Posted on: June 25, 2011 10:14 am

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 Final - USA-Mexico III

This is what we've been waiting for. For the third time in as many tournaments, the USA and Mexico will meet in the Gold Cup final (Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA - 9PM EST - Fox Soccer Channel/Univision). To say that this final was expected is like saying my Dad's Powerball lotto ticket is going to lose this week. It's a shocker when this final doesn't happen (or when my Dad actually gets like $1 on ticket) but to say that the road these two teams took was a little rocky might be generous.

HOW WE GOT HERE: The USA struggled mightily in the group phase after a solid 2-0 win over Canada by losing 2-1 to Panama and beating Guadeloupe 1-0 in a game that was devoid of any finishing by the USA. But since those two games the USA has been much improved, stonewalling a red-hot Jamaica team 2-0 in the quarters before extracting revenge on a tough Panama squad 1-0 in the semis. Mexico on the other hand steamrolled to a 3-0 record in the group phase, but hasn't been at its best in the knockout rounds, giving up an early goal to Guatemala (a game they trailed 1-0 at the half) and needing extra time to find their finish touch in a 2-0 win over Honduras, who's probably the third best team in the region.

So does momentum mean anything going into this game? No, not in my opinion. Both teams are still playing well, they're both confident and this is a rivalry game. Neither of these teams like each other very much. Momentum and confidence and form go right out the window when the teams walk out onto the field.


A trip to Brazil for the 2013 Confederations Cup, a World Cup tuneup that I covered in South Africa back in 2009. For those that remember, the USA beat Spain in the semis and led Brazil 2-0 and might have played the best three halves of soccer in USA history. And while success in the Confed Cup doesn't mean success in the World Cup, it is an oppurtunity to represent CONCACAF and play with the best in the world for a two weeks. That experience couldn't hurt.


[1] - Stop Javier Hernandez - Perhaps contain is a better word. Hernandez is a poacher, you don't want him with the ball anywhere near the 18 so he can shoot. Do I care if he makes a run down the wing, sure, but that means he's distributing the ball and not on the recieving end of a dangerous cross. The center of the US lines (Bradley, Jones, Bocanegra, Goodson) will have to be on top of their games and stay organized for all 90 minutes because one tiny mistake could be all it takes in this one.

[2] - Use the wings - The USA's best options for attack, especially if Bob Bradley is going to use a 4-5-1/4-2-3-1, are out wide. If you saw the USA's goal against Panama you'll know why. The US has always been best out wide in open space and when they struggled in the 4-4-2, they seemed content to go straight up the middle. Since that tactical change, the USA attack seems to be much more potent.

[3] - FINISH! - Mexico is not going to give up chances easily asn the USA has to put those chances on goal. Mexico lost thier top keeper Guillermo Ochoa to suspension along with four other players, forcing backup Alfredo Talavera into net for the last four games. While Talavera has been good, he's not as experienced in the international level and has just a total of five caps, four during this tournament.


[1] - Patience - Mexico is going to have to break down the USA formation to generate chances. That means that most of them, especially in the latter stages of the game will be stuffed. But that shouldn't deflate anyone on the Mexico side, especially considering how tight Mexico has played in their last two matches.  

[2] - Don't get countered - The USA isn't exactly known for its counter play, but against Mexico, that might be their best option to score. Mexico has an attacking mentality and this might be the first team Mexico has played in this tournament to exploit the El Tri defense on the counter. This might mean marking the USA wingers, Dempsey and/or Donovan throughout the match if necessary.

[3] - ATTACK! - Mexico has played the last two games of the knockout stages in a very timid manner in my opinion. That is not their best football, but that 10 minute surge against Honduras in the first half of extra time was. Mexico is not a team that should be sitting back playing defense, even with a lead. They're best going forward and trying to extend their lead, not protecting it. And since the USA is known for slow starts, a quick goal to start things off is always a good thing.


