Game time is fast approaching (4 p.m. EST, Telemundo/mun2), and I’m getting amped. Even though the game isn’t on the ESPN family of networks, the Worldwide Leader is actually doing a good job of hyping the game and breaking it down.
Bob Ley and Alexi Lalas are actually in Mexico City providing live updates and will air a “Sportscenter Special” at 3:30 p.m. EST. Well done, ESPN. Finally recognizing the loyal niche market that is soccer.
Now, to the game. Will the U.S. be able to withstand what is sure to be an early onslaught by the Mexicans? Mexico will field an offensive lineup with Andres Guardado, Giovani Dos Santos and Carlos Vela expected to feature. All three are quick, skilled attackers, who could give American defenders fits. The U.S. has to withstand the first 20 minutes and utilize its blazing pace with Charlie Davies and Landon Donovan to stretch El Tri’s fragile psyche.
As Lalas said on “SportCenter” this morning, Mexico’s bravado is nothing more than a facade. Beating the U.S. handily 5-0 in last month’s Gold Cup final is meaningless. This U.S. roster and the Gold Cup squad are two vastly different entities. Mexico is on thin ice for qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. A first loss on home soil to the Americans would be debilitating. And every Mexican fan in Azteca knows that and fears it.
At noon, “SportsCenter” showed a poll of what people think will happen in today’s game.
63.6 – U.S. wins
27.3 – Mexico wins
9.1 – tie
Alright SportsNation, let’s not get carried away. The U.S. has never, EVER, won in Mexico. The Stars are Stripes are 0-22-1. This is just an example of the still learning soccer fandom in the U.S. But hey, at least the sport is finally getting covered.
If I was Bob Bradley, and I far too often dream I was, this is my preferred Starting XI:
DONOVAN BRADLEY CLARK DEMPSEY
BORNSTEIN BOCANEGRA ONYEWU CHERUNDULO
OK, I know Bornstein at left back? And Ching up top, no Jozy!? First in the back. Bornstein has the speed necessary to keep up with Dos Santos, Vela and Guardado. I don’t want to risk whether or not Bocanegra can keep up with the Mexican forwards out wide. Jay Demerit performed admirably in the Confederations Cup, but speed kills.
Ching up top is the safe move. Jozy deserves a start, there’s no denying it. But he hasn’t played a game since the Confed Cup, while Ching has been knocking in the goals for Houston. He’s big and a vital target-man for Davies and Donovan to run off of. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see Jozy in the Starting XI for entertainment’s sake, but I think Ching is better suited for how the U.S. is going to have to grind out a result.
We’ll be back around 3:30 p.m. EST.
If you’re at work and can’t get to a TV, apparently you can watch the game online here en Espanol.
3:10 p.m. – We’re 50 minutes from kickoff and the starting lineups are out.
U.S.’s Starting XI
DONOVAN BRADLEY CLARK DEMPSEY
BOCANEGRA ONYEWU DEMERIT CHERUNDULO
Mexico’s Starting XI
GUARDADO TORRADO CASTRO DOS SANTOS
JUAREZ GALINDO SALCIDO OSORIO
3:28 p.m. – Excited not to see Carlos Vela in the Mexican lineup. He’s a the type of quick gnat-like forward that could give big boys Onyewu and Demerit trouble. Bocanegra on the left isn’t the worst play. Other than that, no disagreement from my preferred XI.
3:33 p.m. – Watching ESPN’s “Sportscenter Special.” Josh Elliot, ESPN’s biggest soccer fan, towers over Harkesy. The former U.S. captain makes Hannah Storm look tall.
3:35 p.m. – What’s the over/under on when a Mexican player/coach delivers a nut-shot? I’m going with the 57th minute…Ah, that’s the second time Alexi went with the Tina Turner “Thunderdome” reference. And I like it.
3:37 p.m. – Good news for Harkes, they’re sitting down now.
3:38 p.m. – ESPN shows footage of Harkes throwing a cheap shot into the face of a Mexican player back in the day, “I had to give a jab just to protect.” Love it.
3:41 p.m. – God, Mexicans are so filthy on the pitch.
3:45 p.m. – Phillips calls. He’s having trouble finding a place to watch mun2 on DirectTV. I lucked out because a buddy of mine has AT&T U-Verse and I’m posted on his couch. Good luck Phillips.
