Mexico 2-1 USA

Jared Borgetti - 32'
Antonio Naelson - 35'
Eddie Lewis - 59'

USA: Kasey Keller - Carlos Bocanegra (Pat Noonan 76), Gregg Berhalter, Oguchi Onyewu, Steve Cherundolo (Brian McBride 83), Eddie Lewis, Claudio Reyna, Pablo Mastroeni (Steve Ralston 70), Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley - Eddie Johnson

Mexico: Naaaaaah...I'm lazy and have things to do today.

Being a big boxing fan, and with Mexico being one of the premier boxing nations in the world, I think the following metaphor will fit beautifully. The United States was like a guy who decides to box defensively for about six rounds, without ever letting their hands go and creating some type of offense. Mexico won two decisive rounds (call it the 5th and the 6th), and then just staved off their opponents for the rest of the fight...enough to win a decision that wasn't as close as the score, anyway.

I don't like to second-guess Bruce Arena, as he is the man that rescued the USA from the depths of Steve Sampson Hell, and taken us to such dizzying heights as the World Cup Quarterfinals. So, take this more as just wishing I knew his thought processes more than second-guessing...but, with the excellent Cory Gibbs on the bench, why did we trot out THAT central defense partnership? Berhalter is a guy that I always thought of as a fringe player even back when we were a fringe soccer-playing nation, and that Onewyu guy is just simply not ready for this level. It's nice that he's one of the many Americans playing abroad (Anderlecht in his case), but to stick him in for just his third cap against fucking Mexico at the fucking Azteca...I don't know. I have always been impressed with Gibbs, and thought he is capable of being a physical presence without also doing a wonderful statue impersonation. Mexico's two goals came directly because of shambolic marking from those two...both were easily preventable if we had, say, Gibbs and Pope out there.

That said, it's especially too bad, because the USA managed to keep Mexico at bay pretty well for the first 20-30 minutes or so. They didn't manage to create all that much themselves, but that's to be expected in some ways. Mexico is a tough team that plays ferocious defense...twice as much so when they're at home. Not only that, they are tremendous at transitioning from defense to offense, and vice versa. It also doesn't help when we allow them to do so by not pressing the issue on the counter-attack. The USA's recent success can often be attributed to our speed and our combination play. Of course, you don't want to try and turn a game in that altitude into a track meet (which we're really good at, and why we can carve Mexico up these days when we play them anywhere else), but there was no urgency at all from the USA in the first half. Two goals later, that's pretty much the ballgame.

However, the Americans looked like the better team in the second half. They finally started to get numbers forward, and some of the combination play started to click. Sanchez made one excellent save on Eddie Lewis after a fantastic dummy from Johnson, and that at least gave us some hope. Sure enough, about 10 minutes later, Lewis converted off a very similar play. Johnson got it into Donovan in the middle, and the Leverkusen man's square pass out to the wide-open Lewis was duly hammered into the bottom right-hand corner of the net. Excellent goal, and it's the kind of thing we'll have to keep doing to unlock the defenses of tough teams.

After that, Mexico pretty much bunkered, but were still dangerous on the counter-attack. They probably should have scored another 2 or 3 times, but Kasey Keller was immense once again in between the sticks. I thought we would really miss Brad Freidel upon his international retirement, but Keller is filling his shoes admirably (not to say that Keller has been or ever was far inferior to Freidel, but I did think Brad was just a little bit better). The Americans created a few half-chances in the dying moments, but I feel the offensive substitutions came a little too late...especially in the case of Brian McBride. Down by 1 on the road, I feel you can't wait until the 83rd minute to bring on a second striker.

So, anyway, this isn't a disastrous result or anything. Actually, with 0 wins and 1 draw in 23 tries down there, it's pretty much expected. But, it will be a disaster if we don't see of Guatemala on Wednesday, even if the Guatemalans are coming off a 5-1 evisceration of Trinidad and Tobago. We'll be without DaMarcus Beasley thanks to his yellow card in this match, but honestly, I think we'll be OK. As qualification wears on though, we'll have to win our home matches...especially when Mexico makes the return trip up here. It's just a shame that we can't make them play in Columbus, Ohio in the dead of winter like we did last time!


