Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Mexico. Show all posts

Saturday, June 07, 2014

World Cup 2014: Group A Preview

And we're back, kind of. This here blog was started, back in 2006, for one simple reason. The World Cup was not being talked about, and when it was, it was being talked about by idiots who hated soccer. Back in 2006, some of our fun was running the US roster through the Wu Tang Generator. It still exists! Jozy Alitdore, in case you were curious, is Big Wicker Ventriloquist. Which feels frighteningly apt, in its way.

In 2010, we were happy to see that the idiots backed off their idiocy. Tom Powers was still stupid, but he knew that he couldn't describe soccer as the sport of Illegal Immigrants anymore.

In 2014, it feels like a watershed has been crossed. 4 years ago, Deadspin was perfectly happy just calling out provincial fucks, without providing any actual soccer coverage themselves. But with Greg Howard and Billy Paisley, and assorted others, Deadspin is providing insights to every single team out there. And that's great! But they are often wrong, and that's OK! They know the game, perhaps too well.

It is possible to overthink the World Cup. In fact, it is really easy to do so. You can get into tactics, or managerial skills, or possible talismans. Simple point of fact - since the World Cup began, only eight nations have won it. You want to pick a dark horse? Go ahead! But history is against you.

Anyway, let's get to Group A, and who is going to advance!

Group A consists of:
Brazil (your host)

Brazil is as guaranteed to walk into the Round of 16 as any team in the Cup. But let's not pretend there are not warts on Brazil. There are, absolutely. Their defense is tough up the middle, but their wing backs are maybe prone to a bit o' wandering. There is almost always space behind the Brazilian defense. Thiago Silva is almost always there to clean that up. But if he's caught out of position, when Dani Alves sends a shitty cross in to spark a counter? It could be trouble. But not in this round. Not with group.

That said, in the long term, I don't love this Brazil team. Neymar is spectacular, but a bit dainty. There's no Ronaldo on this team, especially if Fred isn't available. Brazil has wunderkinds up the ass, but it has been 12 years since they hoisted a trophy, and I don't know they have the depth and physicality to win this whole thing, home team or not.

Mexico is terrible. Let's not kid ourselves. They needed an extra time goal from the US to even get here. Couple that with Luis Montes' great goal and terrible leg break in a friendly a week ago, and that team is coming into the World Cup knowing that they are lucky to be there, and without one of their best players. Couple that with a suspect defense? The New York Times argued that Mexico got lucky in this draw, and they are right. But it won't matter.

My pick to advance is Croatia. Deadspin says that Croatia's way to advance is to "Rise and Grind", which is, to my mind, damning with faint praise. This team is dangerous. They don't have to "grind". They will be as dangerous as anyone on set plays, with Manzukic up top, with Olic and Eduardo possibly playing withdrawn attackers. Combine those guys with Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, and you've got the second best offense in the group. They aren't fast? We'll see.

Cameroon is a very old team that qualified. The Indomitable Lions are back, and you never know what E'to and Webe will pull off. But a weak midfield and sketchy defense dooms them. They may lose every game in the Round Robin, even as they score 2 or 3 goals a game.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why Bob Bradley Was Fired

For those of you who have taken a moment away from the NFL Free Agency Madness, you may have noticed that the US Soccer Coach that everyone loved to hate (me, too!) has been canned, following the Gold Cup meltdown against Mexico this past June.  And a meltdown it was, as the US was up 2-0 in the early minutes of that game, only to lose 4-2.  I don't put that on Bradley (or, I wouldn't, if it were the first time a Bob Bradley team had collapsed with a two goal lead in a tournament final.  foreshadowing!).  That's a US team that was outclassed by a superior team, and couldn't handle the gift the Mexicans had given them.

I thought Bradley should have been fired after the World Cup, mostly for his inability to use his talent correctly.  He may have had fine tactics, and a decent sense of tweaking line-ups to improve at halftime, but there were clear examples of Bradley not evaluating his talent properly, and using an often inexplicable Starting Eleven (Rico Clark!).  So, you know, I thought this was a long time coming, despite whatever successes Bradley claimed.

