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The fixtures may look less than daunting. But trips to Central America are never easy and with CONCACAF’s own version of murderers row coming over the Summer (@ Costa Rica, Honduras, @ Mexico) it’s imperative that the US take maximum points this week from the two relatively uncomplicated qualifiers in front of us.

The United States has performed well to this point in qualifying. But as the qualifying campaign for the 2002 World Cup taught us, things can change quickly in a Confederation with so many evenly match teams and one group of finalists. Much like this year’s qualifying campaign, the US began the Hexagonal in 2001 with a game against Mexico in Columbus. The US won that game 2-0 thanks to goals from Earnie Stewart and Josh Wolff.

After five games the US hit a  break sitting with 13 points. American based players went back to MLS while European players had time off since the European season had ended. When the national team reconvened things weren’t the same. Injuries began to pile up and the best team in history of the United States lost three consecutive qualifiers. First was the predictable loss at Azteca, then a home loss at RFK to Honduras and then an incredibly bad performance in San Jose against Costa Rica.

The US only barely recovered making tough work of Jamaica in Foxborough and then drawing with Trinidad in Port of Spain to finish third in the Hexagonal. The US qualified for the World Cup but would not have made it if not for the early buffer the team received from good results in February, March and April. The best US run in the World Cup since 1930 never would have happened had it not been for some early insurance.

CONCACAF isn’t the soft Confederation many in the European oriented football press believe it to be. On the club level, Mexico’s league is deeper and more talented than any league in COMNEBOL and most in UEFA. On the national team level, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica have all been impressive in the World Cup, Copa America and Confederations Cup at various times over the past twenty years.

US fans need to understand bumps on the road will happen in CONCACAF. Any negative result is not a need to panic and bring out the “Fire Bradley,” legion. Two good results this week and the US probably gives itself enough margin for error to limp on home throughout the rest of qualifying.

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  1. Sticky

    March 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    The argument has been made elsewhere, but I think it’s worth restating: away games in CONCACAF are very challenging because of off-the-field antics by fans, federations, and others. How would a French player playing in Iceland react to being smacked with a plastic bag full of urine before he goes on the field?
    Does that kind of thing happen in other federations? Sure, it probably does. But I don’t think that European prima donnas have to deal with that sort of thing.

  2. Brian Zygo

    March 27, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Are you serious J.V.R., or you being a smart aleck?

    I agree, while CONCACAF might not be the toughest confederation in the world, it isn’t a cake walk and it’s only going to get harder every year.

  3. J.V.R.

    March 27, 2009 at 8:45 pm

    I’m actually quite offended that the US is playing tomorrow night right alongside the MLS. Steve Goff is reporting any DC fans are skipping tomorrow’s opener because of the US game.

    The MLS schedule was out in January. The US just set this time and match in February. Even if they insisted on playing on Saturday, which they did not have to: they could have played sunday, they should play in the afternoon to avoid conflicts with MLS games.


    March 27, 2009 at 4:47 pm

    This is a serious piece?

    CONCACAF tough! LOL! LOL! LOL! It’s about as tough as MLS, which is to say it is somewhere between a pub league and a semipro league.

  5. JOHAS

    March 27, 2009 at 4:39 pm

    These are the last breathers for Bradley.

    After this comes the three tough games you mention all of which the US lost in 2001 plus the Confederations Cup. A nice losing streak and suddenly his decision to rely on the likes of Brian Ching and Eddie Johnson no longer looks justifiable.

  6. Ian

    March 27, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    What a slanted article.

    CONCACAF is tough? C’mon Kartik, we all know you are smarter than that.

    In 2001-2002 Mexico and Costa Rica were both FAR better than today.

    Honduras is about the same. T&T worse. El Salvador? Who cares.

    On the club level CONCACAF is a joke. The Mexican League is a top 10 worldwide league, but I wouldn’t rank another CONCACAF league in the top 50. The CONCACAF club championship semifinals are made up of three mexican teams and ONE SECOND DIVISION AMERICAN TEAM. THAT’S HOW BAD CENTRAL AMERICAN LEAGUES AND MLS ARE.

    If the US doesn’t get six points out these next two games, then serious questions need to be asked of Bradley.

  7. eplnfl

    March 27, 2009 at 4:20 pm

    Good word of warning to us all Kartik. Quite quickly this week can either seal the ticket to South Africa or makes things extremely difficult. Nothing should be taken for granted which I’m afraid many of us do at this point. Anything less then four points can be considered a real problem in my book.

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