The USA won the last meaningful final between these two teams in 2007 and earned CONCACAF's last Confederations Cup berth. Mexico destroyed a "B" squad for the USA in the 2009 final, a 5-0 thrashing that pretty much everyone saw coming. I wouldn't say there is a revenge factor for this game, but the rivalry factor will be as high as the 2002 World Cup Round of 16 matchup. Niether team can get caught up in the moment and turn this game into a cardfest.

Eric Lichaj, USA, LB - Has Bob Bradley found the solution to the Yank's left-back problem?
Aldo de Negris, MEX, FW - Tremendous striker for El Tri that came off the bench and scored the equalizer agaisnt Guatemala and has four goals overall in the tournament.
Tim Howard, USA, GK - Best keeper in the region, the one true advantage the USA has today.
Javier Hernandez, MEX, FW - Might've heard of him, goes by Chicharito, plays for Man U, scores every game.
Jermaine Jones, USA, MF - Another pleasant suprise, a great pairing in central mid with Michael Bradely.

Category: Soccer
Posted on: June 18, 2011 3:30 pm

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 - Quarterfinal Preview

Of the four quarterfinal matchups this weekend I am confident in predicting only one winner, and those who have been following the tournament probably know who that is. Mexico is by far the favorite to win the tournament and there isn’t another team playing anywhere near the level the Group A champions displayed in the group phase.

With that said, let’s preview the weekend quarterfinal matchups…

SATURDAY, JUNE 18 – New Meadowlands Stadium, E. Rutherford, NJ
[A2-CRC] Costa Rica vs. Honduras [HON-B2]

The soccer gods are particularly cruel to these two teams in this matchup. These two sides battled it out for the third spot in “The Hex” for the 2010 World Cup with Honduras advancing and Costa Rica losing in a playoff to Uruguay. Both teams have been less than impressive so far in this tournament and both had identical results in the group phase by blowing out the fourth place team, drawing the third and losing to the winners, while finishing second over the third place team on GD.

I’d have to give a slight edge to Costa Rica here. All of Honduras’ seven goals in the tournament so far came against Grenada in a 7-1 blowout. Costa Rica hasn’t been impressive by any means, but they did score against Mexico in their last game while Honduras was shut out for second time in the Gold Cup by a reserve laden Jamaica squad. Don’t be surprised if this one gets chippy and makes it to extra time and/or penalties.

[A1-MEX] Mexico vs. Guatemala [GUA-B3] 

The only true mismatch of the quarterfinal stage in my opinion mainly because Mexico is on fire. Javier Hernandez can’t stop scoring and Guatemala doesn’t have the horses to stay with El Tri. With that said, Mexico needs to open the game up fast. If they allow Guatemala to hang around into the second half, Carlos Ruiz, Marco Pappa and the Guatemala attack might have just enough to punch home a goal. If Mexico gets out to an early lead and forces Guatemala to press more men forward, the counter attack will be wide open and this game could over after an hour.

SUNDAY, JUNE 19 – RFK Stadium, Washington D.C.
[B1-JAM] Jamaica vs. United States [USA-C2]

Another cruel matchup pits the streaking Reggae Boys of Jamaica against the USA. Jamaica rolled through a relatively weak Group B and its reward is a struggling USA side that slogged its way to a runner up finish in Group C. If the USA has their act together and shows up for all 90 minutes, this will be a great game I think. Lucky for the US, they’re hosting this tournament because if this game was in Jamaica tomorrow I don’t know if the USA wins it.

There are two keys to this game; First, how will the USA left match up against Dane Richards and the Jamaica 3-5-2 formation? Landon Donovan and the US left back (likely Steve Cherundolo) will have their hands full with the speedly NY Red Bulls winger and Donovan will also have to spend a lot more time up front, where he’s been MIA all tournament. If the USA can win this matchup, it will likely free up a ton of chances for Dempsey, Altidore and the rest of the USA but that brings me to the second key to the game…
Can the USA finish inside the 18? Somehow the USA defeated Guadeloupe on a thunderous strike from Jozy Altidore at the top of the box. But it’s the USA’s finishing inside the area that has been atrocious. I know Bob Bradley has been giving a lot of players looks up front at striker/forward due to lack of performance, but maybe it’s time to stick to one player next to Altidore up front.

