CWC: CONCACAF’s Pride and Place in the World

Etoile Sportive du Sahel 1 – 0 CF Pachuca

It wasn’t as if Pachuca didn’t do itself, or the CONCACAF region, proud last night. Outside the first twenty minutes and off the score-sheet, they carried the game in terms of possession and aggression. In spite of the general advantage, however, Pachuca couldn’t force clear-cut openings in the Etoile Sportive du Sahel (hereafter, ESS or “the Tunisians'”) defense. As such, when ESS finally scored – off the kind of narrow chance, in fact, that characterized the game – Pachuca couldn’t swing the reply.

Even so, Pachuca looked the better team; play this game 10 times and Pachuca wins about seven of them. Thanks to the skill and understanding in the side, their passes slipped into and out of the narrowest confines everywhere on the field but the Tunisians’ defensive third; there, they tried plenty of quick give-and-goes – and pulled off a couple, at least in the wide portions of the field – but found themselves thwarted again and again by the second-to-last defender. They still created some openings where a Pachuca player had at least part of the goal to shoot at and room to fire, but the angles were such that the ball always seemed within the ESS ‘keeper’s reach – or it went just over the bar.

To give them credit, ESS just proved hard to beat; the quality of their defending limited Pachuca’s opportunities. And given the kind of opportunity that the Mexicans couldn’t finish all night, their guy (Moussa Nary) put it away – albeit, courtesy of a deflection. Their capacity to concentrate defensively, however, should do them some good when they meet Boca Juniors in the semifinals. Going the other way – e.g. on offense – well…maybe the team should lengthen the prayer they offered just before kick-off against Pachuca.

Getting back to Pachuca, seeing them go down told me a little something about Major League Soccer’s (MLS) chances in this kind of tournament – and we may as well think about it now because an MLS team will make it one of these days. I am, frankly, falling in love with how Mexican teams play, at least when it’s done well: the passing is crisp, the players’ technical skills sharp, and the movement off the ball intelligent – almost to the point of telepathy at a couple times during Saturday’s game; simply put, it’s a pretty style when it’s working. In spite of a generally different approach – I’d say only DC United looks much like Mexican in style – a couple MLS teams have played Pachuca close enough to tell me that we’ll be just fine when we go to this particular dance. Hell, the Los Angeles Galaxy played Pachuca close, so maybe even a lousy MLS team wouldn’t do so bad.

Getting back to this particular result, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this one didn’t ever-so-slightly lessen my interest in the Club World Cup. With the disparity between confederations being as it is….well, let’s just say there’s a reason I have trouble watching the women’s game at the international level (though, I also have to say that I think the women’s game is leveling faster than the male club scene). In other words, it would be a bit of a shame, as I see it, if neither AC Milan nor Boca Juniors have to sweat a little before taking their expected places in the final. And, bottom line and Saturday’s loss aside, I think Pachuca had a better chance at making Boca sweat than ESS will.

On another level, it does a CONCACAF dweller’s soul good to write that. We may not be the first or second confederation in the world, but we’re in a hell of a dogfight for the third spot.

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2 Responses

  1. […] my estimation from yesterday’s post where I plopped CONCACAF into the thick of the fight for the #3 confederation in international soccer.  They’re still in there, but after watching Urawa run Sepahan […]

  2. […] FIFA World Club Cup.  OK, it wasn’t that bad – or at least I didn’t view as such at the time – but closer observers like Sideline Views’ Luis Bueno noticed cracks in Pachuca’s […]

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