Posted October 16, 2013

Three thoughts on the U.S.’s come-from-behind win and a crazy night in CONCACAF

2014 World Cup, U.S. men's national team, World Cup qualifying
The United States stunned Panama with two late goals to help Mexico reach the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand.

The United States stunned Panama with two late goals to help Mexico reach the intercontinental playoff against New Zealand. (RODRIGO ARANGUA/Getty Images)

Three thoughts on the U.S.’s 3-2 win over Panama in Tuesday’s World Cup qualifier, which means CONCACAF’s three automatic World Cup bids go to the U.S., Costa Rica and Honduras, while Mexico goes to a playoff against New Zealand and Panama and Jamaica are eliminated:

• The U.S. is an honest team. The U.S. could have packed up shop and settled for a 2-1 loss that would have eliminated archrival Mexico and kept alive Panama’s hopes for a first World Cup. But on the wildest night in CONCACAF history, the U.S.’s Graham Zusi scored a goal in the 92nd minute to save Mexico’s chorizo despite El Tri’s 2-1 loss at Costa Rica. Aron Jóhannsson’s goal a minute later silenced the Panamanian crowd and completed a comeback that tells you everything you need to know about the U.S. mentality. Now Zusi will get free drinks forever south of the border, and maybe, just maybe, the U.S. national anthem won’t get booed in the Azteca anymore. These are the nights when soccer gives you the kind of adrenaline rush you just can’t get anywhere else as a sports fan.

• Panama and Mexico really aren’t very good. Someone has to say it. CONCACAF’s World Cup qualifying format is so forgiving that a Mexico team with only 11 points from 10 Hexagonal games will still likely make it to the World Cup. With eight points (and just one win) from 10 games, the Panamanians have nobody to blame for their exit other than themselves. Panama dropped points at home to Jamaica, Costa Rica, Mexico and the United States. You can’t do that and expect to advance to your first World Cup. If you’re two minutes from a miraculous survival, how do you give up two goals in stoppage time at home? It’s hard to feel that badly for Panama when the Canaleros stumbled with such regularity.

• The U.S. learned a few things. Not only does the U.S. deserve a Fair Play award for pushing for the victory, but it also merits some credit for tying its Hexagonal record with a 22-point campaign. As was the case Friday, several U.S. players getting rare starts were unable to take much advantage of the opportunity to convince Klinsmann they have to be in the A-squad’s starting XI. Mix Diskerud had some bright moments passing the ball, but could have taken a few shots himself. Edgar Castillo committed a costly turnover in his own end that led to the first Panama goal. And Michael Orozco made up for some shaky defending with a set-piece goal. Keep an eye, though, on Jóhannsson, who came on as a sub and fired a missile into the Panamanian net at the end. In the years ahead, we won’t forget this night, but that will be due less to any specific performances than to the U.S.’s refusal to quit — even if it meant saving its greatest rival, Mexico.

77 comments
saabrian
saabrian

So Mexico can qualify for the World Cup with 2 wins in the final 12 qualifiers, while Egypt almost certainly won't qualify for the World Cup with 7 wins in its 8 qualifiers... sounds so absurd you'd think MLS thought it up.

Patrick31
Patrick31

This could be a huge turning point for CONCACAF.  In four years everybody is going to come in with a much nastier attitude to qualifiers. They will know there will be no freebies at the end and no one will lay down and "let you win"  even if the other team has nothing at stake.  Teams will fight even harder at the beginning of the second round so as not to put themselves at other team's mercy.  The mental toughness quotient for all  the teams will go way up, and the teams that make it out will be more battle tested.

CobyPreimesberger
CobyPreimesberger

also you look at panama's game at mexico where they tie it up and then give up the bicycle kick

DSM
DSM

I can't recall--and I am old-- a US team in any sport ever tanking a game to eliminate a competitor and I am glad, but not at all surprised, it did not happen last night.  Others should learn from our example.

I would love to see a strong US showing in Brazil, but frankly doubt we are superior at more than a few positions (if that) to the top 10 teams and that our defense can stand up to even lower ranked teams who have an outstanding scorer (as we have seen vs. Ghana).

Blinker
Blinker

USA!!!!!   USA!!!!!!!!!!!!   USA!!!!!!!!!