[C1-PAN] Panama vs. El Salvador [SLV-A3]

This is another interesting matchup despite the differences in the two teams standing in their respective groups. El Salvador’s shining moment came in their near upset of Costa Rica, but a last minute equalizer by the Ticos meant that game finished in a draw. Panama pulled off a stunning upset of the USA, but have otherwise been largely unimpressive in my opinion.

Without sounding like a bitter USA fan, Panama was lucky to win Group C. They allowed Guadeloupe back into a game they were up 3-0, lucked out that the USA couldn’t buy another goal in the second half and got a last minute equalizer to draw and eliminate Canada. I still think that Panama’s striker duo of Perez and Tejada will be able to push the Red Tide into the semi-finals.

Posted on: June 5, 2011 3:18 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 3:19 pm

CONCACAF Gold Cup 2011 - Group A Preview

Costa Rica [CRC] – Rankings (FIFA – 53 / Elo – 43)
Nicknames - Ticos, La Sele
Qualification – UNCAF (Central America) – 2nd Place
CONCACAF Championships – 3 (1963, 1969, 1989)

Costa Rica have become as close to a regional power as you can get in CONCACAF. They qualified for the World Cup in 2002 and 2006 and have made the knockout stages of the Gold Cup in the last six tournaments dating back to 2000. Their best finish in the “modern” Gold Cup was a runner-up finish to the USA in 2002. RSL striker Alvaro Saborio will likely lead the attack for Costa Rica, whose roster features a nice mix of domestic and internationally based players. Their first two matchups will be against Cuba and El Salvador and two wins would secure a knockout berth before ending the group stage against Mexico.

Cuba [CUB] – Rankings (FIFA – 65 / Elo – 98)
Nicknames – Leones del Caribe
Qualification – CFU (Caribbean) 3rd Place
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 5 Appearances, Quarters in 2003

If you’re looking for a darkhorse, Cuba is it. Why? Because we hardly know anything about them. They have an entire roster of domestically based players and don’t exactly play a lot of friendly matches. Their record in the CFU Championship was very impressive as the 5<sup>th</sup> seed, winning both of their qualification groups (defeating and eliminating Trinidad & Tobago in the process) before losing in the semi-finals to Guadelope.

El Salvador [SLV] – Rankings (FIFA – 87 / Elo – 94)
Nicknames – Los Cuscatlecos
Qualification – UNCAF (Central America) 4th Place
CONCACAF Gold Cup – 6 Appearances, Quarters in 2002, 2003

El Salvador is an interesting team, featuring a squad of almost all domestic players. There are two MLS players on the squad, Timbers D Steve Purdy and RSL M Arturo Alvarez but the rest of the players are largely unknowns. 2011 Copa Centroamericana (UNCAF’s qualifying tournament for the Gold Cup) Golden Boot winner F Rafael Burgos did not make the roster. Don’t expect a lot of noise from this side if they make it to the knockout stages.

 Mexico [MEX] – Rankings (FIFA – 28 / Elo – 12)
Nickname – El Tri
Qualification – NAFU (North America) – Automatic
CONCACAF Championships – ’65, ’71, ’77, ’93, ’96, ’98, ’03, ‘09 

The defending champions are set to defend their title and this might be one of the best teams they’ve fielded in several years. A good mix of domestic and internationally based players, US fans should be familiar with NY Red Bulls M/D Rafael Marquez and Manchester United F Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. They just mopped up New Zealand in a friendly 3-0 in Denver on June 1st and drew with Ecuador 1-1 in Seattle on May 28th.

Standings (W-D-L, Pts, GD)                                   Results

MEX – 2-1-0, 7pts, +5                                               CRC 2-0 CUB
CRC – 2-1-0, 7 pts, +4                                              MEX 3-0 SLV
CUB – 1-0-2, 3 pts, -3                                                CRC 2-0 SLV
SLV – 0-0-3, 0 pts, -6                                                CUB 1-3 MEX
                                                                                           SLV  0-1 CUB
                                                                                          MEX 2-2 CRC

I expect to see Mexico and Costa Rica to have the top two spots wrapped up before they playmaking that final game meaningless. I think El Salvador and Cuba are just overmatched in this particular group. I haven’t figured out the other two groups so I won’t know if Cuba will be advancing in the third place tiebreaker but I’d be stunned to see Mexico or Costa Rica out in the group stages.