And the mainstream press is quick to give Bradley his due, because his accomplishments don't look too bad, as long as you don't look at them too carefully.  Here's Steve Goff, of the NY Times, who absolutely knows his soccer, on Bradley's accomplishments:

Bradley went about the job in his low-key, cerebral way, and the results were mostly positive: first place ahead of England in the 2010 World Cup group stage in South Africa, a stunning upset of Spain in the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup semifinals and the CONCACAF Gold Cup championship in 2007.

What I mean by saying "not looking too closely" is that all of those accomplishments are undeniably good things.  But maybe some of those aren't quite as impressive as they sound?  The US finished ahead of England, yes.  But England was a tad overrated (certainly Germany's almost dismissive destruction of them proved that?).  We tied England because of horrible botch by England's keeper Robert Green.  There were just 8 minutes left in the game when the US managed to score one more time to draw Slovenia.  And let's never, ever forget that in a must-win game against an inferior opponent, the US needed more than 90 minutes and a miracle from Landon Donovan to beat Algeria.  So yes, we finished ahead of England (on goal differential) but we barely escaped finishing third (or fourth) in a group that featured Algeria and Slovenia, for heaven's sake.  Speaking as someone who knows a little bit about soccer, the way we advanced was just a little bit embarrassing, though the way we lost to Ghana would soon top that.

The Spain upset was undeniably wonderful; the following humbling by Brazil, less so.  I don't feel that a US Coach who wins a Gold Cup should consider that a massive accomplishment.  A trip to the Final Game should be expected just about every tournament.  So, anyway--accomplishments, yes, to a degree.  But not the kind that make you think, "They couldn't possibly find a replacement for this guy."

Of those games I mentioned, there is another aspect of Bradley-led teams that needs to be mentioned--the penchant for giving up early goals.  It was such a pervasive sickness that some of the blame has to be on the coach.  In the 2010 World Cup, the US surrendered their first goals in four and thirteen minutes, respectively, against England and Slovenia.  In their knockout game against Ghana, they gave up a goal five minutes into regular time and after clawing their back way to tie in regulation, three minutes into extra time.

Collapses like this summer's Gold Cup Final against Mexico are also not new.  The Confederations Cup of 2009, where the US beat Spain in the semi-final, did in fact have a final, and the US took a 2-0 lead into the half against Brazil.  They lost 3-2.  (Brazil scored their first goal in the first minute of the second half).

So, weigh those facts against Goff's above.  Under Bob Bradley, the team has had a history of questionable personnel decisions (Rico Clark starting; asking Clint Dempsey to play any sort of defense), a history of staking teams to early leads, and a history of dropping big leads in Final Games.  That's Bob Bradley's résumé  to me.  And when stated that way, it makes it much more clear that Bradley wasn't fired for the one travesty of letting Mexico beat the US (they are, on paper, the superior team, after all).  The US Soccer Federation saw the same pattern that I laid out, and it was time to get out from under it, before the World Cup rolls around again.  The next coach needs to be the coach for qualifying, which starts sooner than you would believe.

Other people thoughts*:
Rumors & Rants--"Somewhere, Jonathan Bornstein is Uncontrollably Crying"
That's On Point--"Bye, Bob"

Next post:  Who Should Succeed Bob?  Better Yet--Who Shouldn't?

*I lambasted Bradley's personnel decisions without once mentioning Jonathan Bornstein.  I regret the error.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Get to Know Mexico

Mexico is the fourth qualifier for the Final Round of the World Cup, coming out of the same group as previously mentioned South Korea.  Here are some fun facts.

1.  Mexico is one eighteen countries named as being MEGADIVERSE.  Which sounds super cool, but basically means that Mexico has a lot of fucking animals and plants.

2.  Mexico, as home of the Mayan Empire, is also home of the Mayan Script, which is crazy awesome.

3.  Of course, in case you've forgotten--Mexico City is fucking huge.  21 million people live there.  That's fucking huge, man.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

USA USA USA vs. Mexico--Analysis

I have to say that I read about the not-so-quiet confidence from USA players and analysts with some trepidation and a great deal of doubt.

