US falls to Mexico in World Cup qualifying, 2-1

12 Aug

Mexico kept their unbeaten streak against the US alive on Wednesday, defeating the Americans 2-1 in a World Cup qualifying match.  The US is now 0-23-1 when playing in Mexico.  The US got the game off to an awesome start when Charlie Davies burned the Mexico defense to bury a goal in the ninth minute.  Mexico held the advantage in possession and tied the game in the 19th minute on a rocket shot from distance by Israel Castro.  The match was tied going into the second half and neither team had any really great looks at goal for a while.  However, Mexico finally beat the US defense and substitute Miguel Sabah scored the game-winner in the 82nd minute.

My conclusion from this game is that the US played okay (ground breaking stuff, I know).  They started off strong, grabbing an early goal and quieting the humongous  crowd at Azteca, but once again, they failed to protect a lead.  This is why I think the US couldn’t at least hold on for the draw:

Poor first touch – Mexico did an excellent job controlling the ball and passing it around.  It seemed like everytime the US finally got the ball back, they would turn it over immediately because they could not control the first touch.  The ball was bouncing a few feet in front of them very often.  When you play at this level, you should be able to control the ball well on the first touch the vast majority of the time.  Also, along the same lines, since Mexico maintained possession so well, it meant the US ran more which meant they expended more energy in the altitude.

Lack of a midfield – Every time the US tried to clear the ball, it went straight to a Mexican player.  The squad was not able to work the counter attack at all because the midfielders never saw the ball.  Granted, Landon Donovan did have the assist on Davies’ goal, but that was pretty much all you saw from him all game.  Michael Bradley didn’t do much except for a five-minute spell in the second half.  The US needed both those players to play well and step up in order to win and that didn’t happen.

Poor clearances – Now one reason that the midfielders never saw the ball is because the defenders didn’t get it to them.  It seemed like every time the US cleared the ball, they just whacked it down the field.  Obviously that’s the safe move, but inevitably the ball ended up at the feet of a Mexican player, which again led to the US running more and expending more energy.

A couple other thoughts:

  • I think Jonathan Spector should have started over Steve Cherundolo.  Cherundolo had a pretty decent game, but I think Spector is more of a threat to get forward and create scoring chances (remember, he had a couple awesome assists in the Confederations Cup).  The US didn’t get a lot of looks at goal and I think Spector could’ve added another dimension to the attack.  Plus, he’s a solid defender.
  • I think the referee was inconsistent.  Tackles that earned the US yellow cards got maybe a whistle for Mexico (for the most part).  I also think the two Mexico players that tried to drag Charlie Davies to his feet when he went down should’ve been carded and they weren’t, especially the one that grabbed him by the neck.  I also think the ref should have carded Ochoa for time wasting.  He took a ridiculous amount of time to take goal kicks after Mexico notched their second goal.
  • I think the US needs a win over El Salvador in their next qualifier.  They are still in good position in terms of qualifying for the World Cup, but now it’s been two straight losses to Mexico and the team needs to regroup and get back on the winning track.

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