Tomorrow's the big day...

USA. Mexico. Estadio Azteca.

You damn right there'll be a match report up in here tomorrow after the game...that is, unless we get stuffed by those green bastards. If so, I'll be far too pissed off to write anything coherent. Heh.


Another functional victory

USA 1-0 Honduras

Eddie Johnson (45)

USA: Joe Cannon (Kevin Hartman 46) - Chris Albright, Chad Marshall, Pablo Mastroeni (Kerry Zavagnin 85), Nat Borchers - Pat Noonan (Bobby Convey 63), Clint Mathis (Kyle Martino 63), Steve Ralston - Eddie Johnson, Brian Ching. Subs not used: Jon Busch (GK), Brian Mullan, Taylor Twellman.

Honduras: Junior Morales - Milton Reyes (Mauricio Sabillon 46), Maynor Figueroa, Sergio Mendoza, Erick Vallecillo - Ivan Guerrero, Carlos Moran (Mario Gomez 56), Elmer Marin, Walter Lopez (Elkin Gonzalez 74) - Denilson Costa (Wilmer Velasquez 69), Milton Nunez. Subs not used: Henry Enamorado (GK), Cristian Garden.

Well, this doesn't prove much other than to say that our B-teamers can pretty effectively smother theirs. While I think it's only very recently that our boys could legitimately claim to have any strength in depth, it's quite obvious that we're lucky compared to Honduras. The visitors' starting XI would give anyone in the region a tough game, but their lack of depth - especially in terms of attacking options - is pretty thin. They're decent in defense...and if this Morales isn't their starting goalkeeper, maybe he should be. Other than that, though, they almost never seriously threatened a rather makeshift American defense.

However, to be fair, I refer back to my old rule that "Just because you've never heard of them doesn't mean they're not good." And, I certainly haven't heard much about guys like Marshall and Borchers. But, surely, it's not like we had a backline out there of Bocanegra-Pope-Gibbs-Cherundelo.

That said, our guys controlled most of the ball, and at times scythed through the Honduran defense with relative ease. I'll tell you what...this kid Johnson is for real. He's got 7 goals in 6 caps now (20th on the all-time list, the all-time leader is Eric Wynalda with something like 34), and despite the lack of truly quality opposition, I think he's going to really be something when he hits his prime. He's got great instincts, and most importantly, he always wants the ball. He wants and even seemingly needs to score goals, something you can't always say about guys we've had up top before.

The goal came a bit unexpectedly, though. With halftime looming, the ball pinballed out to Clint Mathis, about 30-35 yards from goal. Now, I've seen ol' Cletus sleepwalk his way through enough Metrostars matches to not expect much from him at this point. However, he proved people like me wrong with an absolute thunderbolt from that range...and, his dipping effort cruelly hit the crossbar. However, Morales had dived for it and missed (as would any other human on this planet), and was out of the play...Johnson got himself in the right place and made no mistake in tucking away the rebound for the game's only goal.

Other than that, it was continual domination with a somewhat disappointing level of finishing. It seems almost churlish to say, but Johnson should have had at least another, and I'm sure Ching should have had one as well (I didn't take paper notes for this game...sorry). Actually, I'd go so far as to say this was a snoozer...I watched most of the last 15 minutes in fast-forward.

So, the USMNT have two big WC qualifiers ahead, including The Big One...against Mexico at the Azteca Stadium. Realistically, a draw would be a fantastic result, and then we can worry about seeing off Guatemala three days later (a game we should win, but you never know with these things). For European readers of my blog, you have to understand just how bitter the USA-Mexico rivalry is. For a long time, we were kind of like the Austria to their Germany. They always beat us, and they always made sure to revel in it just that little bit more.