Rickapolis
Rickapolis

Mexico has been the only real competition for the US in CONCACAF. If they don't get better we have almost no difficult games. And that isn't good. Teams need to be tested.

eric.reiser.3
eric.reiser.3

I feel bad for Panama, but I can not fault our guys in the least bit for giving it their all. Very few players out there are guaranteed to make the WC roster.

Count me in the minority I guess, but I would prefer Mexico representing CONCACAF in Brazil. They have a much better chance of getting results. Panama would be likely to get 1 point. Also, I went to the Mexico/France match during my South Africa trip in 2010, and I actually had a really fun time hanging out with the Mexican fans.

macheath
macheath

oh, and for the Tri and Mexico?  De nada.

macheath
macheath

So we found out a few things:

1) no Beckerman in Brazil.  At fault on both Panama goals, looked out of place, pace and anticipation just aren't there.

2) Guzan is still the number two, a good one, but he's not displacing Howard based on performances so far.

3) Klinsi has got the mojo with substitutions.

4) Zusi may have played himself back on, and even as a starter, his energy and work rate, steady play were on display after some less than stellar performances.

espnrefugee0218
espnrefugee0218

Worth it just so mexican fans today will say  "Gracias Estados Unidos"  

Sean McMahon1
Sean McMahon1

If Jurgen is serious with all his "Brazil starts now" talk and the point is to win the World Cup, then letting the only team from CONCACAF that could beat us in Brazil into the tournament is pretty stupid.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

The US has got to clean up its back-line reliability if it hopes to advance beyond the second round in Brazil (or even that far, really).  Unreliable defense that gave up goals too quickly and forced the team to play from behind in all but one of its matches is what ultimately killed Bradley's team in South Africa, and in this cycle I've seen no evidence that issue has been fixed, or even improved upon at all.

tonyofanfield
tonyofanfield

I do like JK. give him time he will gather the more appropriate 23. Would love to have S Holden a aprt of the group :((

CincyHoya
CincyHoya

Great day of soccer all around yesterday.  I can't help but think that CONCACAF sets itself up to look bad by having the final group be the hex.  By definition, if 4 of 6 teams are going to qualify / go to a playoff, someone is going to have lost more than they have won and go through.  

Maybe it's time to open the hex to something else / something bigger so you actually have to win in the final stage to qualify.  I know the Blazer proposal wasn't loved as it would, in theory, often separate the US and Mexico, but it's much easier to justify two groups of 6 with the winners qualifying directly and maybe the 2nd place teams playing for direct qualification versus the play-in game, not unlike UEFA.

Imagine one hex of US / Panama / Honduras / Cuba / T&T / Guatemala and one with Mexico / CR / Haiti / Jamaica / DR / El Salvador.  Both of those groups feels not entirely dissimilar from Belgium / Croatia / Serbia / Scotland / Wales / Macedonia or Switzerland / Iceland / Slovenia / Norway / Albania / Cyprus.  You can't "back into" the WC - you have to win.  This actually would seem to give some of the mid-tier teams more of a chance and keep the US and Mexico much more honest.

Of course, this discourages $$$ (if you "seed" the top 2 teams, more often than not you'll separate the US and Mexico, and the confederation might lose one of the big 2 in the WC), but certainly seems fairer to form.

nolang34
nolang34

Grant - What about the extremely uninspired and frankly lazy play of Jozy Altidore? He gave up soo many balls in the Jamaica game and looked horribly lethargic and almost bored vs. Panama. I believe he is so overrated. When's the last time he scored a goal with his toe pointed down and striking the ball with his laces. Anyone on the US team can tap a ball in after someone else puts in all the work.

KenKing
KenKing

Diskerud bring to this team something no UNMNT has every had: poise in heavy traffic. Donovan may be the best US player historically, and has brilliant field vision. But Diskerud has a very unusual ability to see the filed in slow motion. He will be eons better when playing with a static line-up. He has had different peopel, with different tendencies , around him each game. Not to mention another incredibly lazy Altidore game. 3 times Altidore was offside reading a book or something, because he was not paying attention. If Diskerud never scores another US goal, he can still have a massive influence as one of the best enablers ever.

