I’ll start with the usual caveats: I watched this with a 3-year-old distracting me throughout with puzzles, demands to play with balloons, gigantic playground balls, etc.
That said, that was one lucky tie. The U.S. squandered possession, our midfield got slaughtered, our flanks overrun, and the chances we deliberately created could be counted on one hand – and Josmer Altidore got on the end of most of them. Fortunately, Mexico continued their tradition of mentally seizing up every time they got within 30 yards of the U.S. goal…so not all was lost.
It has been sometime since the temptation struck to say we simply don’t know how to play the game. But that’s not fair. Over a few, brief spells the evolution of U.S. soccer showed, but these fleeting moments came and went too often near the center stripe and, more often still, they played out in a kind of ragged, random vibe. Worse, our composed moments featured too many long balls forward and those came to players who appeared ill-suited to cope – again, Altidore and Clint Dempsey.
Against that, the Mexicans displayed – to borrow a “John Harkesism” – good “characteristics”on the ball’: between better movement and sharper passing, they simply outplayed the U.S. in every meaningful aspect of outfield play (thank god for goalkeeping, right?) The most striking sequence came in the second half when four Mexican players set up an impromptu game of keep-away in the U.S. half against up to eight U.S. players. But the Mexicans’ better moments came with the simplest stuff – finding the open man in space, too often just in front of the U.S. defense. This approximates the time when my heart shrunk into my stomach and my balls lifted toward my stomach…a kind of “Oh Shit” pinch designed, perhaps, with the intention of holding the crucial pieces together until the bad stuff passed. Continue reading