And now, it seems to be justified as Mexico beat the USA 2-1 in Azteca Stadium. The score line does not reflect the dominance of the Mexican team. Any other statistic measuring offensive power, be it time of possession, shots, shots on goal, passing percentage, what have you, shows that the Mexicans dominated this game despite a great early start from the Americans.

First off, I was proven wrong about one aspect about Charlie Davies--he can finish a sandwich. His goal was fed off a brilliant pass from Landon Donovan, but he had two defenders draped on his back, a keeper charging at him, and he slotted a clever finish just inside the far post at a run. It was impressive.

And look, yes, Azteca Stadium is a difficult place to win--not only for the US, but just about any team in the CONCACAF (of course, the rest of the CONCACAF are not exactly world-beaters anywhere, but let's just give the Mexican Home Stadium its due--it is tough to win there). If you didn't watch the game, and you didn't hear Marcello Balboa say, "The altitude, the smog, the 100,000 fans" a dozen times, than I will say it: The altitude (over a mile high), the smog (Mexico City) and the fans make it a tough stadium. All reasons for being a little unsure about Team USA's chances to break the streak of never winning there, especially with this team.

In the wake of USA's work in the Confederations Cup, where they knocked off Spain, there seems to be this implicit suggestion weaving through the commentary of mainstream media in which a troubled US team has suddenly righted the ship, and that all the positions are figured out and Bob Bradley is a brilliant coach who is going to lead this team to glory. I don't think a good run in what is a essentially a tournament of Friendlies should be driving the discourse. This game was a chance to prove nay-sayers (like me) that this team is the Best Team the US can put on the field, and that Bradley is the coach of the future.

Here are the things I saw, and take from it what you will. I'll be linking to some other commentary that I have not read myself yet, to make sure I'm coming into the next paragraphs unswayed by what someone else saw. Here are the factors I saw, in order, of the reasons that the US lost this game.

1. Defensive tactics. After taking a 1-0 lead before the 10th minute in the game, the US went with a defensive strategy that ceded the Mexicans the first 60 yards of the field--midfielders compacted into the defensive third, and were either slow to challenge, or did not challenge Mexican offensive players until they had gotten past the US' circle at midfield. Now, perhaps this was a tactic to save some energy in an oxygen poor environment. What it resulted in was a Mexican team that was free to move the ball at will, unchallenged, for minutes at a time. Mexican midfielders were able to spot runners without anyone in their face, no one trying to take the ball away--it helped settle the Mexicans after a very unsettling early goal. Because the midfield was so compacted into the defense, when the US did clear a ball (usually Oguchi Onyewu, who was absolute badass in this game) it got cleared to either empty space, or directly to a Mexican player. Which still leads to fatigue, because the US defense is still running around, still getting gassed, but in their own defensive third. For this style of play to work, there has to be some confident short passes out of the defense. That didn't happen. Another way out, though dangerous, is to dribble out. And that leads me, sadly, to point #2.

2. Officiating. It was extremely unbalanced in Mexico's favor until the latter stages of the second half. I don't like blaming referees for results, and in fact, the US tactics led to this, but let's be clear--Landon Donovan, dribbling a ball out of his defensive third, was clearly fouled. I saw it in real time, no close-up necessary. His jersey jumped backwards as a Mexican midfielder reached out and grabbed it. It took Donovan off the ball, and the counter-attack was on. It led, directly, to the first goal by Mexico (an absolute thunderclap from unheralded Mexican midfielder Israel Castro.) And while that was the most egregious of the bunch, it was made clear that an American Yellow Card was easier to get than a Mexican Yellow Card. Essentially exact same fouls drew different levels of punishment. Unacceptable in a game this important. Unacceptable, but to be expected, and to be planned for.

3. Carlos Bocanegra. I love Carlos, but he was slow to block the first goal (but again, that was an absolute thunderclap from 30 yards out). More telling, I think he was way out of position on the second goal. Presumably he was gassed, and looked at the play behind him, and thought, "I can't get there in time" and proceded not to try. I don't know if it would have made a difference, but he was clearly out of position, and made no attempt to get back in.

