Esquece Brasil: Resisting the temptation to see U.S. failure in Mexico’s success

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U.S. Men’s National Team fans better hope this doesn’t become an annual occurrence, because even though El Tri played 1,450 miles from Toronto on Sunday, they still found a way to upstage the United States.

It was the same last year, when Mexico stormed back in Pasadena to claim the Gold Cup. Two years ago, an experimental Mexico side routed a trial U.S. team in East Rutherford. Now the teams don’t even need to be in the same country for Mexico to trump the U.S.? This is getting ridiculous.

That’s part of the flotsam from the USMNT’s disappointment in Toronto, the 0-0 draw coming four hours after Mexico had defeated Brazil in Arlington. In front of 84,512 (a state record for soccer), Mexico got a fortunate opener when Giovanni dos Santos’s cross-turned-shot beat Rafael. Eleven minutes later, Juan gave away a penalty which, buried by Javier Hernandez, provided the final margin. An outstanding performance from El Tri’s defense kept Brazil off the scoresheet.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jYWej2SiR4]

Given the difficulties the United States had against Brazil on Wednesday, the contrast couldn’t be more stark. Mexico, a team with an ascending young core, is moving on to bigger and better challenges. The United States, in transition, has its hands full against CONCACAFers struggling to qualify for World Cups.

That would be the most pro-Mexico way of looking at Sunday’s results, and unfortunately for USMNT backers, it’s probably not far from the truth. It would, however, be a mistake to assume the results mean the U.S. is somehow regressing. At least, it would be a mistake to assume the U.S. is regressing in a broad way (relative to  countries other than Mexico).

source: Getty ImagesU.S. (men’s) soccer culture often creates this ridiculous rhetorical gambit. It not only almost exclusively compares their national team to Mexico’s but also construes it as a zero-sum game. If the U.S. is ascending, Mexico must be struggling, and vice-versa. The countries can’t be improving at the same time because they define themselves in terms of each other. Right?

Of course not. As we’re reminded every time Mexico plays a Brazil or Argentina, El Tri have other teams in their world view. The United States is their biggest rival and a benchmark of sorts, but it’s not their only standard, a view that should serve them well as they prepare for 2014. With a collection of talent set to peak near-simultaneously, Mexico is positioning themselves to challenge for CONCACAF’s first World Cup semifinal spot since 1930. Were they merely content with besting the United States, Mexico would have little hope of meeting escalating expectations.

The U.S. can’t be expected to match those expectations. Anything can happen, but if USMNT fans want to compare the U.S.’s progress with what may prove to be an unprecedented time in Mexican soccer history, it will be hard to notice any progress Jurgen Klinsmann makes. The U.S. could make another World Cup quarterfinal, but if El Tri makes the final four, there’ll be naive detractors who dwell on the U.S. losing ground to Mexico.

As ludicrous as that sounds, that sentiment comes for the same place that spawns this weekend’s comparisons. Mexico did better in their friendly than the U.S. did in theirs, and if you feel the need to make a direct comparison, then yes, it doesn’t look good for the U.S. But that sure seems like a long way to go to make a comparison which, no matter how recently the teams played Brazil, is still dependent on friendlies contested with vastly different goals. The United States is still laying its foundation. Mexico, however, is testing out a near-finished product.

At some point, it might be easier to judge Mexico and the States on their own merits. It makes more sense than continuously comparing them to each other.

World record-holding manager Gutendorf dies at 93

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The world record holder for most teams managed has died at the age of 93.

Rudi Gutendorf, who managed in the United States with the NASL’s St. Louis Stars (1968), last managed in 2003 when he led the Samoa national team.

[ MORE: Maguire shining for Man Utd ]

Those are two of 55 teams he led onto the pitch, 22 of which were national teams. He led teams from CONCACAF (Trinidad and Tobago), CAF (Ghana), CONMEBOL (Chile), OFC (Fiji), and AFC (Australia).

The German-born Gutendorf did a lot of his club work in Europe, leading clubs as big as Hamburg, Schalke, Real Valladolid, and Hertha Berlin.

