Some random thoughts on the US win and the upcoming game against Costa Rica
The Greatest US Win I Have Never Seen. A lot has already been said about how absurd it was that this game was not broadcast to the average US fan, so there is no reason to continue to beat this dead horse. Beyond the television rights, Grant Wahl’s twitter on the game failed to tweet, the ussoccer.com twitter was intermittent at best and their Match Tracker did not work at all (at least for me), so switching between the New York Times Goal! update and Ives Galarcep’s running update was the best I could do. It was easier to get information about North Korea’s political divisions than it was to figure out what was going on in the game.
Last night’s win was as impressive as the win against Spain in South Africa. There are a lot of ways to hedge the win against Spain – it was in a neutral stadium, the Spanish took us for granted, it was as much a holiday as a tournament for Spain, etc. There are no qualifications needed for what happened last night. The stadium was absolutely rockin (check out Ives’ Youtube from three hours before the game began http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z5C8mh-Vhrw). Honduras had absolutely everything to play for. We went a goal down at the same time that we knew Costa Rica was ahead and going to get three points. Nevertheless, the US stepped up and won the game. And yes, it was lucky that Pavon put the PK over the bar, but no less unlucky than that Holden had a completely fluky handball to set up the PK.
Is Connor Casey the next Jozy Altidore or the next Eddie Johnson? Many fans, including myself, were flummoxed to see Connor Casey in the starting lineup in place of Jozy Altidore or Brian Ching. I guess that is one of several thousand reasons why Bob Bradley is the coach and I am not. Nevertheless, one game does make a regular US National. Remember Steve Ralston’s goal against Mexico last qualifying round? Remember the great run that Johnson had in qualifications for 2006? Neither do I. I would suspect that Casey has gotten himself a ticket to South Africa, but I am not convinced he has a place in our starting XI. I hope that Jozy plays Wednesday against Costa Rica because he should be playing like a man with something to prove. In fact…
The entire team has something to prove against Costa Rica. Our worst loss this year was not the Gold Cup final, which came with a boatload of “what ifs.” It was the 3-1 loss against Costa Rica at Saprissa in June. The 3-1 score line flattered the US as Costa Rica dominated the game from the beginning to the end. The US was not just out-played but also out-competed. Additionally, if we beat Costa Rica, we will have won the Concacaf hex, and….
Winning the Concacaf hex is far more impressive than any hex win in the European qualifying. For all the talk about the minnows in Concacaf, the truth is winning the Concacaf hex is far more difficult than anything Spain, Italy, England or Germany or any other European team had to do to qualify for South Africa. None of those teams had a road game that compares with going to Azteca, Saprissa or last night’s games at San Pedro Sula. There are no Montenegros, Faroe Islands, Andorras or Liechtensteins in the Concacaf hex. In fact, the worst team in our hex, Trinidad and Tobago, is probably better than the worst 10 teams in the European qualification. Reigning champion Italy has qualified with six wins in its nine games (just like the US), but Italy has had to play Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Montenegro and Georgia. Did you know that Cyprus had 1,100 people show up for one of their WCQ games? All those Euro football snobs can go stick it. If the US wins the Concacaf, it will be a fantastic achievement.