Mexican Head Coach and Legend Hugo Sanchez Fired!

He promised a lot and delivered on little. Just over a year and the Mexican playing legend is gone. Wait around and he might find a job in the MLS.

An inspired showing at Copa America might have been the high point, but nothing played out the way he planned. Why couldn’t Sanchez get it all on the right page? It’s not that he didn’t have the personnel. Where did it all go sour?

Mexico heads home, Canada through in crazy last match day

You beat someone 5-1 and you pretty much expect to qualify for anything, right?

Mexico did that – destroying Haiti 5-1, with the opportunity to hit for even more. But they didn’t – and it cost them. Hugo Sanchez and his boys new full-well they needed to win by 5 in order to get through. Canada – the same one that was beaten by Haiti a couple days ago – came out in Tampa and put on a scoring clinic for the impotent Guatemalan offense. Will Johnson and Tosaint Ricketts were the show – 4 goals between the two of them and Josh Wagenaar made some decent saves to secure a shutout in which Guatemala had almost double the scoring chances, but not a goal to show for it.

Mexico, however, had more than enough quality to get it done and you could even argue it gave them more of a sense of urgency. You could tell from the get-go, a rout was on hand. Minor detail: they couldn’t find the back of the net on a steady basis. They could build, collect, keep patient, and pick an opportune time to shoot – but nothing was going in. At least for a solid 60 minutes. Cesar Villaluz did break through Johnny Placide’s man-made wall in the 18th minute and the chances didn’t cease. If anything, the chances on goal increased exponentially – especially with the ejection of Haiti’s Judelini Avesta in the 28th minute. The goals eventually came, four more to be exact, but they needed another to overcome Canada’s 5-0 shocker. Another ejection with 5 minutes to go aided Mexico’s cause, but once again, too little too late. It was Canada’s day, after bouncing back from a 2-1 loss to a Haitian team that Mexican swept under the table, and Mexico was sent home. An Olympics without Giovanni Dos Santos, Omar Esparza, Guillermo Ochoa, Carlos Vela, and Andres Guardado will definitely be a weird one. But, more importantly, what will happen to Hugo Sanchez? He’ll stick around – but is seat definitely got a lot hotter.

Canada’s win will pit them against Altidore and Adu in the semifinals in a do-or-die match-up on March 20th in Nashville. Should be a good one.

Olympic Qualifying, Wednesday: Giants follow suit, while Avila puts Guatemala in the driver’s seat

Canada 1, Mexico 1

Luis Angel Landin converted a penalty to give Mexico a somewhat undeserved point against Canada. Their defense was sloppy and it showed glaringly in the first 5 minutes. Andrazes Ornoch intercepted a shoddy Julio Dominguez clearance. He then found Will Johnson almost at the penalty spot. Johnson converted putting Canada up. It took Mexico about 80 minutes to wake up, but the last 10 minutes they had the Canadians on the backtrack, almost putting away an injury-time stunner. Their equalizer came well before that though when Cesar Villaluz – a prospect I’m still waiting to see shine – was taken down in the 22nd minute. Landin converted only to get sent off in the middle of the second half. Actually, both goalscorers, Landin and Canada’s Johnson were sent off 10 minutes apart from each other. Three Toronto FC players – goalkeeper Josh Wagenaar, forward Andrea Lombardo, and Tyler Hemming saw time. Wagenaar looked great in goal.

Guatemala 1, Haiti 0

Guatemala got the three points and the early group lead through an early Martin Avila goal. Former Rapid Fabrice Noel got in for the last half and played moderately well. Both looked poised to make this group an interesting one which – like the United States – if Mexico doesn’t wake up, there could be two unknowns heading to Beijing.

Standings look like this:

Group/Grupo A GP/PJ W/G L/D T/E +/- PTS
Honduras 1 1 0 0 1:0 3
Cuba 1 0 0 1 1:1 1
USA 1 0 0 1 1:1 1
Panama 1 0 1 0 0:1 0
Group/Grupo B GP/PJ W/G L/D T/E +/- PTS
Guatemala 1 1 0 0 1:0 3
Canada 1 0 0 1 1:1 1
Mexico 1 0 0 1 1:1 1
Haiti 1 0 1 0 0:1 0

Soccer on TV: How It’s Done and How Many Watch*

* OK, one game.  I’ll get to that below…no complaining; you see how I ordered these things in the title.

USSoccerplayers.com ran a nifty interview with a guy named Michael Cohen.  He’s the…let’s see…executive producer for Major League Soccer (MLS) and Soccer United Marketing (SUM) – basically, he coordinates what gets on the air soccer-wise.  Or something very much like that.

It’s an interesting piece, not least because it’s covers things that aren’t often noticed, but two items most interested me in that interview.  In no particular order…and these are both Cohen’s answers to questions:

“In a perfect situation, we’d have flexibility in our schedule.  Maybe that will come down the road when we have all the stadiums under our control.  Then, if we have something scheduled in September or October, then we can make that switch.”

Whew.  Thank god they’re thinking about that. Wasn’t always sure.  Hopefully, we get “down the road” fast; there’s nothing worse than watching two teams that have made the playoffs on the final weekend of the regular season when you know there’s another, hotter game being played.  Next: Continue reading

U.S. 2-2 Mexico: Losing a Tie

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

U.S. v. Mexico: Parting Shot

UNDERRATED: Tequila shots for every goal.”

That came from a clever over/under feature from Goal.com and my only response to that is, “Sir, yes sir! What brand, sir?!”

The same piece included the following, which I appreciate:

OVERRATED: Refusing to call this game a ‘friendly.'”

Tee, hee, hee…

Now, I know I’ve spent the past week doing my level, if unconscious, best to deflate the hype on tonight’s U.S. Mexico game (see: LINK, LINK, and LINK). Happily, the hype machine carried on over all that. In my defense, however, I’m not totally obtuse. I mean, I understand why U.S. soccer fans – simple partisanship/nationalism aside – get up for games against Mexico. And this was framed very nicely by that cat, Landon Donovan (at the bottom of the WaPo’s preview: Continue reading

U.S. v Mexico: Some Links + Another Game in Town

Is it just me or does the soccer world seem to be holding its collective breath for Wednesday? There are the usual rumors, of course (see MLS Rumors; I’ll catch up once a week and when they come together), and talk of Major League Soccer (MLS) releasing the 2008 regular season schedule on Thursday…at which time we can determine the precise size of the barrel over which Superliga and the CONCACAF Champions put MLS clubs. See what I mean? Waiting for Wednesday, waiting for Thursday…except on the scheduling stuff; I’ll putz around that issue a little more in a bit.

Before getting to the body of this post, here’s a theory: perhaps dragging players on the league’s best teams through those two late summer tournaments is just an indirect measure for enforcing parity. Think about it.

But, no, this post is all about my continuing effort to get up for tomorrow’s friendly pitting the U.S. Men’s National Team (Yanquis) against Mexico (ESPN2, 6 p.m. with plenty of soccer-porn included). With appearances pointing toward the Yanquis fielding an A-Team (otherwise, why bring them? Exactly! Don’t bring them.) – not what I had hoped to see after all – I’m still plenty excited about this game on at least one level: what else is there between tomorrow and the Pan-Pacific Tournament? A couple Mexican Primera games, a little of the Fulham survival saga, an ongoing quest to find when the UEFA Cup resumes (NOTE: I know where to find this, but, for whatever reason, I keep checking soccertv.com) – e.g. several convenient, emotionally-disengaged relationships I’ll kick the curb without remorse or even a box of chocolates come March 29. That ain’t love, people. It’s just sex….sex…sex…hmm…where am I now? Continue reading