It sounds so simple I just got to go
The suns so hot I forgot to go home
Guess I'll have to go now -- James Taylor
Ah...we meet again me amigo.
Gringos v. Gaupos with the 2007 Gold Cup and trip to the 2009 Confederations Cup on the line live from Chicago's venerable Soldier Field Sunday. (3 p.m. EST, FSC, Univision)
Here we go again. No need to rehash the animosity on both sides. The feces-slinging, etc. gets old.
The teams don't like each other, 'nuff said.
This is what I wrote back in February when the US handed mighty Mexico another 2-0 beating on American soil. Little did we know at the time that the game would serve as the bellwether for Bob Bradley's term as USMNT head coach. Conservative tactics, good results. Again, that's all we can ask for.
Unlike that night in Glendale, Ariz. guys like Bobby Convey (hurt), Jimmy Conrad (goal from a corner kick, later a broken jaw), Chris Albright (hurt), Chris Rolfe (MIA, ok, playing for Chicago) won't be around.
Instead we'll get a pretty decent US side that will be without Frankie Hejduk and Michael Bradley due to suspension. Throughout the CONCACAF tournament's five games the US has shown flashes of brilliance, but overall inconsistent play piqued with some horrific defensive lapses.
Same could be said for El Tri, who've underwhelmed considerably.
Overall both of Sunday's have been racking up yellow cards/tarjeta amarilla throughout the tournament at an alarming rate. Mexico had been shown 11 yellow cards, and one straight red for Blanco's elbow to the chest of a Honduran player. Meanwhile, the US has a whopping 15 yellows in the tournament and one straight red. Hejduk earned three of these, while Oneywu had four -- two vs. Guatemala for a sending off. It's scary that Gooch has been booked in three of the four games he played.
This sets up a scenario on the Solider Field that could get quite ugly. To quote Al Bundy's character from "John From Cincinnati" -- "There's showing the Mexican wrestling."
Jared Borgetti & Cuauhtemoc 'El Loco' Blanco VS. 'Killer' Carlos Bocanegra & The Gooch would be a Wrestlemania caliber affair. (Who wouldn't like to see a lumberjack match with Silver King, La Parka, Lizmark Jr., etc. surrounding the ring.)
With that in mind, a guess at how Bradley will fill out Sunday's starting XI?
GK: Tim Howard
DEF: Jonathan Spector-Carlos Bocanegra-Oguchi Onyewu-Frank Simek
MID: DaMarcus Beasley-Pablo Mastroeni-Benny Feilhaber-Clint Dempsey
FOR: Brian Ching, Landon Donovan.
Me, I'd probably give Jay DeMerit the nod over Onyewu as Borgetti, Blanco & Co. will be doing their best to incite the Maryland-born giant. At this point he's a red card waiting to happen. Same with Bocanegra, who seems better suited for the midfield.
Also, I might even consider a 4-5-1/4-3-3 with Ricardo Clark (meh)in the inside trio, DMB and Lando supporting wide and Dempsey alone up front. Eddie Johnson better not play. I'm just saying.
Since after a busy week of blogging, I'm not feeling all that creative, so lets just break this down in standard media fashion.
GOALKEEPING -- Mexico: Oswaldo 'Dirty' Sanchez might be my least favorite Mexican due to his ultra-cheap shot on Johnson in February. He's a decent enough keeper, but the US hasn't had trouble getting to him. USA: Meanwhile, Howard has been solid enough for the US and can jump pretty high for 50/50s in the box. He might get tested the most on set pieces and corner kicks. If Keller gets the nod all bets are off. Advantage: USA, slight.
DEFENSE -- Mexico: Though scumbag Rafa Marquez hasn't played in the Gold Cup, the Mexican defense remains strong with Euro-based Carlos Salcido and Ricardo Osorio both capable of playing centrally or going up the outside flanks. Osorio in particular will give whomever plays on the left for the US a difficult task. By the same token, the US has found ways to score goals vs. Mexico the last couple times out, usually on the counter or set pieces. USA: Defense has been the weakest link for the US in this tournament, easily. Against lesser opponents it hasn't been tested all that much, but against a power like Mexico will be smack dab in the crosshairs. Advantage: Mexico, slight.
