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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.

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  1. Ian

    February 12, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Based on what I’ve seen in the last few matches simply assuming Mexico will make the world cup because of the name on their kit is silly.

    El Salvador is the only team that Mexico will surely get a point from on the road in the Hexagonal. So basically Mexico may have to sweep its home games to get in: very possible, but still a lot of pressure. Sven has not won a game on the road in qualifying. Three losses and one draw to Canada which Kartik always likes to point should have been a loss………although I will admit he seems to have been the only one to have seen the game so we must trust that he is correct.

  2. The Gaffer

    February 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

    Not sure if anyone else noticed this, but it’s been a while since I’ve seen a game commented by JP Dellacamera and John Harkes. But I thought they did an appalling job at times.

    They totally missed the incident when Tim Howard got a yellow card for time wasting (although it seemed more like Howard was trying to regain his composure after being hit so hard, and wasn’t time wasting at all — just was in too much pain to take the goal kick).

    Harkesy was talking way too much during the game. At times when the US was attacking and had a wonderful chance in front of goal, he continued yapping instead of stopping what he was saying. He needs to know when to shut up.

    The Gaffer

  3. Bishopville Red

    February 12, 2009 at 9:34 am

  4. eplnfl

    February 12, 2009 at 8:13 am

    Have to blame Sven for having Mexico play a style of football not suited to his players talent. Mexico has the talent to attack up field 90 minutes a game. What does Sven do, work the ball up in a fashion more suited to a mid-winter clash of two EPL also rans. Maybe that is why Mexico has no results the last 4 times out under Sven.

    The US dominated the first half of the game except for the early chance by Mexico stopped by the world class(yes he is) Tim Howard. The US never let up in the first half and finally got the score they needed before halftime. It would be hard to find a major flaw in the US game in the first 45. The second half was a different story and at times early Mexico seemed to hold the upper hand, just barely. Then the red card put Mexico a man down and you saw the team think about the flight back home.

    The lesson for Mexico is that it must be at 100% strength and play error free football to beat the US at home. For the American team the rest of qualifing is hardly more then a workout for them. Maybe we can begin to see more of Altidore, Adu, and Wynn as qualification continues and we get ready for 2010.

  5. Hank

    February 12, 2009 at 8:02 am

    Kartik – I agree with your assessment on Beasley but not so on Heath Pearce. I thought he enjoyed tremendous amounts of space, served the ball well, and made some timely runs. I have never been a fan of his per se, but last night he showed a little as to why he is kept around.

    Mexico needs to get a grip on its players and staff. It is time for them to start showing other teams the respect they deserve, and stop acting like a bunch of bullies in the sandbox. Sven should call them all out today for their behavior and demand the firing of Paco Ramirez. If they think they can just skate through the qualifier they better rethink their game plan.

  6. Enrique

    February 12, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Hey Kartik, I think the US was strong and took Mexico out of it’s game except for some mistakes by Bradley, Guch and Bocanegra, defensively that led Mexico to get close. You always say that Mexico man by man are more talented, so they shouldn’t have any problems replacing injuries or suspensions in their team. I think the Mexicans are just not applying what Sven is trying to implement, they are too slow for his system, they struggle with offense because they can’t keep control of the ball like they’re are used to, they have to advance and pass too quickly for some of the players that cannot transition well. Bob Bradley put up a very strong squad that contained the midfield well, except for a few mental lapses. I liked the game and saw that some of those Mexican players could not ge into a rythm mainly becuase of a stingy defense.

    It’s very sad that every single game that Mexico is loosing, some of it’s players become dirty, that’s the game and the US is going to the D.F. and are going to be strong.

  7. Soccer Guru

    February 11, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Mexico’s troubles predate Sven.

    Arrogance, lack of discipline, chippiness, lack of composure, etc, etc

    All of this has been developed over time and impossible to weed out quickly.

    Mexico’s problems are numerous and may not be solved in the Hexagonal. Will they still qualify? To be honest I’m not sure. I think USA and the Ticos are clearly better and Honduras may be better.

    But it’s tough to blame Sven totally for a downward spiral that began the second Lavolpe was sacked after almost beating Argentina in the World Cup.

  8. Pingback: Same Scoreline: Different Story | College Football Zone

  9. J.V.R.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Also, I doubt Sven will be coaching Mexico in a few days. If Pompey really want him, they have a clean shot now.

  10. J.V.R.

    February 11, 2009 at 10:52 pm

    Mexico is absolute rubbish under Sven. This is actually one of the worst games the US has played versus Mexico lately. Donovan was alright, but clearly tired from his Bayern run.

    How bad is Dos Santos? He seems to lack the composure and quality to be the star Mexico needs him to be.

    Bravo would have had no influence on the game if he came in earlier. He is rubbish as well.

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