De Nada, Neighbor

If you aren’t lucky or obsessive enough to have BeIN Sports or Galavision, you missed a unique bit of sports drama that only rolls around every four years or so.  Tuesday night, the final games of Concacaf World Cup Qualifying occurred – all games starting at the same time to avoid any shenanigans.  The USA qualified a month ago and were only playing for the shirt and microscopic hopes of being seed in Brazil next summer.  Costa Rica – already qualified; but for Honduras, Panama, and Mexico, these matches were win or go home.

Honduras dispatched Jamaica without much trouble, leaving Mexico (playing at Costa Rica) and Panama (playing  at home against the US) left to duke it out for the chance to play New Zealand in a home and home series for the final slot in the World Cup.  Panama and Mexico were only a point apart in the standings, meaning all Mexico needed to do was tie or win.  Panama, playing a US team made up almost entirely of younger, B-squad players, needed to win and hope El Tri lost.

The USA didn’t play all that well for most of the match, and Panama took the lead in the first half.  Minutes later, the stadium erupted as news came across that Costa Rica had taken the lead over Mexico.  Not long after, Mexico equalized, and the stadium was eerily quiet.  The US played better in the second half and looked likely to score. Sure enough, Michael Orozco scored on a set piece and the Mexicans were celebrating.  They were double safe with the U.S. tying Panama and themselves tied with Costa Rica.  Ah, but Costa Rica scored again about 10 minutes later.  Again, in Panama, you could feel the electricity, and sure enough Luis Tejada jumped on a loose ball in the box and slammed it home in the 83rd minute.  Unbelievable scene.  Panama was ahead again, 2-1, and through. Continue reading

Drama in C-bus

Forget the Red Sox-Yankees, Michigan-Notre Dame, or any of the pre-packaged NFL rivalries.  The biggest most intense rivalry of the season is on display tomorrow night (Tuesday, 7 pm CST, ESPN2).  That’s right it’s USA v. Mexico with a World Cup entry on the line.

This was the game we were supposed to attend in person; however, tickets sold out in record time and our name did not come up on the lottery.  So we will have to be content with watching on TV.  Join us, and you won’t be disappointed.

For Jurgen Klinsmann and Co., it’s time to solidify a trip to Brazil with time to spare and stick it to El Tri.  For Mexico, this is a chance to kick-start a late surge towards the World Cup now that ineffective coach Chepo De La Torre finally got the axe.  Several interesting sub-plots on the line…

Columbus Mystique:  Since that faithful snow-bound day over 12 years ago, Columbus has been the designated home site for US wins over Mexico in World Cup Qualifying.  Crew Stadium – the original MLS soccer-specific venue, will feature a rabid pro-American crowd, even if the weather is likely to be downright sub-tropical.  Thanks to recent success by both MLS and the National Team, Columbus is no longer one of the only places to feature a heavily pro-US fan atmosphere.  Ohio was the original, though, and we’re hoping the winning vibe can continue this round. Continue reading

Pentagram: Stayin’ Gold

Jurgen, Landon, and the boys have brought the Gold Cup back to U.S. Soccer. It’s our region’s championship (flawed as it is), which we equate directly to winning your conference or division championship in other sports. The goal is to win it, but it’s not the ultimate or final goal.  Still, in terms of a barometer (or benchmark, as Jurgen would say), this is a competition you want to win as a building block for Brazil 2014.

Champs

The 1-0 victory in Chicago’s final had a few surprises.  First, that so many fans who likely initially bought tickets to cheer for Mexico showed up to support the U.S.  Yes, we are a county of divided loyalties among a large segment of our fandom, but this is still a sign of progress.  Second, that the USA was unable to score more goals on Panama (EJ should have had a second), although the Panamanians are looking tough and should be on track to qualify for the World Cup.

Probably the most positive and welcome surprise is the first point in our post-Gold Cup Pentagram…

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Gold Cup Themes – Pentagram

The CONCACAF Gold Cup has begun, with a couple of surprises – including Mexico’s opening match defeat to Panama.  For us it really gets started tonight as the USA takes on Belize in Portland (10:00 CST, Fox Soccer).  Only in CONCACAF does the regional championship routinely feature ‘B’-level squads from its top two teams, yet those teams (USA and Mexico) still expect to win.