4. The Center Midfield. I have never, ever been a huge fan of the Spazzy Combo of Coach's Son Michael Bradley and Rico Clark. Perhaps, again, because they were hamstrung by the tactic to compact the defensive third. They were, aside from about thirty seconds each, almost completely invisible. Also, they had a tendency to focus on the ball, and double team the man with the ball without much success. The first goal is as much on them as it is on Carlos Bocanegra.

Summary: The US has never won in Azteca, and this team is not the best team that has ever been down to Mexico City, no matter what you have read. Brian Ching is not a real first team striker, and the center midfield combo of Bradley/Clark are not first team players either--not a for a squad that has real designs on winning the World Cup. None of those players compare with the key players on any of the Top Five Squads in the World, and it may take that type of talent to win in Azteca. But the tactics the US employed, masterminded by Bob Bradley, were, to be charitable, curious. After the US took the lead, the tactics looked to be of a team determined not to lose--give up shots, give up playing any sort of possession ball, retreat to a shell, and blast clearances that may or may not lead to counter-attacks. With 20 minutes left in the game, and the scored tied 1-1, the US tactic seemed to change, as evidenced by the substitutions--all three subs were offensive oriented--Benny Feilhaber (who didn't play well, but has certainly played well enough to be starting over Rico Clark), Stuart Holden (who launched the most dangerous cross of the game that Charlie Davies should have put away), and Jozy Altidore are all offensive subs. Not one defensive substitute.

No wonder then, I guess, that the US defense looked gassed at the end of the game, and reacted poorly when Landon Donovan was beat off the dribble by Efrain Juarez. There was the risky slide tackle from Jay DeMerit, when he probably could have stood up Juarez. There was Bocanegra yards out of the play, and just watching as Miguel Sabah lined up a shot from six yards out with no one in front of him.

Of course, as I mentioned earlier--there were some horrible officiating decisions, including a yellow card that is going to keep Oguchi out of the next qualifier.

Here's what other people say:
Players Ratings by Zac Lee Rigg (does not include coaching)
Martin Rogers blames the referee and the fans.
That's On Point writes a longer take than mine! Cardillo of That's On Point is an exhaustive writer, and makes connections that I didn't make. I don't agree 100% on just about any take Cardillo gives, but he makes his points with intelligence and savvy, and makes me re-think my own takes. That said, he's wrong to give Bradley a pass, and to praise the substitutions. But it is a hell of a write-up. Read it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

USA USA USA vs. Mexico--a Quick Complaint

Soccer, thanks in no small part to the rapidly changing demographics of the United States, both racial and age-based (I still think my generation of 30-somethings is the first generation to continue to give a shit about soccer after the youth soccer we played) seems to be coming into its own. Never mind that the MLS has averaged more fans per game than the NHL. Every defender of hockey (and maybe basketball, too) will tell you it is unfairly skewed by Toronto and Seattle's new, rabid fan bases.

But--DC United is going to get destroyed by Real Madrid on Sunday, as an exhibition match. Here's the thing--RFK Stadium, the usual home of DC United, holds some 45,000 people. The match isn't being played there, because they sold 60,000 tickets. This exhibition match is being played in the largest American Football stadium in the world--FedEx Field. So there is a clue about how soccer is gaining traction, I think.

Yahoo's Martin Rogers, who seems to me a fine man (with a unfortunate fixation on proving the MLS is for real) is going to be spending the next four days talking about how important the US-Mexico tilt is, and it is hugely important. The US has not won in Azteca Stadium, ever, and they could really really use a win there. Rogers says "Awareness of the national team has rarely been at a higher point." Rogers also says, in another article (I told you he was working hard) "This rivalry has never been bigger, or more significant, than it is now."

