Squad-for-World Cup squad: Is the U.S. better than Mexico?

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In the world where the United States becomes a soccer power, Mexico is not far behind. In fact, the order maybe reversed. As CONCACAF’s now traditional powers, the two rivals share a symbiotic relationship, pushing each other as well as relying on their rival to provide depth in the region. With apologies to nations like Costa Rica and Honduras (repeat World Cup qualifiers), if CONCACAF’s going to raise it’s international profile — and enjoy all the ranking bonuses and World Cup spots that go with it — it’s going to be off the boots of the U.S. or El Tri.

Logically, that means each side should be pulling for each other in events like the Confederations or World Cup, but sports are rarely logical. Rivalries? They’re even worse. If U.S. national team fans had a choice between Mexico doing well to help CONCACAF’s cause or both teams going out in Brazil’s group stage, they’d be reluctant to give their Mexican counterparts the satisfaction. Even if strong Mexico results could, long down the road, slightly help their cause, few U.S. fans would be able to stomach El Tri success.

That’s why, even ahead of a tournament where they’re unlikely to meet, how the U.S. measures up against Mexico matters. Drawn into an easier group, Miguel Herrera’s team is more likely to make the second round, but U.S. fans will still want a performance that fosters their pride. They’ll want the U.S. to give them a leg to stand on:

Yeah, Mexico got farther, but did you see how we played against Portugal? We would have gotten out of their group, too!

Unfortunately, the debate won’t be settled on the field this summer, leaving the U.S. with the bragging rights they’ve carried over from the Gold Cup and CONCACAF World Cup qualifying. If Jurgen Klinsmann were to matchup with a full version Herrera’s revamped squad, though, he might find things more difficult than he did in the last days of Jose Manuel de la Torre.

Based on the 23-man squads the teams are taking to Brazil (U.S., Mexico, both below):

source: Getty Images

Where the U.S. is stronger:

  • In goal: Between José de Jesús Corona, Guillermo Ochoa, and Alfredo Talavera, Mexico has three good goalkeepers, but la selección lacks a Tim Howard. At one time, Ochoa was on a trajectory to reach that level, but already 28 years old, his international career has faltered to the point his spot on Mexico’s roster was a doubt. As has been the case for a while, the U.S. has an advantage in goal.
  • In midfield: Michael Bradley may be the best player on either team’s roster, and while he’s maligned by U.S. national team fans, Jermaine Jones provides a solidity Herrera may find enviable. With the days of Gerardo Torrado locking down the middle gone, Mexico is currently, if slightly, behind the U.S. in the middle.
  • In results: The straight results in the U.S.-Mexico rivalry are always a little skewed because so many of the meetings take place on American soil. There are, however, a couple of other factors that make it clear which team’s been stronger over the last few years. The U.S. is the reigning CONCACAF champion, and while that honor was won during a “down” Gold Cup, Klinsmann’s team can also point to its finish in the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying as proof of its supremacy. The U.S. not only finished on top of The Hex, they took four points from Mexico while doing so.

source: APWhere Mexico is stronger:

  • In attack: Just as Herrera may look to the U.S. midfield with envy, so might Klinsmann look at the likes of Oribe Peralta (pictured), Giovani Dos Santos, Raul Jimenez and Javier Hernandez and be jealous. Even Alan Pulido, a newcomer to the senior team, has four goals in three appearances after a successful U-level career. With all but one player in the group (Peralta) 25 or younger, El Tri’s attacking corps could prove more troublesome next cycle.
  • In defense: How big an advantage this is will depend on how Jurgen Klinsmann’s defense comes together, but Herrera’s group combines the experience of Rafa Marquez, Carlos Salcido, and Maza Rodriguez (combined 328 caps) with the talents of a younger corps he’s helped bring in (or, back): Miguel Layún, Miguel Ponce, Paul Aguilar, Diego Reyes. European mainstays Andres Guardado, having moved from midfield to defense, and Hector Moreno round out a deep group.
  • In potential: The core of that amazing 2011 Gold Cup championship team is still in this squad, but the confidence is gone. Even if they recapture that swagger over the next three weeks, a likely second round meeting with Spain means Mexico’s World Cup will be short. The real potential for Herrera’s squad is to build an ethos that will help El Tri recapture a place at the top of CONCACAF. Humbled by qualifying, Mexico’s World Cup will be about redemption.