Gutendorf managed Rwanda in the wake of the country’s dark civil war. From DW.com:

“Such hate, you cannot believe. I was able to unite these two tribes to play football, and good football,” he said in a 2013 interview of the mixed Rwandan team of Hutu and Tutsi players.

What a fascinating career Gutendorf had, and the stories he’s told.

Man Utd’s Maguire “showed what a man he is” versus Leicester

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Manchester United is still working to find its form as a team, but center back Harry Maguire continued his run of fine performances when the Red Devils beat his former team on Saturday.

United beat Leicester City 1-0 on the day, a Marcus Rashford penalty the difference, but Maguire and fellow new back Aaron Wan-Bissaka were again exceptional.

[ RECAP: Man Utd 1-0 Leicester City ]

Ashley Young has been through a few iterations of Manchester United, and the long-time club offered up lofty words to credit Maguire’s contributions to the team.

“Again he showed today what a man he is,” Young said. “You know, I think the manager’s said about him, he talks non-stop, he’s a real leader and he can play as well.”

Maguire won five aerial battles and two tackles while completing 83 percent of his passes and managing two shots against his former side (WhoScored). On the season, only Anthony Martial has consistently been more important to the team.

He also did not record a loss of possession, and seemingly was unbothered by plenty of criticism from the traveling fans. From The Manchester Evening News:

“I don’t think it bothers (Maguire) whatsoever,” said Manchester United boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. “You’ve got to be that way and when you play, when you coach, when you manage, we don’t get carried away when we win a game that we maybe didn’t deserve to win, but we don’t get in the dumps when we don’t win.”

Solskjaer also loved Maguire and Victor Lindelof for their performance against pesky Leicester star Jamie Vardy.

“I’ve got loads of admiration for Vardy,” Solskjaer said. “I think he’s my type of centre forward, runs in in behind, harasses and you’ve got to be spot on with the decision-making, when to stay up, when to drop off, and both of them proved their worth today. There were a couple of races and Harry did well.”

Maguire didn’t love being on the other side of Vardy, either.

“It was tough playing against Jamie,” he said. “I’ve played with him for two years and he is a top player who can terrorize defenses when he is on his game. … We knew it was important to get the win, especially after the international break. We have to build on a solid base and we want to keep clean sheets, especially at Old Trafford. We are always going to score goals with the attacking talent we have.”

United hosts Kazakhstan’s Astana on Thursday in the Europa League before visiting West Ham United on Sept. 22.

Watch Live: Bournemouth v. Everton

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Dominic Calvert-Lewin gets the start up top as Everton looks to take down hosts Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

Alex Iwobi, Gylfi Sigurdsson, and Richarlison join Calvert-Lewin in attack for the Toffees, who can go fourth with a win.

WATCH LIVE, ONLINE, HERE

Bournemouth enters the day in 16th, a point ahead of the bottom three, but can rise into the top half with a win. Early season vibes.

LINEUPS

Bournemouth: Ramsdale, Rico, Ake, Cook, Stacey, Solanke, Billing, L. S. Cook, Wilson, King, Wilson. Subs: Boruc, Surman, Lerma, Ibe, Fraser, Simpson, Mepham.

Everton: Pickford, Digne, Mina, Keane, Coleman, Delph, Schneiderlin, Iwobi, Sigurdsson, Richarlison, Calvert-Lewin. Subs: Stekelenburg, Holgate, Walcott, Sidibe, Bernard, Davies, Kean.

USWNT legend O’Reilly scores stunner on night to honor her career

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USWNT hero and North Carolina Courage playmaker Heather O’Reilly gave her special day its just desserts.

The 34-year-old New Jersey native scored a sweet goal late in North Carolina’s 6-1 demolition of Orlando Pride on Saturday night, which just so happened to be the evening chosen to celebrate her 17-year career.

[ MORE: Fan banned from all NWSL games ]

O’Reilly dribbled down the left before cutting to the middle and slashing a shot across the goal and inside the far post.

She has 231 USWNT caps with 47 goals, a Women’s World Cup crown, three Olympic gold medals, three top-flight domestic titles, two Women’s College Cups, and an FA Cup with Arsenal Ladies.

The Courage have four matches left in the regular season and look set to again be the No. 1 seed, so O’Reilly may yet have more memorable moments left in her playing career.