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CONCACAF Qualifying: EPL Impact


Former Manchester City and England Manager Sven Goran Eriksson and Cuauhtemoc Blanco discuss strategy/Reuters photo

The first matchday of group play in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying brought us some outstanding football and some great escapes most notably by Mexico whose performance against Honduras at Estadio Azteca left little to be desired for seventy minutes. El Tri’s North London pair of Gio Dos Santos and Carlos Vela looked out of their depth and over their head in the match. Manager Sven Goran Eriksson had to use all three substitutions by minute 70 as Honduras stood on the cusp of a massive upset. The insertion of veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco who had been frozen out of the setup by Mexico’s last two manager transformed the match and Mexico escaped with a 2-1 victory. Playing a key role for Honduras in their establishment of the 1-0 lead and solid play was Wigan’s Wilson Palacios.

The United States had a great 1-0 victory on the road in Guatemala City. I’ve seen some commentary by those who don’t understand the CONCACAF region describing the US performance as “woeful.” This characterization cannot be further from what I consider the truth as Everton’s Tim Howard made several saves in what was a very well set up tactical approach by Bob Bradley, the US Manager. Former Fulham, Leeds and Derby County midfielder Eddie Lewis played a critical role for the United States before being virtually assaulted and injured around minute 60. Former Fulham defender Carlos Bocanegra scored the US goal on a header served from a DaMarcus Beasley corner. Beasley currently with Rangers formerly played for Manchester City.

Jamaica Manager Rene Simoes made the very controversial decision last week to drop Marlon King of Hull City. But the Reggee Boys got a critical point on the road in Toronto against a Canadian side who now must rally to have any chance of advancing out of the group. Paul Stalteri of Spurs (although I believe he may have been loaned out somewhere) captained the Canadian side.

Trinidad and Tobago used a side made up largely of players in America’s second division (USL) and Leagues one and two to defeat Cuba on the road 3-1. Costa Rica struggled with El Salvador 1-0 but escaped with a win.

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  1. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 23, 2008 at 2:25 pm


    Do you know anything about CONCACAF to make such a statement. Do you base all your assumptions about national team on what clubs players are with and who has reputations? If so, England and Argentina would meet in every World Cup final.

    Guatemala is a tough place to play. I’d love to see England’s pampered players go down there and try and play. And besides it can be strongly argued Guatemala’s domestic league or at least the top two teams are better than the US domestic league. So in fact this was an amazing result for the US.

    I’m not sure what you are reading that says the US has “good players.” I’ve stated time and time again that the US has been shrewed in its organization and benefited from a very good FA (or SF as it’s known here)because if you compare top talent in CONCACAF the US is not even one of the best countries, but yet consistently seems to win matches and trophies within the region. That’s due to tactics, FA setup and simple grit. That’s how you win matches. The style points do not count and three points on the road in a place where most CONCACAF and I dare say non CONCACAF countries would struggle does not need an apology.

  2. Jairo

    August 23, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    How is it that the U.S.’s Victory over Guatamala was “Great.” I don’t think that is accurate at all, if anything it was lucky. You have these presumably “good players” in the U.S. Team that can’t beat Guatamala by a larger margin. Then it is turned around and made to seem like it was good tactics and good set pieces put together by the head coach. You have to be kidding. Look at the replay. The defender just did not follow Bocanegra to challenge the header.

    Guatamala could not even compare with the U.S. in players it has abroad, well not anymore, considering that nobody in the English Premier League is hiring Ameri-lame players. Fulham, which might as well have been the U.S. National Team itself with all the American players it had to no avail, finally woke up.

  3. SARI

    August 22, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    I think what Lonnie wrote is among the best arguments i have seen so far and it is in line with my view of playing Bentley on the wing and Green in goal.

  4. Lonnie

    August 22, 2008 at 11:00 am

    England did not pick a side based on a system. They once again chose names and tried to make them fit together.

    It’s a friendly, why not throw Downing and Bentley out on the wings and see what happens? Let them knock crosses into Heskey.