3:47 p.m. – I don’t know much about the mun2 broadcast team, though I’m told Marcelo Balboa will do the game. But no matter who they have, it’s exponentially better than what our ears are exposed to when games are on Fox Soccer Channel. Christopher Sullivan makes Dick VItale tolerable. And Max Bretos’ goal call, “YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEES.” AWWWWWWWWWFFFUUUULLLLL.
3:50 p.m. – I could watch Landon piss on Mexican soil all day.
3:55 p.m. – Flipped over to mun2. Balboa says this is the best U.S. team to come into the Azteca. Therefore, the team with the best chance to win at the Azteca.
3:56 p.m. – National anthems. My friend sitting next to me, “Is this in Mexico?”
3:56 p.m. – The Mexican fans are a little off-tune on the Star-Spangled Banner.
3:59 p.m. – “All these fans look like George Lopez.”
4:01 p.m. – Kickoff time. New stamping style. Get accustomed. Bold statement: “Goalkeeper is going to have to make a bunch of saves.”
Team huddles – Cherundulo looks to be over-moosed. That’s quite the wave.
1 min – Dempsey does well on the wing to retain possession. Boys look confident.
2 min – Guardado takes a long blast. It’s low and Howard handles it.
2 min – Davies troubles the backline, but is cleared off by a hefty challenge.
3 min – The Mexicans have put three crosses into the box so far and each time it’s been comfortably been cleared by either Onyewu, Demerit or Bocanegra.
4 min – Davies looks troublingly fast. I like it.
5 min – Dos Santos makes an impressive run through American defense but can’t get an end product. Mexico is applying pressure, which is relieved when Guardado mishits a cross. Have to manage the early Mexican swell.
7 min – Salcido gifts the Americans a corner with a poor attempt at a backpass. Shook.
7 min – Onyewu gets a head to it, but can’t get it goalwards. Americans retain possesion, but the a good tackle gets the Mexicans out of trouble.
8 min – GOAL! Donovan drops a dime to Davies who blows by Mexican defense and buries it past Ochoa with plenty to spare. Beautiful goal. U.S. 1, Mexico 0.
10 min – It may have been Bradley who played in Davies. Anywho, great effort. The Mexican fans are shocked and silent. “Time to break out the chips and salsa,” one of my friend says.
12 min – Franco wins a corner for Mexico apparently. Wasted.
14 min – Strange play, another corner for Mexico. Howard couldn’t keep it in. Onyewu pounds it out. He’s just better and bigger than the Mexican front line.
16 min – Demerit commits a foul. Free kick Mexico in a dangerous position. Marcelo says, “If it stays like this they are going get booed off the field at halftime.” Something from the training ground for Mexico. Quick shot from 35 yards, handled comfortably by Howard.
17 min – Onyewu just stops that attack. AC Milan likes what they see.
19 min – Mexico finding a lot of space, but Onyewu turns them away twice.
20 min – GOAL! Castro takes a blast that beats Howard and goes in off the cross bar. Perfect placement. Nothing Howard could do. U.S. 1, Mexico 1. Game on. Start over.
21 min – Replays show no one stepped up and Castro could just pick his spot. It was from about 30 yards out. Ball dipped right under Howard’s reach. Ridiculous shot.
23 min – Donovan gets assaulted. No call. Thanks, ref.
23 min – Dos Santos gets in on a one-two and blasts it past Howard’s post. Should have been 2-1. U.S. needs to get its head out of its ass.
25 min – Dempsey passes it nowhere on the U.S.’s best advance in 10 minutes. And it wasn’t even anything halfway dangerous.
26 min – Onyewu handles it intentionally at midfield to prevent a counterattack and deservedly gets a yellow. That’s trouble because the Mexicans love to flop and get under Gooch’s skin. Time to play smart big guy.
27 min – Dempsey is playing like ass. Like he did much of the Confed Cup, despite winning the Bronze Ball. (Goal scorers get the love).
28 min – Another yellow for the American’s other central defender. Dos Santos pokes it around Demerit who takes him down and gets a yellow.
29 min – Blanco blasts the free kick from the wing right at Howard, who gets two powerful hands to it. Rebound comes out and Osorio blasts it in over the bar. Pressure is high on the American end.
30 min – WWE reaching out to that Spanish crowd with a WWE “Raw” showing tomorrow.
31 min – Replays show a Dos Santos challenge on Chrundulo should have been a yellow as the Mexican winger showed his studs to the American right back.
33 min – Dempsey plays Davies into the wing, who gets dribble happy trying to make something happen.