Now, I have no problem with Mexico or the Mexican people. Hell, most of my favorite boxers are Mexican. But, while those 11 footballers are out on the pitch, I fucking hate them with all the fury you can possibly imagine. I really want to stick it to them, just like we did in WC 2002. We've never beaten them at the Azteca, and I really, really, really hope that this is the time that we do it. All the big names for us should be there, so I think we have a real shot.


A functional performance

Blackburn Rovers 0-1 Arsenal

Robin van Persie (43)

The Rovers: Brad Freidel - Ryan Nelsen, Dominic Matteo (Nils-Eric Johansson 42), Andy Todd (Kerimoglu Tugay 45), Lucas Neill - Aaron Mokoena - Morten Gamst Pedersen, Steven Reid, Garry Flitcroft (Brett Emerton 60), David Thompson - Paul Dickov. Subs not used: Peter Enckleman (GK), Jonathan Stead.

The Gunners: Jens Lehmann - Ashley Cole, Philippe Senderos, Kolo Abib Toure, Lauren Bisan-Etane - Gael Clichy, Mathieu Flamini, Patrick Vieira, Francesc Fabregas Soler - Robin van Persie - Jose Antonio Reyes. Subs not used: Stuart Taylor (GK), Emmanuel Eboue, Pascal Cygan, Fredrik Ljungberg, Quincy Owusu-Abeyie.

Well, this is certainly not one of those matches that will attain "save until manually deleted" status on your Tivo, now was it? That said, it was still heartening to see a makeshift Arsenal team comfortably fend off a side that we're going to be facing in the semifinal of the FA Cup not too long from now. Fredrik Ljungberg was originally going to start, but took a knock in the warmups. Replacing him was young Robin van Persie, last seen taking a real bollocking from Le Boss for getting sent off in the Southampton game. Admittedly, I wasn't thrilled about those turn of events at the time.

From the opening kickoff, Blackburn started especially brightly...they were always going to be up for this one. But, with the newfound strength shown from Arsenal's backline these days (and man, is Senderos ever a big reason for that), there weren't any serious questions asked of Jens Lehmann early on. Arsenal settled into the game within the first five minutes, and started to look more comfortable. Even this early, tackles were flying from all over the place, but it stayed clean in the early going.

The first half-chance came to Arsenal in the 11th minute. Flamini sent a long ball into the area, and Brad Friedel uncharacteristically hesitated before coming in to claim it. That allowed van Persie to rush in and nick it away from him. Unfortunately, his first touch failed him, and he ended up at too sharp an angle for anyone other than Henry to score. Still, shades of things to come from the young Dutchman. Blackburn were enjoying much of the possession though, and began to win themselves a few set pieces. Lehmann first was up to the task of punching out a deep throw-in by the excellent Pedersen, and then Rovers wasted a corner by taking it short. Honestly, with Arsenal being suspect on crosses and corners all season, why on Earth would you ever take it short?

Not only did Rovers pack the midfield (like most sides do against us these days), but they also played a tireless pressing game, and it really threw Arsenal out of their rhythm for much of the first half. While many teams can't keep that up over the full 90, Mark Hughes' men ended up being up to that task. He's got them fit and ready to go, you have to give him that. So, the first half crawled along in the same fashion -- Blackburn had the lion's share of possession, but couldn't seriously breach the Arsenal back line...Senderos leading the way with an immense performance yet again. Every so often, the guys in red would venture up the field, but the Blackburn backline has been quite improved in recent days themselves. The two wingbacks, Nelsen and Neill, played particularly well for them (Nelsen's performance gives me a bit of pride being an MLS fan...he may have been on the DC Scum, but the DC Scum are still in OUR league). Most of Arsenal's attacks were easily rebuffed, but van Persie and Clichy always looked like they could create something. That said, it was quite obvious just how much this team misses Thierry Henry when he's not around.