This year’s Gold Cup is a little different, though.  This year’s winner will square off against the 2015 winner for the right to go to the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia (the World Cup Warm-up event that just finished in Brazil).  So the Gold Cup does matter this time.

The tourney is also a nice way for the CONCACAF bureaucrats to make some money, get their teams on TV, and get some of the smaller teams more competitive.  Bonus points if you can guess the number of Cubans who end up defecting, and the number of unknown MLS signees-of-the-future to be seen in this Gold Cup.

Most importantly, the Gold Cup is a chance to see some National Team fringe guys and depth guys make their case for inclusion in next summer’s 23-man World Cup Roster.  Five points we will be tracking throughout the tourney:

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Pentagram: Gold Cup Group Stage

Well, the US Soccer Team made it out of their group with an unconvincing 1-0 win over Guadeloupe (population: 400,000) last night.  This comes on the heels of Saturday’s first ever Gold Cup group state loss, 2-1 at the hands of Panama, and last week’s ho-hum 2-0 victory over a very static Canada.  So Team America will now face a dangerous looking Jamaica side in Washington D.C. on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Mexico has looked dominant, winning their group in style while scoring 14 goals and giving up one.  If you were looking for indicators that the balance of power in CONCACAF has shifted, you’re seeing them.  A US-Mexico final in Pasadena weekend after next is still a possibility, but not many would favor our chances based off recent games.

Speculation abounds that Coach Bob Bradley is once again on the hot seat, and maybe he should be.  His player selections (same guys again and again), tactics (same, same, same), and most importantly, seeming inability to get the team locked in with intensity and focus at the start of games are all troubling.  We still say that anything less than winning the Gold Cup would merit a reevaluation of Bradley’s position.  But not all is so bleak; after all, Jozy Altidore seems to be regaining some form and confidence with a pair of goals, including this blast:

Five points in your Gold Cup Group Stage Pentagram… Continue reading

May Gold Cup Roster

Gaudy, ain't it?

It’s just over a month until the US Soccer Team begins the Gold Cup, aka the championship of North and Central America and the Caribbean.  The Gold Cup occurs every two years, but recently the US Soccer Federation has only given it primary attention in the years directly after the World Cup.  So this year.  The reason being that this Gold Cup winner will travel to Brazil in 2013 (the summer before the next World Cup) to participate in the Confederations Cup – which will have the champions of the other regions.

The other reasons we will see the strongest possible roster for this year’s Gold Cup is that last time we sent a B-Squad to let the veterans rest and blood some of the newer/fringe guys, and we proceeded to get spanked by Mexico in the final.  Also, with the various machinations at the Federation, Coach Bob Bradley’s job could depend on it.

Anything less than beating Mexico and winning the Gold Cup will be a disappointment.  So with the MLS season a month old and the Euro seasons winding down, here are Beemsville’s current selections for the 23 roster slots…

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CONCACAF scuttling THE Rivalry…

Two posts in one day, both with similar themes regarding rivalries, divisions, and blatant cash grabs.  Upon request of certain longtime readers, we begin with the proposed realignment of CONCACAF World Cup qualification.  Read about it here.  Basically, CONCACAF wants to abandon the hexagonal, in which the top six teams from the semifinal rounds play home-and-away to determine the top spots for the World Cup.  Instead they propose to go to two rounds of group stages culminating in two four-team groups for the final round.  The winner of each group qualifies automatically and the two second-place teams playing off for the third automatic qualifying spot.

The reason we don’t like this is simple:  The U.S. and Mexico are virtually guaranteed to be the top two seeds, which means they will be in separate groups.  Which means we can no longer look forward to playing El Tri home-and-away during qualification.  No more trips to the Azteca; no more showdown in Columbus.  It’s a major bummer because this has become a true rivalry and the U.S.-Mexico qualifiers provide the kind of intensity and emotion you can only find at the World Cup. Continue reading