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.
Goals and controversial penalty decisions are a big part of Saturday morning’s quartet of Premier League matches, all of which are at the break.
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Arsenal 1-1 Stoke City
Joe Allen took an elbow from Granit Xhaka inside the 18, and Lee Mason awarded a PK that Charlie Adam converted to give the visitors an early lead. But Theo Walcott scored his 100th goal as a Gunner off a classy Hector Bellerin cross to make it 1-1 before the break.
Burnley 2-1 Bournemouth
The Cherries will have to dig out of another hole this week, and it all began with Jeff Hendrick‘s phenomenal opener. Fellow Irishman Steven Ward scored an economical to goal to double the lead.
But Ryan Fraser continued his fine December with an assist on Benik Afobe‘s goal before halftime.
Hull City 1-0 Crystal Palace
Robert Snodgrass drew a penalty with a pretty easy grass grab, and the Tigers have a
Swansea City 0-0 Sunderland
Not much cooking at the Liberty Stadium.
One win in 10 for Ronald Koeman‘s Everton has the Dutchman on the hot seat.
Koeman seems to be clawing for air after the Toffees’ latest setback, a 3-2 loss at Watford.
The loss puts the Hornets ahead of Everton on the PL table, and — while unlikely — it’s a mathematical possibility that the Toffees could be a bottom half team by the end of the weekend.
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That’s a brutal development for a club expected to challenge for a European place this season.
“I see a lot of similar problems in the team. The team is too much reactive. Of course it’s maybe a lack of confidence, but if you start the game well, 1-0 up, you need a bigger belief in the team and not going back and defending, and nervous, and not enough ball possession. In my opinion that’s a problem.”
A big problem with that? It can be put down to the manager. Is Koeman in trouble already?
Jeff Hendrick, take a bow.
Burnley’s Republic of Ireland international midfielder pulled off a stunning piece of skill on Saturday to put the Clarets ahead against Bournemouth.
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A long ball forward was flicked on to Hendrick and he took a stunning first touch to tee himself and then settled himself before spanking a volley into the top corner.
Sensational goal from Burnley’s club-record signing.
Click play on the video above to watch it.
There’s a danger in observing Lionel Messi on a week-by-week basis, and it has a lot to do with how he makes greatness look routine.
So while it’s easy to dismiss yet another mazy dribble through a defense, one of those “Frogger” style with calm-but-vicious cutbacks, try to consider everything that goes into Messi’s second goal against Osasuna early Saturday.
[ MORE: Watford 3-2 Everton ]
On first look, you might count 9 touches for Messi starting with his right-footed collection of the ball. But move to the slow motion replays, and recognize the truth: Often Messi is letting the ball do the work for him, essentially moving the duo closer to goal while he used his preferred left foot as a must-respect threat.
That he does it in such traffic and at full speed is incredible. It’s literally one of those goals in which a linguistic luminary like Ray Hudson would have trouble over-emphasizing the greatness.
Messi now has 11 La Liga goals in 12 matches, and 22 in 19 overall.