Entering the final stages of CONCACAF qualifying, the great hope was that Honduras, filled with top European club footballers could shake up CONCACAF a bit and qualify for the World Cup. Costa Rica with a group of players either too old, or simply not good enough to get single solitary result at next year’s World Cup, would have been a disaster for the region had they qualified automatically.
Costa Rica’s qualification would have been the worst possible news for a Confederation hard up for international respect. Rene Simoes did give the Ticos a new manager bounce in Matchdays nine and ten, but this “bounce” is unlikely to last past tonight, especially after his late sending off. The Ticos arguably would have been the worst side to qualify for the World Cup from any region, at this stage had they hung on. Simoes was a magician with Jamaica, and he almost pulled it off again until the late match antics killed the Ticos.
But Jonathan Bornstein fixed that, and must go down as a hero in Honduras, who with a golden generation makes their first World Cup since 1982. Carlos Pavon, the goat on Saturday redeemed himself in San Salvador, giving El Salvador its first home loss of the Hex.
The United States does win the Hexagonal, thanks to Javier Aguirre’s decision to play a reserve side down in Port of Spain. Winning the Hex means little in the big picture, but with Mexico still having the potential to be seeded, I was surprised Aguirre did not give it a go, at least for the first half.
Mexico’s World Cup qualification is borderline criminal because they used a succession of favorable calls in the previous round of qualifying to eliminate Jamaica on goal difference and advance to the Hex. The truth may hurt El Tri fans, but they are living on borrowed time this cycle and should not have gotten this far. That having been said, with the current squad Aguirre has, Mexico could be dangerous next summer.
Then again, perhaps Aguirre is using this extra qualifier the way he used to Gold Cup: to deepen his player pool, something the US did not do tonight, until late when we saw Torres, Rogers and Cooper get a run out in a desperate situation. Tonight’s game was emotional given Charlie Davies horrible car crash and injuries, and Davies quality was certainly missed on the pitch.
The problem is despite the victory, the limitations in the US team without Davies and Clint Dempsey were exposed tonight. Jozy Altidore’s work rate is high but he is stagnating as a footballer. A reason exists that neither Villareal nor Xerex choose not to utilize him and he has been replaced at Hull by Hesselink. Altidore’s first touch is poor, runs are less than sharp and his finishing touch, simply awful.
Costa Rica is not a good team- I’d rather their overall talent as the 7th best in CONCACAF. Of course, they were desperate and the US was heartbroken after the Davies injury. But to ignore the deficiencies that were evident tonight, would be trouble. The US will face a very good Danish team next month in a high profile friendly in Aarhus. That game will tell us a great deal about the progression of this US team.
Winning the Hex was meaningless, for Mexico in the bigger scheme of things. But for the US, it was important we played hard and got a result today given the impact it would have on qualification for Honduras and Costa Rica.
Credit to Bob Bradley for fielding a full team available and not gifting qualification to Costa Rica. Honduras, as I stated earlier will represent CONCACAF better in South Africa. Ultimately, though the US leaves this match with more question marks than many supporters would like to admit and more spirit and fight than the critics would acknowledge. Ultimately, that leaves us with little idea how next summer will play out.
I don’t want to toot my own horn, because I am wrong ALOT, but in 2007 I said Honduras would qualify and Costa Rica would not for the next World Cup. At the time I was laughed at because Honduras didn’t even make the Hex last time, but I saw the talent and potential, not only on the National Team level but by watching Olimpia and Marathon on the club level.
In fairness, I was only a Johnny B. miracle away from not being correct!
The truth is that Mexico should not have been in Hex and only got this far due to a succession of bad, suspicious calls in games that affected their advancement in the last round. Had CONCACAF’s officiating been straight up, Costa Rica very well may have joined Honduras and the US as automatic qualifiers from the region.