It’s gotten to the point where any discussion of Mexico’s ongoing, mighty struggle can only begin with this:
All of this is surely unfolding to the unapologetic glee of U.S. Soccer supporters, who were forced to take a deep breath and consider the apparent, emerging dominance of El Tri as the once-again regional kingpin just two years ago. Yes, we are just two years removed from that undressing that Mexico gave to the United States in the 2011 Gold Cup final.
That loss seemed to signal the arrival of Mexico’s so-called Golden Generation, the one that would re-establish dominance over its northern neighbor, which had been misplaced over the previous decade, clearly to the annoyed displeasure of Mexico’s supporters and its futbol establishment.
(If you can stomach it, the highlights of that 4-2 U.S. loss inside the Rose Bowl are here. But I will warn you that all the early, good feeling for the United States evaporates about the time you see Landon Donovan do some kind of weird chicken wing celebration bit – What was that all about? – upon taking a 2-0 lead, after which it’s all Gio dos Santos, Andrés Guardado, Pablo Barrera and Mexico, Mexico, Mexico.)
Since then … yikes! The Mexican rise has stalled like some rusty old Toyota truck.
We could probably spend weeks dissecting the structure and development mechanisms of Mexican soccer and whether we were all fooled … But first, some quick accounting of all that has gone askew recently:
- The most notorious stumble, of course, has been in World Cup qualifying, where the inability to score at home has left El Tri is a shockingly precarious position. The favorites to emerge from atop CONCACAF final round qualifying will still probably find their way to Brazil, but the side’s stunning, ongoing struggles have left Jose Manuel “Chepo” de la Torre’s job status on the skids and seen the gains in confidence obliterated.
- Improvement seemed apparent, but results still demonstrated the quality gap as Mexico came and went in the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil. The net out was a win and two losses, leaving El Tri short of elimination play while leaving the competency of Chepo’s tenure still up for debate.
- Mexico did not meet expectations at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Turkey, falling right away to Greece and Paraguay in group play. El Tri sneaked into the knockout rounds, but those early stumbles arranged a much tougher Round of 16 contest, where Mexico fell to Spain.
- Oh, Chepo! Que paso last night? Mexico sent a young team to the Gold Cup, as did the United States and others. But should Mexico really be losing to Panama? This represented Mexico’s first loss to Panama in 11 competitive matches.
For me, and probably for many U.S. soccer fans, the CONCACAF Gold Cup just got a lot more interesting … and the United States is still more than 30 hours from kicking their first ball in the regional tournament.
Carlos Lizarazo’s ridiculous rocket shook rain off the net in an aesthetically pleasing CONCACAF Champions League goal on Thursday.
The Cruz Azul loanee struck a vicious shot for FC Dallas’ fifth goal, which boosted out of the No. 8 seed for the quarterfinals after a 5-2 win at Suchitepéquez in Guatemala.
[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]
Lizarazo, 25, had two goals in 10 appearances for FCD heading into the game, with both coming in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Major League Soccer will have three teams in the quarterfinals of the CONCACAF Champions League thanks to FC Dallas’ thrilling comeback win on Thursday.
FCD beat Guatemalan side Suchitepéquez 5-2 at the Estadio Mateo Flores after going down by a pair of first half goals.
[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy UEL goal ]
Carlos Gruezo and Matt Hedges helped Dallas to level terms by halftime, and Atiba Harris scored just after the break to put FCD ahead. An own goal and a must-watch Carlos Lizarazo 90th minute wonderstrike gave us the final scoreline. Gruezo also added an assist.
A tie would’ve been enough to send Dallas through atop Group H, but the big win moves it ahead of New York Red Bulls. FCD will finish seventh at worst.
FCD joins Vancouver and New York Red Bulls as the MLS representatives in the tournament, and the league will have at-worst the joint-most clubs in the quarters.
[ MORE: PST talks with FCD’s Hedges, Zimmerman ]
Mexican sides UANL Tigres and Pachuca are quarterfinalists, while Panamanian side Arabe Unido and Costa Rican stalwarts Saprissa advanced as well.
The field’s eighth team will be set after the 10 p.m. ET matchup between Honduras Progreso and Mexico’s UNAM.
The Whitecaps are the No. 1 seed, and could well match-up with the Red Bulls if there is a winner between UNAM and Honduras Progreso. If Honduras Progreso advances via draw, the Hondurans will be the No. 8 seed.
NEW YORK (AP) A Florida businessman pleaded guilty in New York to conspiracy charges Thursday in a scheme to pay bribes to high-ranking soccer officials in exchange for media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches.
Aaron Davidson, 45, entered the plea in Brooklyn federal court. Sentencing before U.S. District Judge Pamela K. Chen was set for April 24, when Davidson could face decades in prison. As part of his plea, he agreed to forfeit more than a half-million dollars.
[ WATCH: Pogba’s classy goal ]
Davidson was arrested last year in the FIFA probe after prosecutors said soccer officials accepted $150 million in bribes over a 24-year period in exchange for rigging bids for lucrative marketing rights. Davidson ran a Miami-based marketing firm. He was arrested along with more than a dozen other people in a case prosecuted in the United States on the grounds that illegal payments used U.S. banks and those involved conducted meetings in the United States.
Prosecutors said Davidson negotiated and agreed to make bribe payments totaling more than $14 million, executing multiple criminal schemes including the agreement to pay bribes to a high-ranking official of FIFA, CONCACAF, the Caribbean Football Union and one of FIFA’s national member associations.
[ MORE: Why Pogba took PK over Rooney ]
The government said the bribes were paid to secure lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments and matches for his company, Traffic USA, and its business partners.
Prosecutors said those sports events included FIFA World Cup qualifiers, the CONCACAF Gold Cup and the CONCACAF Champions League, among others.
The government said its investigation continues.
UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin is open to the idea of the UEFA Champions League final being played outside Europe.
Specifically, Ceferin thinks about New York.
[ VIDEO: Previewing all 10 PL matches ]
Ceferin said Thursday that staging the first ever UCL final away from Europe would be discussed at some point.
“To go from Portugal to Azerbaijan for example is almost the same or the same as if you go to New York. For the fans it’s no problem but we should see. It’s a European competition so let’s think about it.”
Given the preseason matches played in the United States, China, and Australia, it makes sense to stage an important UEFA match outside Europe. Those first two countries especially aim to become power players in the game, and certainly it would benefit UEFA to showcase its absolute finest (if only as a reminder).
We don’t get to see entire first teams playing the game in earnest when friendlies hit U.S. soil, and the successful Copa America showed UEFA that CONMEBOL and CONCACAF trust the States with critical matches.
Selfishly, of course we want this. And selfishly, of course Europe wants to keep it. Their fans wouldn’t necessarily want to take an incredibly expensive trip to see a UCL final.