I am not JK, but this is the line-up he shoudl start in WC 2014

Deuce - Johansson

Donovan - Diskerud - Bradley - Zusi

Beasley - Besler - Gonzales - Chandler?


This could also morph into

Deuce

Donovan - Diskerud - Zusi

Cameron - Bradley

Beasley - Besler - Gonzales - Chandler?


or


Johansson

Donovan - Diskerud - Deuce

Cameron - Bradley

Beasley - Besler - Gonzales - Chandler?

This last line-up seemed to be what JK was trying to get at, in terms of shape. He has Altodore up top.  For all those who consider it sacrilege that I replace Altidore, remember when his defense  was that he was scoring so much for his club? Well, Johansson has taken over his spot on that team, and looks to destroy  his production. If Jozy is great because of his breakout club year, yet Johansson has a better year, for the same club, in the same position, then who should start?

The point is that Altidore makes Diskerud a worse player. Diskerud will feed Donovan, Deuce and Johansson with a ton of sublime opportunities. Altidore can be a great second half sub if we are playing a really physical defensive team


On another note, it looks like Brad Davis might have taken the spot I was reserving on the left for Brek Shea. Castillo- after a great midfield game last week - reminds us of how terrible a defender he is.

DerekOsley
DerekOsley

@saabrian You can't compare, because Mexico jumped through early qualifying, and so played the best CONCACAF teams (the Hex).  Egypt only played among the weakest teams in Africa, and then miserably failed their first real test (Ghana).  

jzx
jzx

@saabrian Bear in mind that these 6 teams where the finalists from a CONCACAF with 41 teams.  Also, CONCACAF gets the second lowest number of world cup spots (after the OFC) on a per country basis. They created this odd structure so that the US and Mexico would get to play one another and to avoid embarrassing games with scores like 10-0 due to the vast variation in regional talent.  The alternative would be to have two groups with the US in one and Mexico in the other, each full of weak teams like Belize. St. Lucia, Montserrat, etc.  In groups like that Mexico would have a winning record, so would Panama.  CONCACAF is a forgiving group not because it's overrepresented (statistically it's not), but because the Caribbean produces so many weak teams.  Look at Europe and weaklings like San Marino who got pounded for 54 goals.  All of the final 6 CONCACAF teams are pretty competitive.  Egypt basically beat weak teams until they came across Ghana.  I'd bet Egypt would have had great difficulty qualifying if they in CONCACAF.

AaronOjeda
AaronOjeda

@CobyPreimesberger I've yet to understand how 2 guys...Identical Twins for that fact (they say 2 heads are better than one)....could not think of telling the players to sit back and defend, defend, defend

DerekOsley
DerekOsley

@DSM That's putting it mildly.  I'll be cheering on the USA, but they are superior to the top 10 teams at exactly ZERO positions.  As usual for the USA it will be about organization, fitness and determination.

swidt
swidt

@Rickapolis Mexico's team is in disarray right now, but it won't last.  They will get better. 

juancarlosobando67
juancarlosobando67

Costa Rica 3 US 1 (the last three visits to Costa Rica).

Honduras 2 US 1.

The Gold Cup is played in US, so basically Mexico and the US are home teams (I'm not saying the the Gold Cup should be played somewhere else, but it kinda of biased to use that tournament as a yard stick of supremacy in the region).

You should be a little bit more humble for you are starting to sound like the mexican media.

But I agree with you that we need to look

KenKing
KenKing

@macheath Guzan got hung out to dry by his defense on both goals.The only difference between Guzan and Howard last night is that Howard would have gotten off the grass and proceeded to curse at his defenders and blame them for the following 10 minutes.

Like everyone else on the field, Guzan does not play in a vacuum. He needs to know the tendencies of the defenders in front of him, to gauge when to come off the line. He made a trio of really good saves last night. I am perfectly and completely happy with Guzan / Rimando / Johnson in the nets for WC 2014. Howard is a good keeper. But Guzan is every bit as good, and less of an annoying person. (And has another entire WC cycle in him, perhaps even 2).

AdrianGonzalez
AdrianGonzalez

@espnrefugee0218 Gracias Estados Unidos!! We recognize the professionalism of the Americans and the way they played last night! Now we have to figure out why we sucked so much during the past year... everything looked so bright a year ago...

