Pablo Mastroeni 5
Reckless and physical as always but seemed to get away with it.
Landon Donovan 5
Never much in the match
Eddie Lewis 6
Made some good runs but service was lacking
Clint Dempsey 2
Time for a long break for the national team for the Deuce
Brian Ching 6
Had an under rated game with good hold up play and some wise decisions. A poor finisher, but we already knew that.
DaMarcus Beasley 7
Bob Bradley 1 Kartik 0. Okay so this is why he gets called in. He knows how to play in these sorts of matches.
Frankie Hejduk 7
At 34, still the best option for the US at right back
Mo Edu 6
Has secured his UK work permit and will be a star for Rangers.