33 min – Guardado should be yellow carded for a foul on Cherundulo. A U.S. free kick, but another non-yellow for the Mexicans.
34 min – Donovan puts it in the mixer and Onyewu and Bocanegra miss it. Gooch was there, but was riding the back of an overmatched Mexican defender.
36 min – The Mexicans keep hovering around the American box. Wave after wave. A second might not be far off.
37 min – Another American giveaway. The U.S. has given away possession time and time again allowing Mexico to keep up the pressure. It’s a recipe for disaster.
39 min – Onyewu clears another pass into the box. I’m worried. Franco wins a corner off Bradley.
40 min – Dos Santos’ corner sails and Davies collects it. Cundy gets it to Ching and gets a foul to relieve some pressure and catch their breath. The name Jozy Altidore has been mentioned. Balboa thinks it’ll be around the 60th. My buddies say, “Now.”
41 min – Donovan gets it into the box on the free kick looking for Bradley, cleared away for a corner by Mexico. The ref wants words with Davies and Castro who are bumping in the box. Ball in the box and Ching called for the foul.
42 min – Franco turns at Onyewu, who again turns him back and blocks a speculative shot. Gooch loves playing Mexico. He has a Mexican highlight reel.
43 min – The U.S. needs to get to halftime tied at 1-1. They need to regroup and catch their breath. Perhaps Bob Bradley can introduce Jozy. One can hope, but they can’t hold out like this for another 45.
45 min – Awkward backpass to Howard who keeps it in. Then Bocanegra makes a rash foul at midfield and gets a yellow. Another yellow for the States. Three cards for the U.S., none for Mexico, and that doesn’t seem right from watching the game.
HALFTIME – U.S. 1, Mexico 1. My fingers need a break. Give me a second to get a Mountain Dew. For some reason the channel was switched and I have to look at Jemele Hill. Not cool. But they’re talking about Pitino. What did Rick teach us? Don’t fuck random bitches in the bathroom of a restaurant. That never turns out the way you think it will.
Back to mun2. The commercials on this channel remind me that Latina women are freaking hot in their 20s. I need to polish up my Spanish. Wow, is it just me or does Phil Schoen look like Jabba The Hut? He’s much better as just a voice.
START OF THE SECOND HALF – Fellas back on the field. No sight of Jozy.
The 114,000 fans in Azteca are ready to erupt. If the States can nip a second this could get downright hostile and ridiculously entertaining TV. We can only hope. mun2 counts up with their half clock at the corner of the screen. Going to make me use math. Ass holes.
47 min – Not any exciting moments in the opening moments. Both teams knock it around and go nowhere. Give away when Bocanegra can’t keep it in.
49 min – Mexico beginning to string together passes in the American end. Bocanegra clears the danger but the Mexicans reload and come again. Bradley can’t clear it properly, and hands it to Mexico. Ball swung into the box and Onyewu clears it away for a corner.
50 min – Franco tries a spectacular volley, but can’t steer the ball on frame. Decent effort.
51 min – I’m mad at myself for asking for Ching to start. I’m a moron. Bob Bradley is a moron…Long ball to Davies gives Mexico problems. Davis can’t shrug off Magallon, but it’s dangerous.
53 min – If Jozy isn’t in the game by the 60th minute, I’ll be pissed. Mexico is making the change I feared. Here comes Carlos Vela. It’ll be interesting to see how Bradley responds. My guess is that he won’t.
55 min – SUB: Here comes Vela in for Blanco. Old for young. Smart move by Javier Aguirre.
56 min – The U.S. try to spring Davies again and he’s whistled for a phantom foul. Clearly shoulder-to-shoulder, but the ref sees it differently.
57 min – SUB: Feilhaber in, Ching out. Holden in, Clark out. Wow, a double move by Bradley. Poo in my face. Both players are offensively gifted and can unlock the Mexican defense.
58 min – The ball falls kindly to Dos Santos wide open in the box. He waits for it to fall, sets it up and fires point blank at Howard, who makes the safe and pushes it away for a corer. Dos Santos comes right back off the corner and tries to beat Howard near post, but he covers up again. Close call for the States.
60 min – Vela flops. Typical Mexican.
61 min – Bocanegra does well to snuff out Dos Santos but then clearance is blown and Mexico blasts in a shot from distance well over Howard’s goal.
62 min – Same script that finished the first half starting to emerge. The U.S. is gifting away possession and the Mexicans are beginning to re-establish the attack.