BobDeGrande
BobDeGrande

@Sean McMahon1 Mexico can't be in our group, and if we are drawn against Mexico in the knockout rounds, we would be absolutely delighted with that draw compared to the other countries that we could have drawn.  Makes no sense.

SweetDickD
SweetDickD

@CincyHoya i agree.  CONCACAF should have 2.5 to 3 teams going, tops, given the quality of sides out there.  other federations could also use a paring down, to be fair and maintain a proportionate representation at world cup.

forwardever
forwardever

@nolang34 Without Altidore, the USA has no chance against teams with big strong defenders.  A big striker can be a huge advantage in a close physical game against a top European side or an African side with big strong defenders like a Nigeria or Burkina Faso.  Size and stregth does matter.  The penalty will not always be called. 

paul.alan.robertson
paul.alan.robertson

@nolang34 nooooo  kidding.  leehwgoc is spot on.  Altidore looks a million times better than he has in the past.  Last night wasn't an awful outing either.  He's holding up balls and laying off for midfielders who unfortunately aren't taking the shots.  Sure, he could have made a few more runs here and there, but after all, this game didn't matter much, and he still looked like a world-class target forward.  

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@nolang34 Altidore scored five goals for the US in this Hex campaign when the games actually mattered.  And he's scored recently in all manner of ways, including a free-kick.  He was an absolutely essential part of this extremely dominant Hex campaign.  Without his goals, the US would've had fully SEVEN LESS POINTS.  He scored the winners for two games and another that ensured a win instead of a draw.

Fans like you that only seem to have a functional memory that goes back no further than the last one or two games are so annoying.

sjaudey
sjaudey

@nolang34 thats how I used to think about Altidore but he has actually improved in my eyes.

ll316
ll316

@KenKing So Diskerud having a bad game means nothing to you, but Altidore having the 1st bad game in 2013 means everything?  Jozy is the only rational option for striker.  

paul.alan.robertson
paul.alan.robertson

@KenKing I think you're putting too much faith in Chandler coming back.  That spot's going to be either Cherundolo, if he makes it back from injury, or Brad Evans.  And people still aren't entirely sold on Beasley at LB.  I love his comeback, and he's looked good at times, but Castillo has too.  

RickPotts
RickPotts

@juancarlosobando67 Obviously you were not at the Baltimore US game during the Gold Cup.  Hardly a "home" game for the US.  80%-20% non US in the stadium.

saabrian
saabrian

@juancarlosobando67 "The Gold Cup is played in US, so basically Mexico and the US are home teams" ... Yes. But World Cup qualifiers are played home and away so everyone's the home team half the team. US won 8 of 10 in the final round... Mexico 2 of 10.

Doug1
Doug1

@juancarlosobando67 While I don't disagree that the Gold Cup is a home tournament for the US, and maybe Mexico too, I can't see CONCACAF moving it anytime soon.  There is too much money being made by it being played in the US.  Seriously, would anyone show up to watch Jamaica play Panama if the game was being played in Guatemala?  Not really, but you will get 20-30-40,000 in the US.  Plus the TV money.

leehwgoc
leehwgoc

@SweetDickD @CincyHoya

"other federations could also use a paring down"

What other federations are those, pray tell?  Because they certainly aren't UEFA, CONMEBOL, or CAF.

That just leaves the AFC, basically. 

You clearly have not thought this through.

KenKing
KenKing

@paul.alan.robertson @nolang34 Holding up balls? What game were you watching? He was holding up the game, for sure, but not by doing anything valuable. A striker should NEVER be offside flatfooted. Altidore does it all the time. 3 times in last night's game. Being offside is terrific if you mistimed a clever run by a slit second. When Altidore is offside it is usually because he is caught napping.

As for Altidore's goals, only 1 of the recent streak had anything to do with actual on the ball talent  or work. Another one was a nice free kick - but they call them free for a reason. The other 6 were all tap ins or volleys on which some other player ( Zusi twice) does all the work, and puts a ball across that your average U17 select player ought to be able to put in the back on the net.

For two years, all I have hears is, "But look what he is doing for AZ Alkmaar!"  Thing is, Johansson is blowing away Altidore's production as a first year starter and is on pace to match his production from that 'breakout' year of 2013. So if that is the only reason that we put up with all the lazy, what is the reason now that we have Johansson?

