Friday, March 29, 2013

A lucky night in Mexico City

Had you done nothing but read accounts of the USA-Mexico soccer game the other night, you would have thought the Yanks made one sustained courageous stand against El Tri and were triumphant for picking up a point in their qualifying pool as a result of the 0-0 draw.

I happened to watch the game and the reality is the USA got their point not because of their tactics, but in spite of them.

The Mexicans controlled possession throughout the game. They took 17 shots on goal while the Yanks took one. The Mexicans had 15 corner kicks (including three in the game's closing minutes) while the USA had all of one.

And before anyone praises the defensive effort, I would ask that you watch a replay of the match. If you do you will see that the Mexicans missed three or four shots that should have found their way into the back of the net. The Yanks also got lucky in that there were two incidents that could have resulted in penalty kicks that weren't called. Had any one of those balls found its way into the goal, we'd be reading stories proclaiming doom on the team's chances to reach the World Cup in 2014.

In a game in which one bad bounce can spell the difference between a satisfactory result and a loss, a team can't afford to pack it in on defense and completely ignore the final third of the pitch.

As things stand the Americans can't afford to get into a shootout with anyone because they have no firepower. And, should they fall behind, it's going to be a long, hard slog to get things even again.

There is little or no creativity in the midfield. There is no one with any killer instinct sitting up top ready to poach any ball coming into the box. There is very little flow between the midfield and the attacking players.

In short, the US national team is in trouble. Jurgen Klinsmann, who was brought in to replace Bob Bradley as coach, has done little to turn this squad into a team that looks like a threat to make it through the group stage in Brazil.

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