65 min – Osorio called for a foul going directly for Holden instead of the ball. Long ball to Davies, but he can’t control and Ochoa collects.
66 min – Here comes Mexico again. Chundy clears it for a deep throw. The U.S. win possession and Davies collects the ball and runs at the defense with Landon and Dempsey on the wings. Davies gives it to Dempsey who tries to pop Donovan in over the top but can’t get it up enough and Mexico clears it.
68 min – Donovan is sprung into a bunch of space and has a chance to run at the defense. He starts to, but then tries to get too cute and gives it away. Believe it or not, that was the best chance in something like 30 minutes for the States.
69 min – Two more foul calls on the U.S., including a puzzling one on Onyewu. Mexico is readying Nery Castillo, he of the fantastic 2007 Gold Cup run.
70 min – Onyewu beasts up and breaks another Mexican dvance. The U.S. counter quickly and Holden swings in a dangerous ball and Davies just misses it. Beautiful ball from Holden. Perfectly weighted. Davies should have done better. SUB: Nery Castillo in, Guardado out.
71 min – Bradley sends in Davies, but the speedy American is called offside and replays show he was barely off. Still, fuck that.
73 min – Foul called at the edge of the box for Mexico in a very dangerous position. Luckily, Blanco is out. He very well could have buried it. Still plenty of options with Castillo and Dos Santos. Vela over it too. Dos Santos deflected off the wall and away for a corner.
74 min – Tempers flare up as players from both teams push each other and Davies is on the ground. Howard shoves some Mexican bitch out of the way. Replays show Nery Castillo grabs Davies around the head while he’s lying on the ground with a possible cramp. Why Nery Castillo is grabbing Davies by the head is inexplicable.
76 min – SUB: Altidore in, Davies out. The corner isn’t cleared and finds its way into Howard’s hands.
77 min – Bocanegra fouls Dos Santos near midfield and could have been a second yellow. The U.S. finally get a break form the ref.
78 min – Torrado was given a yellow for the fracas earlier when he put his hands on Feilhaber. Dos Santos smashes it off an American defender and wins a corner. It comes in dangerously and Bocanegra barely clears it away for another corner which Howard collects off the head of a Mexican.
80 min – Nery Castillo is at it again and mauls Onyewu as the U.S. get ready for a goal kick. Why no yellow? This is ridiculous. Awful officiating. God, I hate Mexicans.
82 min – GOAL! Juarez gets into the box and after Demerit gets it off Juarez’s foot, it drops to Sabah who roofs it. Azteca goes nuts. El Tri’s World Cup hopes get a huge boost. It’s good to see the shot of American soldiers waving Mexican flags. “That’s the U.S. Army today,” my buddy says. Mexico 2, U.S. 1.
84 min – Hey, look! Down goes that bitch Castillo pretending to be hurt. God, I hate Mexicans.
85 min – The chances of the U.S. getting an equalizer seem slim. They haven’t had any of the ball and look rather tame. A draw would have been a fortunate and blessed result. A loss is probably fair. But there’s still a little time.
86 min – To be honest, the Americans have done very little offensively. This looks like the old U.S. team we were accustomed to seeing at Azteca. And maybe they broke down because of the altitude.
87 min – U.S. corner kick. Donovan is getting pelted with debris and riot police trying to portect. Corner cleared away by Ochoa for an American throw. Classy Mexican fans. Like I said, Philly fans mixed with hyenas.
89 min – Not much cooking. And don’t expect anything different. The replay of the goal shows it going right over Howard’s head. Not much he could have done.
91 min – Howard bombs it forward and Jozy tries to juggle it in the box among defenders. The ball pops around, but is eventually cleared. Time for Mexico to waste some time. Can I get a Nery Castillo neck grab?
93 min – There’s the whistle. Game over. Ref looks all too happy. Big smiles for the guys with the whistles. In all, it’s probably a fair result, because the U.S. didn’t do anything to deserve to win. They didn’t create much chances and seemed content to sit on their early lead. After they got it, Mexico woke up and kept the pressure on all game long. It was only a matter of time before they broke through and unfortunately as it does so many times, the last 10 minutes proved the demise.
The win bolsters Mexico’s World Cup qualification and the U.S. doesn’t have to worry about qualifying either. But a win here would have been nice for confidence sake.
Oh well. Thanks, for tracking it here if you did. In the end, it’s Mexico 2, U.S. 1.