Same Scoreline: Different Story
2-0. The scoreline which rings so familiar in US-Mexico clashes was again repeated tonight. But this game was different. Firstly, Mexico with a virtual “B” attacking squad thanks partly to suspensions and injuries and also to the stubbornness of El Tri’s manager was playing with a foot tied. This allowed the US to maintain greater possession than is typical against Mexico and to dictate the flow. But for much of the match the US was as wasteful with the possession advantage as Mexico has been in recent meetings. The US wasn’t extraordinary and perhaps against an opponent with more quality the result would have been different, but El Tri is currently reeling and did not have the confidence or football savvy to punish the US for its complacency.
The US scored two goals, both by Michael Bradley. The first was a result of sloppy Mexican marking and defending, the second the result of a great counter attacking run and smart, mature play from Landon Donovan. Rafa Marquez’s red card sure to be a subject of conversation in Mexico was justified and showed again the unsporting nature of EL Tri when they fall behind the US or Central American side in a big match.
The absence of Jonny Magallón who scored twice in the most recent meetings between the nations had the greatest affect. The Mexican central defense looked a mess much of the match with Magallón’s absence and Rafa Marquez’s seeming indifference to the match. Carlos Vela was also missed by El Tri, who failed to maintain possession in the US half much of the night. Gio Dos Santos poor international play continued and perhaps Sven Goran Eriksson would have been well served to sub him out for Omar Bravo at halftime.
The US was exposed for its weakness on the left side. Heath Pearce was shaky all night and DaMarcus Beasley drifted in and out of the match. He made some daring runs but also played too deep at times considering the US was maintaining possession. The US central defense duo of Oguchi Onyewu and Carlos Bocanegra were once against dominant against Mexico, and Frankie Hejduk’s experience and savvy showed again as he was outstanding. As we discussed on this site earlier in the week, Steve Cherundolo’s injury was probably a break for the US considering Mexico was the opponent and Hejduk performs his best against El Tri.
At times in the second half the United States looked complacent. A better side than the current Mexican one surely would take advantage and punish the US for its mental fragility for long stretches. But Mexico itself is mentally weak and did not have the quality or patience to break down the US.
Crew Stadium again provided a first class home field advantage for the US, and Mexico’s poor run in the stadium continued. The pitch was in impeccable condition despite the harshness of this winter in the United States and provided a great atmosphere for the match.
The post match reaction in Mexico is sure to be biting. If ESPN Deportes post match coverage is any indication, then Sven Goran Eriksson and Rafa Marquez are in for a long month. Mexico’s lack of possession or early intent early were questioned openly on ESPN Deportes post match coverage, as was Marquez’s interest in playing for El Tri. The Mexican gameplan was criticized for being too defensive and the performance was criticized for being error riddled.
It may have been a depleted Mexican squad, but even during the US’ recent run of success against El Tri, the gap between the two sides has not appeared as wide as it did tonight. That could be due to injuries or the motivation for the US. Or it simply could be another sign that Sven Goran Eriksson was the wrong choice to manage Mexico. A year ago to the week in Houston, Hugo Sanchez’s Mexican side fought hard for a draw versus the US and looked the superior side. That was just a friendly, but Mexico had lost it previous nine matches against the US on American soil and a corner had definitely been turned. The US looked shaky in that match and many a pundit, including myself believed a new era of Mexican dominance over CONCACAF had been ushered in.
But a year later after a panic managerial change by the FMF, Mexico is winless in its last four world cup qualifiers all against allegedly inferior CONCACAF competition and seems to be totally adrift. Will a coaching change occur before the next set of qualifiers? Perhaps, although the FMF will be forced to bite a huge financial bullet if they sack Sven. More likely they give Eriksson until June to right the ship.