Thursday, August 13, 2009

An (un)biased take on USA-Mexico

I'm going to start by prefacing my remarks with this thought: Mexico deserved to win, but the US should have won. I'm in the business of making important distinctions, and to me this is a big one.

I'll also put it another way: right now, the US is superior to Mexico. Let me repeat that nice and clearly - the US is a superior football team to Mexico, and it's not even a question in my mind. However, the US will still have trouble winning on the road. Have these two teams play on a neutral field and I think the US wins comfortably. Mexico was playing at home and only managed to win on a goal set up by a fortuitous bounce and some very poor decisions by Bob Bradley.

Let's start with the positives:

-Charlie Davies is turning into a very good striker. He's young and developing still, but he was a handful for the Mexican defense. He looked like he was going to get a second, but was hurt playing as the lone striker for most of the game (see below on why he was the lone striker).

-Oguchi Onyewu is a beast. Played great in my estimation. Not just his typical clearances but smooth interventions and retaining possession with neat footwork. Very pleased.

-Stuart Holden and Benny Feilhaber drastically improved US possession in the second half. It was nice neither (Holden in particular, being more inexperienced) were intimidated. Feilhaber should have started.

-Donovan's assist was great. However, I don't have a great read on Donovan's game. He was asked to play on the right to neutralize Guardado's speed, but that forced Dempsey to the left with Bocanegra, and those two had zero chemistry.

Now to the negatives:

-Bob Bradley failed the US team. His decisions were horrible. The specifics of why will be evident in the bullets below. I'm sure everyone pretty much knows what those poor decisions were. This isn't an overly reactionary call for his head or anything, but it just goes to show that coaching goes a long way in soccer, and Bradley often gets things wrong and it backfires badly for the US when it does.

-Brian Ching is not an international caliber forward. He was invisible out there. In fact, probably worse than invisible because he usually had a detrimental affect on play (losing the ball, and does he know how to not wipe out defenders when chasing the ball defensively?).

-Related to the above, there is absolutely no reason Jozy Altidore shouldn't start every single game from now until the foreseeable future, unless some faster, stronger, better goal scorer comes along. I don't care if he hasn't played a lot and he's young. You play your best striker.

-The Michael Bradley-Rico Clark midfield duo was completely ineffective. They weren't winning the ball, nor keeping possesion in the first half. Guardado was Mexico's best player, and he often forced the US midfield to chase wildly and then Blanco or others could fill in to the open gaps. This resulted in Mexico's first goal. It's hard to argue against this duo because they have played well before, but the potential for two defensive midfielders to get sucked in too deep, negating an attack.

-Steve Cherundolo is rusty. Why didn't Spector start? This is almost as incomprehensible as Ching starting over Altidore. If the idea was that Cherundolo has more speed, well that certainly didn't do anything.

-Speaking of lacking speed, Bocanegra will always be open to attack by speedy flank players if he's the left back. I'm not saying Boca isn't the best bet at left back (at least over Bornstein), but that's just a compromise that has to be made. I still think Spector should play on the left and a healthy Cherundolo on the right.

-The ref sucked. No surprise there. And he wasn't at fault for any of the goals. But like Tim Howard said, it's tough to play against that extra man when he's always making calls for the home team.

-On to Howard, he disappointed me. That sounds harsh, because he didn't play poorly at all. But as soon as I tout him as one of the best in the world, he has an average game. Neither of the goals were his fault, but he also didn't really make any great saves. It might have been asking too much, but sometimes you need the amazing from your keeper, and saving the second goal preserves a point for the US.

-Mexico's once bright future isn't as great as some think. What happened to Nery Castillo? He was a terror in the 2007 Copa America, but no playing time at the club level has greatly reduced his effectiveness. The bright young Mexican star Giovanni Dos Santos still has time, so no one can write him off, but I think he will always fail to live up to expectations. He has skill and flair, but can't put it all together. And per usual, he got into dangerous spots but missed clear chances.

-Mexican fans. You are a disgrace. A DISGRACE. For example, when Donovan was taking corner kicks. It's no surprise the Mexican team rarely shows any class when the fans don't. Oh, and chanting cinco a cero is like me cheering for the Redskins winning a preseason football game because the Skins starters crushed the Cowboys third stringers. It's stupid.

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