KenKing
KenKing

@ll316 @KenKing  What part of Diskerud's game last night was not three times better than Altidore's night? Did you actually watch the game? Diskerud was constantly back on defense, challenging for the ball, while Altidore could not even be bothered to be in an onside position. Diskerud made at least 6 incredibly sharp passes in and around the box - mostly to Altidore - that were completely bungled. Diskerud had the ball a number of times, looking for people to be in intelligent places, yet Altidore was inexplicably out on the wing, standing around and watching. Any criticism of Diskerud's game can be directly attributable to Altidore. They effectively played a 4-2-3-1 not a 4-4-2. Diskerud's job was to find Altidore and overlapping wings with passes, and he did that well enough for me.

JK subbed for Diskerud as the USMNT was behind at the time, and needed scoring. It was clear that there was zero chemistry between he and Altidore, so JK made a perplexing sub. But JKs subs have been awfully good over the past 6 months, so I am in no place to criticize. But to imply that Diskerud had a bad game last night it so admit that you do not understand soccer.

For the record, Altidore has been awful at Sunderland as well.

KenKing
KenKing

@paul.alan.robertson @KenKing  I agree on Chandler. That was why I had Chandler as a question mark. I like Evan's effort and he gives the US another tall head on set pieces. But he is a step slow against fast wings. I think I would prefer Dolo if he is healthy. I could also live with Fabian Johnson at LB.

Aside from backing up Guzan once, I cannot think of a single other time Castillo has done anything at all on defense, in the past year. When he looks good, it is him pretending to be a midfielder. I'd rather see Cameron at wing back. The US actually have plenty of midfield talent if all are healthy. What we need is a very stable back line

juancarlosobando67
juancarlosobando67

I agree with you! But that's the whole point: by taking care of business we have overlooked the competitiveness of our Confederation.

SweetDickD
SweetDickD

@KevinC @Sean McMahon1 @leehwgoc teams throw games.  in '78 peru threw a game to let argentina through... how about playing as many subs as possible? that is half-way throwing a game in a certain sense...

juancarlosobando67
juancarlosobando67

Did you read the part where I said: «It's hard to see that teams threw games nowday beacuse of the actual World Cup format»? Frankly, I don't quite understand the Spain example, but from what I remenber all the teams needed to win to advance to the next stage. Spain, the world champion, couldn't afford to threw that game. Honestly I do not remember what happened with France in 2006

juancarlosobando67
juancarlosobando67

The all mighty West Germay threw a game during to get an easier group in the next stage of the World Cup in 1974. I'm not saying that it should be done–and hats off to the US for not doing it last night-, but World Cup Champions have done that. It's pretty hard to see that nowdays for the Worl Cup format has changed.

That being said, as much as I would have like to see Mexico out of the Worl Cup (I love mexicas but I can't stand their journalist) Panamanias can only blame what happened last night to themselves.

KevinC
KevinC

@Sean McMahon1 @leehwgoc That sounds great except it's just not true. In the last three World Cups every single finalist won their third group game. In fact of those six teams Spain in 2010 and France in 2006 had to win their third game to advance but the other four could have advanced even with a loss yet they won their games. Good teams play hard and don't try to make it easier for themselves.

SweetDickD
SweetDickD

@leehwgoc @SweetDickD @CincyHoya 

frankly there are too many teams in the tournament that have no chance, much less any business, being in the tournament.  and these teams hail from all federations.  if what you are referring to is the likelihood of this happening, then yes this will never happen given the $$ at stake. FIFA is a business after all.   but what suffers is the quality of the tournament...

KenKing
KenKing

@ll316 @KenKing @paul.alan.robertson @nolang34 Take e a look at all of Altidore's goal in the past 12 months with USMNT.  A grand total of one required him to actually maneuver past a defender and score. Wondo scored a hat trick in the Gold Cup as well, and all were mop up goals in the goal box, just like most of Altidore's goals in that streak. All that streak means is that Altidore was able to take advantage of soccer skills of his teammates for 6 consecutive games. He adds absolutely nothing to this team if he is not standing inside the penalty spot.