And so what better time for NBC/Universal to be a HUGE DICK? Why not now? This game will not be on ESPN. Not ESPN2. Not ESPN Ocho. Not on Fox Soccer Channel. It will only appear on Telemundo, and their English speaking sister channel, mun2. Telemundo and mun2 are both owned by NBC. Presumably, NBC could have optioned off viewing rights, but they've decided to make a power play to get mun2 on more cable networks, using this important game. Luckily, for me at least, Comcast in Minnesota for some reason carries mun2. But only 31 million households in the US have that option. It's a shockingly bullshit manuever. On behalf of all my soccer loving, English-speaking friends who either don't get this game at all, or have to watch it Spanish, with Mexican commentary-Fuck you, NBC, for being such HUGE DICKS.

That's my complaint. I suggested it would be quick. I lied.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

USA USA USA Beats Mexico in Unspectacular Fashion

The US, last night, won an "important" game against Mexico in the World Cup qualifying series. Let's be clear--this game was important to win, simply because the US doesn't want to go into their horrific road games with a loss on home soil.  However, even given the frequently brutal conditions the team is subjected to on the road, they could probably lose to Mexico and still finish in the Top 3 and thus qualify for the World Cup.  

But it is important to beat Mexico, because we hate Mexico when it comes to soccer.  And win the US did.  But they trotted out an overly defensive lineup for a home game in Columbus--4-2-3-1? Really?  Both goals from the US came from horrible, horrible defensive miscues from Mexico.  They left Landon Donovan uncovered on the back post on a SET PIECE, which led to the first goal (though it took two tries to score from point blank) and the second goal was nothing but a late game miscue from Messican goalkeeper Oswaldo.  No way that second goal should have made it into the net.  And the US has our twitchy netminder to thank for keeping a clean sheet.  Howard was hung out to dry a couple of times--point blank, at least once, and the Mexicans did their part by firing some shots right at him.  

In short--this game, while it will go down in the books as a 2-nil victory, and may be the reason the US finishes in the Top 2, is not one to build a lot of confidence on.  That said, let's see what our fellow bloggers said about the game:

The Beautiful Game:   It was good to see a little life out of DMB [Demarcus Beasley], but Dempsey was definitely underwhelming...Man, I really wish this team had a finisher. THE guy. Maybe by South Africa 2010 that will be Jozy.

That's On Point:  Bradley will get a lot of the platitudes Thursday and going forward, but Wednesday's win had Donovan's stamp all over it -- even without the balding one adding to his U.S.-record total. He set up the second goal by Bradley in the 92nd minute, taking a ball from Jozy Altidore at midfield (via a good advantage call) and cut inside at the edge of the area to find the coach's son unmarked. And yes, Dirty Sanchez probably should have saved it, but nobody feels bad for him, right?

Sanford:  Mexico played like a Sven-Goren Eriksson team- mostly well organized, cautious on the break, wasteful in midfield and poor in front of goal. Rafa Marquez, supposedly Mexico's best player, came up small again with another untimely red card for a cheap foul and longtime Mexico keeper Oswaldo Sanchez looked past it, leaking a goal under his armpit in second half stoppage time that any second rate keeper would have smothered.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

USA! USA! USA! vs Mexico

[updated, corrected] USA 2, Mexico 2.

Despite the score, the atmosphere (over 70,000 in Reliant Stadium) and the influx of young players on both squads, this was a tough game to watch. For USA fans, it was frustrating (at least it was for me) to watch a team run around with such little composure. Also frustrating for a USA fan was the waving off of a Clint Dempsey goal that would have put them up 3-1 at the end of the first half. He maybe (maybe!) was offsides, but I don't think so. For Mexican fans (who cares?) it must have been a bit frustrating to so thoroughly out play the US for at least 60 of the 90 minutes, and to have never even had a lead.

The US had an interesting line up in the game--trusty keeper Howard, center back regulars Bocanegra and Onyewu, with wingbacks of Corrales and Moor (both of whom made me say, "Who?"). The midfield was young, and in theory, a glimpse to the future--Convey and Donovan on the wings, Bradley and Rico Clark in the middle. Altidore and Dempsey up top. It was an interesting look, with the midfield particularly fluid, with players exchanging positions, and looking for deficiencies to exploit.