    Hopefully Capello begins to assert his authority on the squad and stops picking the reputation players and picks people based on form and what’s needed for the system(s) he decides to go with. I say systems as you can’t limit yourself to simply one team shape and need a certain amount of flexibility to change a game.

  5. Kartik

    August 21, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Lou, thanks for the compliments you obviously did not read my post game blog at MLS Talk or CSRN where I bemoan Blanco’s lack of sporting play among other things about a guy I simply cannot stand. Blanco’s mentality is shared by many of the Guatemalan footballers in their unsporting acts.

    The US win was a historic breakthrough, and Mexico is still rubbish (despite the win by El Tri which had me feeling blue for much of last night.) Rejoice!

    The England game was meaningless. The most obvious thing to me which Michael hit on in his post game blog is how bad England’s flank play is. I know people will get mad here but I believe England has more talent than anyone but the failure to play on proper pitches in the PL, ie 80 x 120 pitches which are rare in English Football is a big big big part of the problem. We’ve had that problem also but now we’re building wider pitches in the US so now our problems occur when we play on a congested, narrow field like we did in Barbados or even last night.

  6. eplnfl

    August 21, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I can not tell you how happy I am with your post Kartik. You have correctly praised my home town hero Temoc Blanco of the Chicago Fire with lighting the fire, no pun intended, under the Mexican team last night. He does that every time out for the Chicago Fire.

    You break down the USA historic win in Guatemala very well from a EPL perspective. I think most of us know what Tim Howard can do with a defense in front of him, which maybe lacking at Everton right now. Bocanegra had a excellent all around game and Beasley sparked the US team when he came in. However, both can’t find a place to play in the EPL.

    What still is hard for me to understand is why some people across the pond have to elevate another poor performance at home by England as some sort of heroic victory but down grade the US win in a qualifier on the road before an extremely hostile crowd and a Guatemalan team that was out to physically harm the Americans.

  7. Kartik Krishnaiyer

    August 21, 2008 at 2:09 pm

    Weston, interesting point because Dave Denholm my American soccer show co-host on CSRN think Ruiz’s challenge was totally fair and that Howard should have gotten a yellow for the fakery. The issue is Ruiz, the Guatemalan has played in MLS for seven years and has a reputation for diving and flopping (hence his nickname, the Fish) so the assumption is if he is involved he is to blame but in this case it may have actually been Howard doing the faking.

    Regarding Honduras I consider them to the most talented peak year team in the region (Mexico’s top talent is largely under 21 or over 30) so I actually expected them to play as well as they did. Pity for them they did not get the draw they seemingly earned.

  8. Weston

    August 21, 2008 at 1:29 pm

    The only thing woeful about that USA game was the commentary. It actually really pissed me off when Tim Howard rolled around faking an injury after a striker half-tried to poke the ball out of Howards arms, followed by the color commentator saying “he (the guatemalan striker) is a dirty player…thats dirty, kicks himin the face, yayaya blahhh”

    That said, Eddie Lewis’ injury was pretty wicked and i was glad to see the official got it right with a stright red card. That was one serious forearm-shiver.

  9. Beto

    August 21, 2008 at 12:42 pm

    We can’t discount the well organized Honduran team that lasted 70 minutes until, the altitude, stamina and Sven’s roster reshuffling with Bravo and Blanco in the 2nd half gave the Tri the win. Space was noticed as defensive lapses, shown in both of Pavel Pardo’s goals.

    The Guatemalan players should be hired as spaghetti western stunt men. They fall before any contact is made… I don’t think Maradiaga has shown them this. He was always a tough player.

    What happened to Canada?

  10. Lonnie

    August 21, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Stalteri desperately needs a move somewhere. He is not going to displace Alan Hutton in the first XI anytime soon. His squad number was given to Aaron Lennon so that should tell you all you need to know about his future at the club.

    I think he is good enough to play at the PL level, just not sure which team would need him right now. A move back to the Bundesliga might be good too.

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