Overall

On paper, there isn’t much that separates the U.S. from Mexico, but given a choice between the squads, many may prefer to take their chances with El Tri’s talent and potential than bet on the U.S.’s superior results. Yet there’s a reason the U.S. has those results – results they’ve been able to replicate within CONCACAF for some time. No matter how promising Mexico’s looked on paper, the U.S. has managed to respond. Even when a golden generation threatened to separate El Tri from the pack, the U.S. came back and won World Cup qualifying.

Until Mexico can prove they’ve recovered from its qualifying woes — until the team can play closer to its potential — its “on paper” virtues mean nothing. Against Brazil, Croatia, and potentially Spain, the team will have a chance to turn the corner.

Win or lose, though, Mexico will get another crack at the U.S. this time next year. The next Gold Cup is just around the corner. Until then, barring a huge second round upset in Brazil, the United States has proven itself better. For now.

Teams

Mexico

Goalkeepers: Jesus Corona, Guillermo Ochoa, Alfredo Talavera
Defenders: Paul Aguilar, Andres GuardadoMiguel Layun , Rafael Marquez, Hector Moreno, Diego Reyes, Francisco Javier Rodriguez, Carlos Salcido
Midfielders: Isaac Brizuela, Marco Fabian Hector Herrera, Juan Carlos Medina, Luis Montes, Carlos Pena, Jose Juan Vazquez
Forwards: Giovani Dos Santos, Javier Hernandez, Raul Jimenez, Oribe Peralta, Alan Pulido

United States

Goalkeepers: Brad Guzan, Tim Howard, Nick Rimando
Defenders: DeAndre Yedlin, Omar Gonzalez, Timmy Chandler, John Anthony Brooks, Matt Besler, DaMarcus Beasley, Geoff Cameron, Fabian Johnson
Midfielders: Michael Bradley, Graham Zusi, Jermaine Jones, Kyle Beckerman, Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya, Brad Davis
Forwards: Chris Wondolowski, Aron Johannsson, Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, Julian Green

Liverpool releases statement after Sevilla stadium supporter outcry

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Liverpool has proffered a strong and cautionary statement regarding its supporters’ treatment at Sevilla on Tuesday.

Claims of police punching a woman in the back and throwing her “political” flag at her, a Liverbird with the word “Defiance” on it, are just the tip of the iceberg.

[ REPORT: Palace to get new digs ]

Fans claim that many were either delayed or denied in entry to the stadium, with “police in riot gear not letting you get to your seat” in some cases.

The Reds have released a statement, from LiverpoolFC.com:

Following detailed and troubling accounts given by Liverpool supporters attending the match against Sevilla last night, the club is seeking to establish the facts regarding their treatment at the hands of the host stewards and local police force.
The safety and security of our supporters is our paramount concern and we intend to gather all the relevant information before responding further.

Supporter treatment away from home is deservedly a hot button issue, and especially at Liverpool given the horrible Hillsborough disaster that killed 96 and wounded almost 800 more in 1989.

As for the match, the Reds squandered a 3-0 lead at Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, drawing 3-3.

Sounders in firm control after Leg 1

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The game in 100 words (or less): The Seattle Sounders took full control of the Western Conference finals with a resounding 2-0 win over ten-man Houston. The Sounders already had hit first in the 11th minute through Gustav Svensson but the red card to Jalil Anibaba changed the game. Houston had some chances later but fatigue meant the focus and control was off. Former Dynamo striker Will Bruin’s goal may have put the tie to bed.

Three moments that mattered

11′ — Gustav Svensson Goal — The Sounders wanted to set the tone early and they picked up an early goal off a corner kick, as Svensson redirected a header past Dynamo goalkeeper Joe Willis. The goal changed the complexion of the game to that point, until our next big moment.

28′ — Jalil Anibaba red card — Joevin Jones was a menace to deal with tonight and after getting past Anibaba, the latter pulled Jones down and as it appeared to be denial of a goal-scoring opportunity, Anibaba was given his marching orders. Suddenly, Houston, down a goal and down a man, had a lot more to do to stay in the tie. Nicolas Lodeiro missed the subsequent penalty kick but Will Bruin picked Lodeiro up later.

42′ — Will Bruin goal — The former Dynamo man scored a massive goal against his former club on a great cross from Jones on the left wing. While the tie isn’t over, the Sounders are in firm control and look set to repeat as Western Conference playoffs champions.

Man of the Match: Joevin Jones

Three things: Sounders cruise after (and before) early red

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The Seattle Sounders all but booked a return appearance in the 2017 MLS Cup final on Tuesday, doing so by beating the Houston Dynamo 2-0 in the first (away) leg of the Western Conference finals on Tuesday. The game wasn’t as close at the final score might appear to indicate.

