It made me laugh a bit when I opened up BigSoccer today and saw an ad on the home page where you could get 40% off on Mexican National Team jerseys, and the jersey pictured was that of Rafa Marquez.
I wonder if that deal comes with a condition that your new Marquez jersey will only be around for 65 minutes before disappearing.
US Men’s National Team coach Bob Bradley has to be happy today, having gotten everything he could have wanted from Wednesday night’s 2-0 win over Mexico in rainy, windy Columbus, Ohio.
I say that because Bradley not only got the win, beat a rival, collected three points, and got a great start to the final round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying, but he also has sticking points to go over with his team in preparation for the March 28 match at El Salvador, followed by the match in Nashville on April 1 vs. Trinidad & Tobago.
The majority of those sticking points should be getting the team to better understand how to kill off a game. You may think this is a trivial or even unnecessary point, given that Michael Bradley got his second goal of the game (yes, that Michael Bradley) in stoppage time to create the much beloved 2-0 margin.
But to me, the US really didn’t play that well in the final quarter-hour. They insisted on playing high balls in the attacking half, at the point where the wind was at its worst. This led to giving away possession and giving Mexico unnecessary and undeserved opportunities with the ball – especially down a man after the aforementioned Marques was sent off for his challenge on US goalkeeper Tim Howard with 25 minutes of normal time left. Mexico may not have been especially dangerous on the ball, but they shouldn’t have gotten it as much as they did. It was a well-worked play that led to Bradley’s second goal – but prior to that, the US was missing passes needlessly and taking chances that simply weren’t required given the game situation. Mexico also were more physical in this stretch of the match and that’s something the US will undoubtedly have to deal with again in later matches during the Hex.
Aside from this point, however, I thought the US as a whole played well. Heath Pearce might have been the only player I was slightly disappointed in. I think DaMarcus Beasley played well and tried hard, but didn’t seem to connect well with teammates in open play at times. This can be forgiven, however, considering it was his corner kick that led to the first goal.
The moral of the story of course is that any win over Mexico is sweet – more so by the 2-0 score – and any time you get three points in qualifying, you take them happily and move on. But in that it was far from a perfect performance, Bradley and the US team should have plenty of reason to focus on what can be improved heading into these next two matches.
What must be remembered is that as nice as the win over Mexico is, it was but one skirmish in a war featuring 10 battles. Continual improvement will ensure the US doesn’t at some point give back anything it rightfully earned on Wednesday.