Pentagram – USA v. Mex in the Desert

The General celebrates new shirts and a goal

Say this for the new away kit:  It looked a lot better in action than it does on the promo material…  And along with the new bomb-pop shirt, Jurgen trotted out a diamond midfield – something the EA Sports FIFA Soccer series tells us is always a good idea (offensively, at least).  Recently heralded German-American, Julian Green – all of 18 years old – debuted and showed some flashes.  And as good as the American midfield looked in the first half, the Mexicans adjusted and controlled the first portion of the second half.

So even though a brutally bad offisides call robbed Eddie Johnson of a clinical goal in the final ten minutes of the game, which would have given the U.S. the win, we’ll take a 2-2 tie.  We’ll also take note of who’s ready and who’s not, because the naming of the World Cup preliminary roster is only a month away.

Five points in this USA-Mexico pentagram from Arizona…

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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

Dos a Cero – again

It’s like a ritual – one the Mexican Soccer team could just as soon do without.  Every four years El Tri heads north to take on their rivals in the US for a World Cup qualifier in Columbus, OH.  And the USA wins 2-0.  Once again last night, Team America took a few early punches before striking back with authority to score two goals.  This is the fourth straight time for this scoreline in Crew Stadium in the Hex – going back to 2001.  And it should have been 3-0, but Clint Dempsey missed a penalty in the dying moments:

“It’s this mystical thing. It’s like this ghost.  Clint missed that penalty and I feel like there was something that’s haunting (for) that to happen on purpose because just to keep that Dos a Cero.  What is that, four straight now? That’s crazy, it’s unbelievable, it’s such a weird thing, but we’ll take it any day, all day.” – US Midfielder Alejandro Bedoya

Highlights:

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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: Historic Azteca Win

Juergen Klinsmann beat Italy on the road and now he’s managed a first ever victory over Mexico at Estadio Azteca.  Where Team America has never won.  In fact, the US was 0 wins, 1 tie, and 23 losses all-time in Mexico.  Until last nights 1-0 win.  Signature victory for Coach Klinsi.

Alexi Lalas, key contributor in the one tie from the late 90s said of the Azteca, “This is Thunderdome.”  Usually we only play our noisy neighbors on the road in World Cup Qualifiers – all other ‘friendlies’ taking place on American soil, where the Mexicans pack the stands and outnumber us in our own stadiums.  But for some reason El Tri agreed to play this one in their fortress, giving the US the chance to get a little more familiar with the altitude, smog, and hostility they will likely face in next year’s final round of qualifying.

Adding to the drama, Team America left stalwarts like Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Carlos Bocanegra, Jozy Altiodore, and Steve Cherundolo with their club teams in Europe – either to allow them to prepare for the season or for impending transfers.  Klinsmann called in a group of mostly MLS and Mexican-based players, a definite B-team, anchored by Tim Howard, Jermaine Jones, and Herculez Gomez.  Mexico, meanwhile, trotted out 9 of their 11 first-choice squad.  They’re coming off the emotional high of having beat Brazil for the Gold Medal in London, and their youth squads have been impressive in the last round of U-20 and U17 championships.  Advantage Green.

Not so fast.  1-0 good guys.  So how did we do it?  How did Team America snatch its first victory in 25 tries on Mexican soil?  Five pentagram points…

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Pentagram: Gold Cup Capitulation

Bornstein in familiar pose

So there we were, about twelve minutes into the Gold Cup final against Mexico at the Rose Bowl, when the TV flashed to the sidelines and showed Jonathan Bornstein ready to enter the game.  I had already noted Steve Cherundolo limping around after a nice exchange with Freddy Adu upfield a few minutes earlier.  Reactions from the two guys watching with me were unanimous:  “Not Bornstein!  Anyone but him…”

The US secured an early lead off a corner kick header and another beautiful Adu-Dempsey-Donovan combo, but Mexico roared back.  With Cherundolo out, Eric Lichaj switched to his natural right side of the field, leaving Bornstein on the left. And the Mexicans exposed him as the worst player on the field.  They scored the next four goals from buildup or direct breakdowns on that side – two of which were directly attributable to Bornstein getting caught out and beat.  4-2 Mex, no trophy, no Confederations Cup for the US.  Not.  Good.  Enough.

Does this mean the end of Coach Bob Bradley’s tenure?  Hard to say, but probably not.  It should be the end, though.  The same flaws the exhibited the last two years remain a problem.  One could argue that Coach Stoneface was a victim of circumstances with his best defender going down to injury, but Mexico also had to sub two of their starting defenders for injury (Salcido and Marquez).  And it was Bradley who selected this roster, who didn’t press the issue with Germany-based Timothy Chandler, who inserted Bornstein (once again).  The US will not play another truly meaningful game until sometime next Spring, when they begin World Cup Qualification (and that will be against a minnow).  It’s the perfect time for transition.

Five points in the final Gold Cup pentagram: Continue reading