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CONCACAF: Mental Toughness Needed


Many fans newer to the game in this country who perhaps form their opinions by listening to anglicized radio programs or perhaps football themed shows direct from Britain have formed a completely invalid and biased opinion about CONCACAF. Many of the Anglicized pundits who make the assertions about the region have never watched a game either live or on television from venues such as the Mateo Flories or Saprissa Stadium. Many of these pundits easily forget the impact of altitude on playing style and pace at Estadio Azteca.

Political stability has not been the norm in Central America, but as regimes become more stable and Football Federations are given more consistent resources to work with, the footballing quality of the region has improved dramatically. The result of these changes is a more vibrant and competitive Central American region, whose members have been giving Mexico fits the last few years while continuing to trouble the United States.

It seems often forgotten that the most successful United States World Cup run of our generation came after a 3rd place finish in the CONCACAF Hexagonal, a full six points behind first place Costa Rica. In 1998, the US finished 2nd just a point behind Mexico but did not gain a single result in the World Cup.

If you play in the UEFA region, as England the inspiration for so many American footy fans does, qualification is a crapshoot. You could either be handed a very tough group as the Republic of Ireland has been this cycle or an easy group with minnows like Andorra as England has been handed. You can be group in with a seeded team the stature of Germany or Italy or luck out and face Croatia instead.

But in CONCACAF, much like COMNEBOL, the world’s toughest region, you cannot duck the top teams in qualifying. You will be forced to travel to the toughest road venues regardless of circumstance in order to secure a place in the World Cup.

Tomorrow night at Estadio Saprissa, the United States will face the sort of hostile crowd many who take their footballing inspiration from England would find culturally shocking. The toughness mentally of the US team will be tested. In the past the Americans could rely on veteran leadership in form of Mission Viejo boys and then more recently Eddie Pope, Earnie Stewart, Claudio Reyna and Brian McBride in Costa Rica.

But now the slate is clean. Aside from Frankie Hejduk, no American has appeared at Saprissa more than once for an international match previously. How will the young yanks respond?

Bob Bradley has brought a unique focus to the national team. Bradley’s troops have taken things one game at a time since his hiring two and a half years ago. But even when facing the weakest Costa Rican team in recent memory, victory at Saprissa is likely to be elusive.

Should the United States win tomorrow night a clear message will be sent to the world that this team can play in the toughest environments and excel. Whether the world is paying attention may be another matter, but the message will have been sent loud and clear.


I have no quarrel with English Football or English fans. In fact the one Football club I support is in fact an English club. (Manchester City FC). My quarrel is with the British media, insular, xenophobic and highly unschooled in world football. This media has had a malign influence on American fans and their view of their own national team and perspective on topics related to football in this country.

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  1. Ginge

    June 4, 2009 at 9:13 am

    United States media.Insular, xenophobic and highly unschooled in world football.

  2. Todd Boss

    June 3, 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Keep up the hits on the British media. The Americans that listen to 606, WSD etc all come away with an opinion that the USMNT sux, MLS isn’t worth following and latin football stinks. I’m so sick of fighting with these ignorant people whose mind has been manipulated.

  3. larry

    June 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm

    Yeah their was actually a post on this site a week ago that the primary author, Kartik Krishnaiyer of CSRN American Soccer Show fame was not covering MLS or USL for the next month to focus on the national team. The notice was unneccesary because many of us come to read his stuff because we know he covers and understands the national team better than anyone. Quite frankly their are tons of sites that cover MLS well but very few, in fact perhaps this being the only one that cover the national team objectively, frequently and with some sort of historical perspective.

    As far as CONCACAF it is far tougher than the brits give it credit for. The idiots like Steven Cohen et al that constantly harangue about what a joke the US is because we play in CONCACAF and the crowd that just repeats his inane arguments is who this piece is being directed at obviously.

    Now I would advice KArtik to stop trying to convert these people. They are what they are- let them root for England and come away disapointed again next time.

    By the way, drawing Croatia instead of let’s say Spain can be considered lucky and a weak group. In South America you have to play everyone else. In Europe you can manage to qualify without playing a single other team that qualifes for the World Cup. Don’t tell me that isn’t lucky and soft.