Clichy, though, was impressively skinned by David Thompson in the 26th minute. He hooked his shot past the near post (and Lehmann looked to have it covered anyway), but it was one of their best chances of the first half. Kolo Toure responded with a cheeky shot from well outside the area, but the backpedalling Freidel ended up making an easy save out of it. But, Rovers countered right back, with Pedersen's wicked corner actually ending up as a shot on target...Lehmann had to do spectacularly well to palm it out of danger. Sensing a possible chink in the red-and-white armor, Steven Reid embarked on a scything run down the right side. He easily turned Ashley Cole, then sent in one of the nicest crosses I've seen in ages to Pedersen. The young Norwegian got all of it with his header, but luckily, Lehmann was equal to the task. Just minutes later, Blackburn was again knocking on the door. For about the four millionth time in the last few matches, Toure fouled his man when going up for a header. Thankfully, Reid sent the resulting free kick into orbit.

After that spell of pressure, Arsenal managed to get the match back to its normal rhythm. It looked for all the world like the teams would be heading into the dressing rooms knotted at 0-0, and to be honest, I would have taken it. But, luckily for us, van Persie was having none of it. Cole got the ball in what seemed like just another Arsenal attack. But, he whipped a low centering pass in to van Persie, whose unbelievable one-touch turn took him past both central defenders. Freidel was all alone, but still looked like he had a chance to block with his legs. But, van Persie wonderfully dragged the ball into open space, rounded Freidel, and tapped it into the empty net. Just a magical, magical finish...very Bergkamp-esque, if I may say so.

With one goal in the bank, I figured Arsenal would be a good bet to extend the lead and easily see off Rovers in the second half. Of course, if the Gunners converted a few of the chances they were to get in the second half, then that's exactly what would have happened. But, you have to give Rovers a ton of credit as well...they are nowhere near as bad as they were in the beginning of the season.

That said, Arsenal should have been 2-0 up just 20 seconds after the restart. Fabregas' bombing run down the right-hand side caught Blackburn napping, and his one-two with Lauren opened up even more space. Cesc cut into the center, drawing the defense with him. He then sent a beautiful lateral pass over to the wide-open Reyes, whose scuffed shot could have been saved by your grandmother, let alone one of the better goalkeepers in the Premiership. It was a disgraceful miss, really. Fabregas skied his shot on the resulting corner, but the effects were still felt by Blackburn. Unlike the opening of the first half, which they dominated, Rovers ended up having an extremely shaky ten minutes or so. Freidel accidentally took the ball over the line for a corner, Lucas Neill lost the ball in front of his own goal (Freidel mopped that up well, though)...with our first XI on the pitch, we probably would have stuck home another goal or two in this time.

Arsenal did keep up the pressure, though. Cole's dive in the box was not called by Graham Poll (who did a very good job calling a game that went from "scrappy" to "violent" by the end). But, the ball did come out to Flamini, who sent a rocket of a shot that deflected out for a corner. It came to nothing, but it was nice to see us press the advantage and at least try to kill off the game. Another chance came with a free kick just outside the Blackburn area (created by the pace and flair of van Persie). Oddly, though, Kolo Toure was the one to take it, and it went straight into the wall. Oh, well.

Just as odd was the fact that Blackburn's third substitution was made in just the 60th minute or so, and none of the three were for their other striker, Jonathan Stead. I can understand flooding the midfield against Arsenal and all, but when you're trailing at home, after a certain point, you can't have just one striker having to fend for himself out there. Amusingly, the announcers 10 minutes later were discussing whether Hughes would bring Stead on...well, jackasses, not unless Wenger decided to let them have some of our substitions (it's not like he uses them anyway half the time).

Blackburn still had much of the ball, but now all the chances were coming to the Arsenal. Some lovely short passing unlocked the Rovers defence, and van Persie found himself open in the area. He got everything behind his left-footed effort, but it cruelly met the crossbar instead of the top corner netting. Hell of a shot, though. It was right around this time (the 68th minute or so) where the match started to get a little ugly. The previously-clean tackles were getting a little dirtier, and Rovers were the main culprits. However, the Arsenal players didn't help their cause with some of the most shameful acting since "Gigli". In a way, I can understand the Rovers fans' frustrations. And, to be honest, if Poll had booked one or two of our guys (Reyes especially) for it, we really wouldn't have had much room to complain.

