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!


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