  4. adam

    June 2, 2009 at 9:17 pm

    BC- this site is MLS driven most of the time it seems but the author of the site Kartik is obsessed beyond anything rational with the US National team and international football. That’s why this site can be given a miss during international weeks or tournaments if you are looking for MLS news. Literally the author is probably a crazed sams army usa in your face type. He doesn’t appreciate the club game, IMHO.

  5. George H

    June 2, 2009 at 9:07 pm

    Spot on, Kartik. Playing away in Concacaf is a difficult task. If you’re able to take 3 pts on the road at this stage, it’s a tremendous accomplishment.

    Although I have one question, do you really think that drawing a side like Croatia in UEFA is lucking out? They’re a quality side with some very talented attackers. I think that you’re selling them short.

  6. Jo

    June 2, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    BC I agree with you completely, I have been enjoying the CONCACAF qualifiers.
    The atmosphere at some of the games looks great. I also hope to be able to see more MLS games live this season.

  7. BC

    June 2, 2009 at 7:00 pm

    I don’t get the obsession with always having to compare CONCACAF/MLS vs the English/European leagues or style of soccer? Any sane individual knows that CONCACAF/MLS doesn’t match up to the skill level of the EPL/La Liga for instance. That doesn’t mean that you can’t appreciate both however. I support my local MLS team and the US National team, but have also taken an affinity to the EPL for its quality of play and the convenience in following the league. As Americans the USNT and the MLS are our top draws so why not support them for what they are? Why should the American soccer fan care what the Brits have to say about CONCACAF? I’ve never had a conversation with a US soccer fan about the British media before.

    The sad thing is instead of talking about a compelling Hexagonal and the MLS in mid-season we are resigned to these insignificant discussions about the British media and Anglo-bias. I found this site looking for some actual MLS analysis (hard to come by) but most of the focus is on matters of this type. I appreciate the US analysis, but a little more MLS talk than a weekend recap would be nice. Isn’t that the name of this site after all?

  8. Jo

    June 2, 2009 at 6:29 pm


    How is the British media unschooled in world football. Does that mean the American media is unschooled in world baseball or basketball.

    And what does that say about American fans if they believe everything they read in the media, and the type of British media they are choosing to read.

    The English media over hypes the England National team. Mainly the tabloid media. Tell the Americans to stop reading English tabloid media.

    It is plain to see that La Liga is more technical than the EPL as you guys call it. Why not watch that. Why not follow the Argentina and Brazil national teams.

    The Media is not responsible for teaching Americans fans about the game.

  9. Jeff

    June 2, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    The English media is right about CONCACAF. It stinks. I cannot stand to watch the US- negative boring football.

    I prefer England. As Joey mentioned we have the cultural links, real fans, tradition and an actual chance to play attractive exciting football.

    I can read the English press and understand the language. The Prem kills MLS any day of the week.

    This website has been full of condescending and insulting articles the last few days. American soccer snobs are what hurts the domestic game. If you’d just realize England and the Prem are where it is at perhaps we could all get along and cheer on a nation with our cultural roots to bigger and better things.

    Besides who wants to see diving, whining central americans play anyhow.

  10. jo

    June 2, 2009 at 2:52 pm


    I am looking forward to the game will try to catch it even though it will not start until 10pm EST.

    I have just started reading your blog, one thing that has caught my attention. What is your reasoning for complaining about the English Football so much, Americans only seem to support the top four teams. I have been in the NY region for a couple of years. You guys should develop your own style of play and support your local teams, hopefully Red Bull Arena is easier to get to then Giants Stadium. Plenty of kids there on Saturday, up to America to get them still involved in the game in ten years and supporting the Red Bulls.

  11. Joey Clams

    June 2, 2009 at 12:55 pm

    I thought that I’d visit this site real quick and see what Kartik had to say. I had enjoyed his frank almost impolite characterizations of Saprissa. I can understand Kartik’s frustration with emulators of the English and their monodextrous viewing habits. I sense, however, that Kartik’s frustration is degenerating into outright antipathy. Kartik, many Americans watch English soccer because they feel a cultural kinship with England NOT because they wish to watch designer football. If anything, the deracination of the English top level has made it less attractive to me. Anyway, I don’t wish to put words in your mouth, but in exchange, please don’t make me feel guilty or ignorant for watching EPL.

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