It’s become fashionable to assume Mexico is in jeopardy of missing the World Cup. But are they really? The United States also still runs the risk of slipping to the 4th position in qualifying. The truth is when you objectively analyze qualifying very little separates the top four sides.
Each of the top four nations have taken every possible point at home and each has taken zero points against the other top 4 nations on the road. The only road points gained have been the US at El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica at the aging and woeful Trinidad and Tobago team. Mexico and US still face the softest road test in the region when they travel to Port of Spain. So the truth is you have four nations bunched up closely all of whom could win the Hex or fall to the unenviable position of 4th thus facing Argentina or another South American team in a play off.
Assuming every team should gain three points at home and zero points in each road match here is the points earned or lost thus far in qualifying:
Costa Rica +3
United States +1
El Salvador -4
When looking at this chart consider that traditionally in CONCACAF both Mexico and the United States draw more fouls and penalty kick calls than all other CONCACAF nations combined. For example in Gold Cup 2007, the US drew a penalty kick in four straight matches, and also benefited from some other questionable calls most notably a sending off a Panamanian player late in a 2-1 match and an off sides call on Atiba Hutchinson when in fact he intercepted an Oguchi Onyewu back pass for Canada.
The U.S. has now also drawn a penalty kick in two consecutive qualifiers.
On the Mexican end, the whining and go to ground mentality of several players most obviously, Andreas Guardado and Carlos Vela will play a role as will the return of the unsporting Cuauhtémoc Blanco, who for years has goaded officials into making bad decisions. The Blanco effect wa sin full display in the semifinal stage of qualifying when the midfielder goaded the official into making a wrong call late in a match that gave Mexico a free kick which ultimately beat Honduras 2-1. That call essentially put Mexico into the Hexagonal instead of Jamaica.
Based on the reality of CONCACAF, Honduras has a mountain to climb. Despite having more players playing at truly big European clubs than any other CONCACAF nation other than perhaps the US, the squad still under performs in the most important matches.
With five fixture dates left a lot of football and scenarios need to be played out. Right now we know who the top four will be but what order is still in question.
- Houston beat Chivas USA 1-0 in front of a massive crowd for a midweek game. Due to World Cup qualifying and my inabaility to find the game on Direct Kick I missed it, but will watch it today as it has shown up on MLS Live TV.
- Ocean City beat Crystal Palace USA to advance to round two of the US Open Cup. Real Maryland advanced by “defeating” the Aegean Hawks in the DC suburbs derby thought he game was called due to lightning after 74 minutes. Keep in mind that game had been rescheduled from the previous night due to lightning. Last year Real Maryland and DC United both had numerous games postponed thanks to lightning in the DC metro area.