US-Mexico games that matter for something, even the CONCACAF Nations League, are usually more than just a result. They comment on where each program is at the time, and where each is going most of the time. Thursday night’s semifinal may be the most definitive statement on both, including some things that had nothing to do with the game. I promise, we will get through this, no matter how long the road is.
We’ll start with Mexico, who were aggressive both on the field and in the stands. It’s not quite clear that L Tri (which is their name now until they prove otherwise) was trying to accomplish both the small and the big picture. The team never looked dangerous on the field, had all shots on target that were more than a suggestion, and there was no thought about breaking the American team that should have been broken. The US had no defensive midfielder in their lineup, and Geo Reyna, Younes Musah and Weston McKennie all rotated into the deepest midfield role. But none of them are number 6, and there should have been gaps, and there were. With a team of sniffer dogs and a helicopter, Mexico could not find any of them. This was a team that had no GPS or sense of direction.
Big picture, this wasn’t even a transitional Mexico team, which would have at least been an excuse to be completely out. Not that Mexico appeared ready to take its lumps to move on to a new generation that would at least gain some experience and lessons for the big fight in 2024 and 2026. Only two of the 10 outfield players were under 25. Where is it going in three years?
Of course, the one tradition this Mexico side was able to maintain was acting like Veruca Salt on a Coke binge (the character, not the band, though the band could very well have been anything on a Coke binge back in the day). When it was clear they were kicking their ass up and around their chins. Cesar Montes kicked off the pants-pissing in Falorin Balogun with the most petulant kick-out in recent memory.
From there the rest of the Mexican team spent half an hour kicking and shoving and yelling at whatever went on, because they certainly couldn’t get anything going that involved the ball. They were lucky to only lose three and finish the game 9-on-9 as CONCACAF refereeing ruled that the US only had to receive two red cards for Vibes. If the match had been reduced to 11-on-9 in America’s favor, which it should have been, Mexico could have lost by a touchdown and deservedly so.
But as is also Mexican football tradition, the fans’ performance in the stands was more disappointing than the team’s performance alone. Not only did he repeatedly throw objects at American players after the game was over, but he insisted on continuing his decades-old fascination with homophobic chanting after every goal kick. This caused the referee, Ivan Barton, to stop the match once near injury time of the second half, and then to end it eight minutes later (and five minutes earlier), when it became clear that the Mexican fans who The survivors were not going to stop.
This is Mexico now, and has been for some time. A veteran in the game only in his mind, having really accomplished nothing and yet unable to come to terms with the fact that he needs a complete rethink. Yet another manager, Diego Koka this time, has been unable to control his players when things go sideways nor provide any ideas on how to prevent those things from going sideways. All this is shown by a fanbase that refuses to learn anything, and a federation that refuses to control them, meaning they are never justly punished in a way that makes any difference. Could It’s all donkey.
For the USMNT, it has been a long time since they overpowered an opponent like they did here. may have gone down with christian pulisic Worst miss in recent USMNT historyBut he was able to make amends after only a few minutes when Mexico decided to play him through himself.
The US wasn’t particularly great in the first half with Mexico employing straight back fives, but neither did they ever look out of control. Once that plan didn’t work for Mexico, they came under pressure in the second half. Well, exactly once the pressure was on, because once they did, America came up with this:
How easy was that?
America certainly showed the unity and sparkle of some real neat and sometimes dazzling football while more often than not being cute by the half. Falorin Balogun made his national team debut, and showed some good touch and intelligent running, while still looking like he had something fitting to do. Tim Weah was a threat, Pulisic was probably the best player on the field, and Miles Robinson was able to basically settle back into his centerback spot after his Achilles injury. All good news. As this team has always been, it’s consistently been able to surprise while also being pretty awesome to put together.
Greg Berhalter getting his job back?
As was the theme of the night, there was major news off the field for the USMNT as well, as US Soccer did something with a Friday afternoon news dump. reports leaking out He Greg Berhalter Is Actually Getting His Job Back,
It would be high comedy for US Soccer to spend six months and the cost of a search firm only to land on a guy who was already working when the process began. There was certainly a fair amount of groaning in the bar I was in as the news spread during the first half. Berhalter isn’t an inspiring choice, but he isn’t a terrible one either. He has the support of the players, he has his own strengths (and weaknesses). He also provides an easy out, if US Soccer was ever in the mood to pay the coach to walk away. If Berhalter ends up presiding over next summer’s Copa America with utter nonsense, it will be far more inventive and easier to baffle him than someone who was only hired a year ago. That tournament is a prime opportunity for Berhalter to show some tactical development, as the US should really only lose to Argentina or Brazil. If he doesn’t then the way should be clear (rhymes with rap partiola).
Boy, 90 minutes is a lot to cram in, huh?
Follow Sam on Twitter @felsgate To watch him crow about how Luca de la Torre is actually better than McKennie anyway.