MIDFIELD -- Mexico: Pavel Pardo, of Bundesliga champion Stuttgart, will carry the midfield load for El Tri. He and Ramon Morales will have their hands full with a US midfield that has become pretty strong. Andres Guardado is a guy to watch on the outside. USA: Losing Michael Bradley is a big loss, but a combination of Benny Feilhaber, Pablo Mastroeni and Ricardo Clark should be able to hold down the middle of the field. Depending where Landon Donovan and or Clint Dempsey plays they should trouble the Mexican with runs from deep. Advantage: USA.
FORWARDS -- Mexico: Blanco. You know deep down he's itching to give the US a beating after being sent off back in the 2006 World Cup. At his best he's a crafty, savvy player with the ball at his feet. A true dangerman every time he touches it. At his worst, he's a petulant little baby that can pout his way out of a game or use his temper to pick up a card. It's almost like you should just let he and Onyewu slug it out before the game and get it over with. Borgetti has a knack for dominating CONCACAF, except for the US. Kikin, Bofo Baustista and Omar Bravo all are pretty good, but none are riding a hot tournament. USA: Brian Ching, Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson have all failed to impress, missing many chances throughout. In a knockout vs. the biggest rival this can't happen. Bradley might be wise to use Dempsey and Donovan up top. Advantage: Neither, both are running low on confidence.
BENCH -- Mexico: Hugo Sanchez has a lot of attacking options, not much else. USA: The bench is going to be thin with two players gone to suspension. The US can't afford to lose anyone in the midfield with possibly only Justin Mapp in reserve. Advantage: Mexico, slight.
COACHING -- Mexico: Pre-Sanchez Mexico probably would have slaughtered a team like Cuba 6-0. Yes, Cuba is better, but for whatever reason El Tri is not clicking under the tutelage of one its favorite sons. USA: As we've said plenty of times, Bradley has gotten the results. He's under his biggest microscope Sunday. Bradley's biggest challenge might be to ingrain in his players not to lose their cool and get baited by the Mexicans into cheap fouls. If US plays it's game and keeps its head, they should win. Advantage: USA (tactics), Mexico (hair).
PRESSURE -- By my unofficial count a handful of Internet soccer nerds like me give two shits about the USMNT. In its infinite wisdom, the Worldwide Leader in Sports, ESPN, hasn't even acknowledged the Gold Cup since it doesn't own the broadcast rights. It's up to the American players themselves to place the pressure on themselves since none of their compatriots really care if they make the Confederations Cup or not.
On the other hand, millions of Mexicans live and die with El Tri and those Tecate's having been going down too smooth lately. Not too many of them can be too happy with Hugo Sanchez's listless reign over the squad. All five of Mexico's Gold Cup games have been one-goal affairs, including a 94th minute winner from Borgetti vs. Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.
Factor in the inferiority complex associated with their continued losing to the gringos and the Mexicans are under a lot of pressure in this one. Edge: USA, no pressure is better than a lot of pressure.
HOMEFIELD ADVANTAGE -- Hmm...let's see 50,000+ green-wearing Mexicanos vs. 2,000 red-wearing Americans. Not a tough call, but the fickle pro-Mexico crowd could take a turn if El Tri doesn't perform early. By contrast, the US is used to playing 'home' games in front of hostile fans so they should be unfazed. Solider Field isn't Azteca...unless all the Mexican fans leave their cars running during the game. Any chance we can get Bill Swirsky's 'Superfans' to tip the balances a little? EDGE: Mexico, slight.
X-FACTOR -- MEXICO: Nery Castillo. The 23-year-old, would-be Greek is touted as the next big (not physically) Mexican star. He did score the winner vs. Panama and could be a new look for the US to deal with. You'd think tactically Bradley knows how to deal with Borgetti and Blanco by this point. USA: Beasley. When he plays well, the USA wins. Simple as that. Edge: Even
Closing thoughts -- Landon Donovan is always a topic of major discussion, but he always rises to the occasion vs. Mexico. In fact, he might be more loathes South of the Border, than stateside. Mexico will never forgive him for his goal in the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals.
Say what you will, but Donovan has been on fire in 2007. He's scored seven goals in eight games this calendar year, including twice in the Gold Cup (both penalties). There's no reason to think this won't happen again Sunday.
When the US won the 2005 Gold Cup they didn't go through Mexico, beating Panama on penalties at Giants Stadium. Barring a total defensive collapse the USA takes care of business and takes out the proverbial trash. Guess: USA 2, Mexico 0. (Could it be anything else?)