Very little of interest in the remainder (and I have other things to do today, including watch the USA kick some Honduras ass), so bullet points:

-- Paul Dickov is a prick. Poll cautioned him for his persistent dissent, and if he had sent him off towards the end, he would have been completely justified.

-- Steven Reid is a violent little psychopath, isn't he?

-- Brett Emerton has a decent chance to score in the 83rd, but Cole recovered pretty well to cut off his path into the center. Emerton was still wide-open, but he had to shoot from an angle, and ended up missing. If he was able to cut into the center, he probably would have scored (at the very least, he would have had a much better chance).

-- The announcers (who really got on my tits for the whole 90 minutes) were saying that they had inside sources that said "It is 99% certain that Cole will be in West London next season"). The Sun doesn't count as an inside source, you twats.

-- Oddly, there was supposed to be 5 minutes of stoppage time (for what, I honestly have no idea). In the 95th, Dickov's pass found Reid, who had all the space in the world thanks to Toure taking himself out of the play with a terrible lunge. Reid took it early, and his bouncing shot went wide of Lehmann's post. That was their chance, right there.

-- It ended up being six and a half (!) minutes of injury time. In the 96th, Reyes was pushed in the chest by Nelsen, and he ended up getting Nelsen booked by crumpling to the ground, clutching his face. An Arsenal player should be above that kind of Croatia-and-Porto bullshit. I'm one of the many who wants to see him fuck off back to Spain already, but unlike many, it's not because he's in a slump or because of the prank phone call thing. I want this little bastard gone because of shit like that.

So, 3 points won, but unfortunately, the Red Scum and the Blue Scum won their matches as well. Sigh. Still in the running for second place, though.

I may have something in the way of a report for USA-Honduras later on tonight. Stop on by if you're interested.



Sorry about the lack of posts...just one of those general bouts of laziness and complete lack of motivation.

In short, it is of course unfortunate that we're out of Europe, especially because Bayern is a team we should have turned over with relative ease. But, what's done is done, and I have a feeling that next season is going to be far different in that particular tournament.

Speaking of tournaments, we're still alive in the FA Cup of course, with Blackburn being the opponents. Of course, it would be infinitely preferable if Newcastle knocked off the Red Scum and saved us the trouble...however, if it comes to it, I think we can beat them in the final.

And hey, speaking of Blackburn, they are our opponents in the league tomorrow as well. It's a game we should win, and I think we will...the offical Brooklyn Gooner prediction is 3-1 to the good guys.

Not much else to say, really. Should be a match report tomorrow, but not directly after the game. If you think I'm waking up at 7:30 in the morning to watch us play a shite Midlands side, you're out of your mind.


Rolling along...

No big report, as:

1. I didn't see the game
2. I'm upstate for the weekend on a dial-up connection.

But, it was excellent to see Henry go nuts in a 3-0 seeing-off of Pompey, and it's even better to see the Red Scum held by Crystal Palace (need any more proof that they're staying up? And, do you need any further proof that they deserve it?)

I'm also well pleased for Manuel Almunia, who had his finest moment in an Arsenal shirt during the penalty shootout against Sheffield United. He officially saved two, and should have saved three (were it not for an overzealous referee, who doesn't seem to be clear on the rules about what constitutes a re-take).

So yes, all of this is the lead-in to the big clash against Bayern Munich. Win 2-0 or 4-1 and we're through, almost any other scoreline doesn't help. Can we do it? I think so...a LOT of it is going to fall on Jens Lehmann, and a lot of it is going to fall on a defense that is so stretched, they're even mourning the recent loss of Shambling Automoton Extraordinare Pascal Cygan. While it's true that Lehmann - Cole, Toure, Senderos, Lauren isn't the finest back five ever assembled, it isn't the poorest either. Especially at home, I believe that if they play to the best of their ability, they can keep a clean sheet. Failing that, with Henry blazing his way back to form, I can see us getting 4 past Bayern (they're just humans, kids, as Inter Milan were in THAT Champions' League game).

Keep the faith, gooners. I am.

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