Unfortunately, the midfield was also particularly spastic and uneven. Donovan disappeared for huge chunks of this game, aside from the occasional well-timed ball that he could run underneath to beat the defense. Clark and Bradley were hard to figure out for the 63 minutes they shared the pitch. Passes seemed to be rocketing off their feet, or played so lackadasically as to be begging for them to be picked off. Both made some nice defensive moves, but almost always in a recovery situation, after having a pass picked off, or having the ball taken right off their feet.

I'll not mention the weird golden yellow/red boots that both Donovan and Dempsey were wearing. I hope they were getting paid well for them, though.

Despite Mexico absolutely dominating possession, and running the US defense ragged, the US struck first on a somewhat odd play. In the 29th minute, the US managed to get a throw-in about 18 yards off Mexico's endline, and Onyewu (apparently the only Long-Throw Specialist the US has) hoisted a ball into the box. It was flicked out of danger onto the other side of the pitch, but Donovan caught up to it and lifted a ball, ridiculously high back to the opposite side of the 18. The Gooch jogged in, jumped in, and hit a high arcing header that bounced off the back post and in. USA! 1-0.

Mexico took about 2 minutes to respond, getting a foul called for themselves about 25 yards out on the right side of the US goal. We saw here a common thread for the game--Netminder Howard screaming like crazy to try to position his defensive wall, and no one paying him any heed. Hey, defense--when the stadium is 70,000 souls full, how about you take a glance at your keeper as you set up the wall, and try to communicate visually? Just a thought. The Mexicans sent a very nice ball into the box and US defender Drew Moor found himself on the wrong side of the goal and the ball as his man defender Jonny Magallon slipped past him to head home an easy tying goal. Jonny. Jonny! JONNNNY! 1-1.

The activity picked up at this point, with Mexico looking almost as ragged as the Americans--each side both rocking the endorphins and adrenaline, and not playing the smartest ball. Just as I was beginning to question starting something called Drew Moor, good ole Drew laced a very nasty driving through ball over the defense that allowed super-teen Jozy Altidore to make the game 2-1 in the 35th minute. Seeing big, strong, talented Jozy Altidore finish a header for a goal made me very happy. I don't think we've seen a finish in the air as good since poor Brian McBride was hit by that chunk of the Mir Space Station*

The half ended shortly thereafter (about 10 minutes after, to be accurate), but that left time for Dempsey's really only flashy moment of the game, where he received a deep ball at his feet at the 18 or so, worked his was through traffic, and snaked a low shot to the corner that went right by the Mexican keep. That's the goal that was taken back by a very shaky offsides call.

The second half opened up quickly, with Drew Moor and the rest of the US defense being somehow taken unawares by a corner kick. No only was there no one on the backpost, there was no one even near it. John Harkes, mush-mouthed TV commentator and Captain for Life, circled an area that had to be 10 yards around that had no one in it. Fucking Jonny Magallon came in again, and once again buried an easy header a wide open shot off a flicked header off a dead ball. Let's play goal side and ball side, gentlemen!

Later in the second half, I saw some of the players I had been hoping to see much earlier--including Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu, who brought some measure of calmness to the midfield, but not enough to really impact the game. Mexico brought Dos Santoas and Zinha late in the game, and in the 15 minutes they were in they showed that USA defender Corrales can't go 90 minutes (whether he wasn't outplayed all game is a fair question).

Mexico pretty well deserved to win this game. They were better organized, made better decisions with the ball, and created more chances. They also took their cheap shots, including a pretty late slide tackle on Howard after a clearance that the referee managed to not see, somehow. It was the Mexican team you love to hate, but with a lot more talent than usual. Keep in mind, Mexico didn't even have Neri Castillo, who may be their best all-around attacking player. The US, in contrast, minus the few moments which resulted in scores, generated very little offense. They often seemed lost and flailing on defense and spastic in their distribution of the ball. The center midfield in particular--and the midfield as a whole--needs to get their act together. They also need to start looking at switching Dempsey and Donovan. Putting Donovan on the wing seems to negate some of his abilities, and he had trouble getting the ball all night. When he did, things happened, but he simply didn't get the ball nearly enough. Nor did Dempsey. This team needs to show a lot more composure on the ball, and a good deal more patience in building the attack. Time will tell. Tonight, the US should be glad with a draw.