[ RECAP: Sounders take 2-0 lead over Dynamo ]

We learned the following three things over the course of the 90 minutes…


The red card hurt Houston

No way, you’re kidding, right? Clearly a 28th-minute red card (shown to Jalil Anibaba for the denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity) is going to have a massive impact on the outcome of a game. But, it really crippled Houston, given the way they play — having a numerical advantage in the center of midfield is so important to Wilmer Cabrera’s side, in the name of frantically winning the ball back after conceding half or even two-thirds of the field.

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When you have to haul off one of three central midfielders, in hopes of still being about to force-create chances on the rare occasion you recover the ball and move it forward, three things are bound to happen: 1) legs are going to get very heavy, very quickly; 2) the clock appears to be counting up in double-speed; 3) you begin to concede two-thirds and three-quarters of the field instead — every move Seattle worked during the second half came after a waltz in the final third before finally meeting resistance.

At right, you can see every Sounders pass originating in Houston’s half of the field — remember, Seattle are the away team here. Playoff games rarely, if ever, come much easier than that.


Addition by subtraction… again?

This one isn’t so much a lesson from Tuesday’s game, as much as it’s a trend played out over the course of an entire season: much like they wound up being in 2016 following Clint Dempsey‘s heart condition robbing him of the final four months of the season, the Sounders are once again, dare I say it, better without another indomitable figure: Osvaldo Alonso.

Here’s the numbers to back it up: without Alsono in the starting lineup this year, Seattle went 6W-2D-2L. In those 10 regular-season games, they scored 20 goals (2.0 per game, versus 1.3 with him in the lineup) and conceded 12 (1.1 per game, same when he played).

The central midfield pairing of Cristian Roldan (7) and Gustav Svensson (4) has proven a formidable foe for anyone and everyone during the second half of the season. On Tuesday — granted, against 10 men for more than an hour — they could do no wrong. (Passes attempted on the right; defensive actions on the left — green triangles are tackles won, orange are recoveries, blue are interceptions, purple are clearances, red are tackles lost.)

MLSsoccer.com

Alonso has been an unbelievable servant for nine MLS seasons, he’s an MLS Cup champions, a four-time U.S. Open Cup winner, a Supporters’ Shield winner and one of the best defensive midfielders in MLS history. He’s also 32 years old with a growing history of lower-body injuries that seem to never fully heal, and he’s now clearly third in the pecking order behind Roldan and Svensson. It’s clearly an oversimplification to say that soccer is a young, mobile man’s game these days, but it’s certainly true of MLS, and the results are in near total agreement.


May I have some hope, please?

Here’s a not-so-fun fact if you’re a Dynamo fan: your team won one — singular — game on the road in 17 tries this season. Not a dark enough outlook? OK, have this: that lone away win came against D.C. United, who finished 21st out of 22 teams if you put MLS into a single table.

Maybe Seattle weren’t so good at home this year… I’m really just searching for anything at this point, you’re thinking. OK, it’s possible, I suppose. They lost once at home all season, to Toronto FC, the best regular-season team in MLS history, by the final score of 1-0, in the month of May.

We’ll see you in Toronto or Columbus for MLS Cup, Seattle Sounders.

Toronto FC holds Columbus on the road

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The game in 100 words (or less): Without two of its stars, Toronto FC set out to play compact and hold on for a draw on the road, and that’s exactly what they did. Michael Bradley recorded 17 recoveries and a trio of interceptions as TFC broke up play and covered the passing lanes, frustrating the Columbus Crew all night. The best chance fell to Harrison Afful late, but TFC goalkeeper Alex Bono made a crucial save to keep it at 0-0.

Three moments that mattered

0′ — The starting lineup — In a game with chances few and far between, the tactical set-up by Greg Vanney – in which his side without Sebastian Giovinco and Jozy Altidore came out in a 4-1-4-1 formation – proved to be the difference in the game, frustrating the Crew all night.

52′ — Pedro Santos penalty kick no-call — Justin Meram plays a neat pass through the TFC backline that Santos runs on to, and he appears to be taken down in the box by Bono. Referee Robert Sbiga doesn’t blow the whistle and lets play continue, where Ola Kamara takes a shot that’s deflected away. Santos appeals for video review, and receives a yellow card for his efforts.

85′ — Big Save Bono — Gregg Berhalter’s 77th minute substitution to bring on Kekutah Manneh helped to push Afful higher up the field, which led to this late-game chance. Bono, who hadn’t had a whole lot to do, came up with a massive stop to keep the tie level.

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Man of the Match: Alex Bono, Toronto FC