A couple of positive remarks though--Onyewu (despite his yellow card, which was bullshit) and Bocanegra (despite crashing into Howard in the first half) made up a fine center defense, and Jozy Altidore is increasingly looking like a striker for the future, possibly very near future.

*As far as I know, Brian McBride has never actually been struck by outer space debris. Given his luck though, it is almost certainly bound to happen. Someone get me to a London oddsbook, post-haste.

Monday, December 17, 2007

The New Mexican Nightmare: Dos Santos

Much like Lou Dobbs, I hate Mexicans. Not because they come to the States and steal my meat-packing job--I've got no problem with that. You wanna hose out pig skulls for 8 bucks an hour--more power to you. I hate Mexicans because they love, for some reason, the Mexican National Soccer Team.

The Mexican Soccer Team has been full of guys full of themselves for awhile. Aged veterans who think they should be allowed to win just because they are legends in Mexico. Blanco, Hernadez, Borgetti, etc. They showed up and just expected to beat the US, and got pissy when they didn't. But there is a new generation of Mexican players coming up, and I'm a bit worried about what the US Men's team is going to be facing in future competition.

In the Copa America earlier this year, Mexico brought some young guns who seemed kind of scary, possibly none more worrying than Castillo, who I likened to a time traveling, quick stepping Claudio Reyna with an ability to finish. Case in point? Here.

But even more worrying is the young Mexican winger now gaining experience in Barcelona. I watched the Champions League match of Barcelona vs. Stuttgart. Neither team had anything to play for--Barcelona was in to the next round; Stuttgart was going home regardless of the result. So Barcelona played most of their starters, but they also unleashed a young, young (18 years old) Giovanni Dos Santos (which translates to Johnny Two Santas).

I won't reveal the result here, because Miwacar hasn't watched the game yet, but you can click on the link to get the final score. Dos Santos was a a factor, and the entire time I watched him, I wondered, "How will the US defend this kid? " I still don't know the answer.

Watch this clip. Watch the cut, and the snap of the ball. Dos Santos is only 18, and he sometimes looks his age. Other times, he looks unstoppable. I'm terrified of this kid. Is the US defense well known for its organization and speed? No? Shit. Watch out. Mexico might actually win on US soil in 2008.

Warning: The following clip has annoying music in it. Turn your speakers down.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Forbes Doesn't Know the Difference Between Mexico and Paraguay

Even when the Text of the AP article makes it clear, even when Mexico hasn't beaten the US on neutral ground in a decade, even though Mexico and the US aren't even in the same group at the Copa Americas.

I imagine Forbes will fix this (though it has already been over 24 hours since the US lost to Paraguay, and they still have not fixed it).

Just to be safe, I've saved the image:

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Copa Americas: Sunday Preview

Two Games Available to thus of us with Univision. It's a double header starting at 4 pm EST.

First up:

Brazil vs. Chile--Brazil is coming to this match after gettin' beat by Mexico. Brazil is fielding a young team in this tournament, with lots of players we will probably be gushing over in a year a or two. Robinho is by far the most recognizable name on the pitch thus far for Brazil. Chile is coming off a 3-2 come from behind win against Ecuador.

It is not too soon to call this a must win for Brazil. Mexico and Chile already have 3 points each, and Ecuador, even in the loss to Chile, has proven it can score. And with the Mexico vs. Ecuador match occuring later in the day, Brazil can't even afford a tie. They need to win this game, and win it by as many goals as they can. They know this. I imagine this to be a very entertaining match indeed. If Chile wins this game, Brazil is all but guaranteed an early exit, and young team or no, that will probably lead to the firing of at least one coach.

Prediction: Brazil 3, Chile 1 (Watch out for Robinho and recent ManU acquisition Anderson)

Mexico vs. Ecuador--Mexico took advantage of their chances, and didn't let Brazil score, despite ferocious pressure for about 65 minutes of the 90 they played. Ecuador knows they are still alive in this group because of Mexico's win (Brazil ain't running away with it) despite losing to Chile. If Brazil beats Chile, Ecuador can force a 4 way tie for first, with only goal differential as a tie breaker going into the 3rd round of play. This game will be as hotly contested as the first game, but it may be the more brutal of the two matches. Mexico ain't known for their sportsmanship, and Ecuador isn't known for their beautiful version of the game. Expect hits, and more than a few dives (which could, sadly, decide the match). There may be one or two bits of brilliance in this game (Mexico had two moments of brilliance against Brazil) that may counteract the ugliness I foresee in this game.

Prediction: (I want Ecuador to win this game, I really do) Mexico 2, Ecaudor 1 (Mexico will win without contributions from Borghetti or Blanco, who are too old to do much).

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gold Cup: Mexico Dodges a Bullet; US has Officials Catch Bullet

Friends, there are rules in all sports that cause consternation in all sports. Baseball has its balk; football (and pretty Tom Brady) brought the 'tuck rule' into the lexicon after decades of lying dormant; basketball has a few rules that are so arbitrarily called that one wonders what to do with them. But if you aren't familiar with soccer, you might not know just how fucking confusing and random the Offsides rule is as currently officiated.

The main clause is simple enough--on offense, a player receiving the ball must have, at the time of the pass, two defenders equal or ahead of him. One of those defenders is almost always the goalkeeper. So, essentially, if a striker can time his or her run so that s/he is equal with the last defender as the ball is played, he's onsides.

But there are exceptions, and one of the biggest is that the player has to be active in the play. If you are sitting by a corner flag, having a smoke and pissing on one knee out the bottom of your shorts, you can be totally offsides--you aren't participating in the play. One of the other biggest exceptions is this: if you knock a ball forward, and it bounces off a defender, and then rolls to a teammate, that player is offsides only if he was offsides when the ball was played. If he was onside when the ball was kicked, but offisides when the defender stupidly knocked it to him, it is considered a defensive backpass, and he's onside. And his goal counts.

So, when this exact scenario played out in the last fucking seconds of the US win against Canada, the game should have been tied, and it should have gone to Overtime, where the Americans would have been in trouble--losing Coach's Son Michael Bradley to a pretty bullshit Red Card, they would have played a man down after giving up 2 straight goals.

You can tell that the Americans know they got lucky, and the Canadians know they were screwed. Compare the quotes:

"If one of their players played the ball back, it's a back pass and it cannot be offsides. That's how I saw it."
"It was definitely a goal. No question,"

"I don't think it matters what I thought...The call was offsides."
"The linesman made the call, so it's offsides."

Hear the difference? Oneywu, the physically impressive defender for the US who still manages to confound and anger those of us who have played the position with basic fuck-ups, continued his streak, being the man who headed the ball right to the Canadian striker. The goal didn't count, but the fuck up did. I'm getting close to petitioning for the return of either: Eddie Pope, Carlos Llamosa, or Thomas Dooley.

It should be noted that the US goals weren't super impressive. Hejduk form's was screwy and it was his first goal in 6 years. Beasley's penalty wasn't very penalty ish and Donovan's kick was even less so. Nevertheless, the US has beaten the team I now have to consider the 2nd best team in the Cup.

Why? Because Mexico has fucking sucked the root. Mexico couldn't finish a taco. Mexico couldn't score in a bucket of fannies. Steve Ralston looks at Mexico and says, "Those guys need lessons from me on how to finish."

Mexico, throughout this tournament has looked at times too old, too young, too ragged, too cheap, too pussified to win a game. They've won, but only barely. They needed to fake a red card offense against Costa Rica to get a 3 man advantage, against a team that had already shown itself to be quite dirty. And tonight, they barely squeaked by Guadelope, a country that isn't even a country!

I've seen enough of Mexico and the US to say that if both teams bring their best games, US wins 3-nil. Don't be surprised if Dempsey has a brace. The Canadians that the US barely beat would have buried this Mexico team. The Final should highlight the fact that the best teams in the CONCACAF are north of the Rio Grande.

And for those wondering why Kasey Keller was playing this game, when the torch in net has been passed to Timmy! Howard--the answer is simple. 100 Caps!
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