Posted on: June 22, 2010 6:55 am
Edited on: June 22, 2010 7:01 am

World Cup 2010 - Group A Kncokout Scenarios

Group A

Sorry guys, been a little hectic the past few weeks and I haven’t been able to post much of anything. Since I was behind I decided to change up my original idea and do a massive recap/preview for each team before the group stages. Except I’m writing these very early in the morning about three hours before the games start, which I won’t be able to watch anyway. Good times. Anyway, here’s Group A, Group  B to follow, and it includes brief recaps and knockout stage scenarios for each team (more or less).

Uruguay (1-1-0, 4 pts, +3 GD)
Matches – URU 0-0 FRA; RSA 0-3 URU; MEX vs. URU
Knockout Scenario – Wins Group with Win/Draw vs. Mexico

I did get to see Uruguay’s game vs. France and was very impressed with their defensive organization in that game and really for the whole tournament. They have put themselves in a great position to advance out of the group phase and they’ve done it relatively quietly. Only a diehard could appreciate their epic defense against France and then solid finishing against South Africa in their last game. But, they only need a tie to win the group and Mexico will be playing for the win and the second place team gets Argentina, who’s red hot in the next round.

Mexico (1-1-0, 4 pts, +2 GD)
Matches – RSA 1-1 MEX; FRA 0-2 MEX; MEX vs. URU
Knockout Scenario – Win Group with Win vs. URU / Adv. With Draw

El Tri must be kicking themselves with the opening match draw against hosts South Africa. This puts them in a must win situation to avoid the aforementioned Argentina in the next round. Mexico put it all together against France after struggling for most of the South Africa game, but can they continue that trend? Even with a loss, Mexico and Uruguay have a solid cushion in the goal differential tiebreakers and it would take two lop-sided games to knock one of them out of the knockout stages.

France (0-1-1, 1 pts, -2 GD)
Matches – URU 0-0 FRA; FRA 0-2 MEX; FRA vs. RSA
Knockout Scenario – Win AND make up tiebreaker (GD) against MEX/URU

Les Bleus should change their nicknames to Les Miserables. Shame on you if none of you get that joke. Anyway, France is a mess. Their entire team mutinied on Sunday, their front office has no idea what’s going on and they need a win and help to move on. And they have to do it in front of a home crowd armed with vuvuzelas and looking at the exact same scenario. But could France win and make up 4 goal on Mexico, hard to say no.

South Africa (0-1-1, 1 pts, -3 GD)
Matches – RSA 1-1 MEX; RSA 0-3 URU; FRA vs. RSA
Knockout Scenario – See France

The host find themselves in an even tougher position than France, as they are even lower in the goal differential. This means they need a win and 5 goals to make up against Mexico and 6 against Uruguay. Highly unlikely that this will happen but South Africa doesn’t want the dubious honor of the first host country to not make it out of the group phase.

I'd like to point out that my wingman, mattries, correctly predicted this on his comment to my Group A preview. Going off my original predictions, I have both games ending in draws, but that was with Mexico and Uruguay having wrapped up the Group by winning the first two games. Either way, I did predict Uruguay would have the edge on goal differential and I still like both Uruguay and Mexico to advance, in that order.

Posted on: June 12, 2010 12:26 pm

World Cup 2010 - Group A Recap

The World Cup has begun and sadly I missed both games live on Friday but found out I didn’t miss all that much. The only soccer I watched yesterday was as an asst. referee for a U-15 friendly in my hometown for a primer travel league. But, as I found out later, I really didn’t miss all that much, even hearing from a parent that the France-Uruguay game “set back soccer 20 years.” Seems a bit harsh, but I’m not going to watch the whole replay on ESPN3.com to find out. And fear not, my Group G and H previews are still in the works and knockout bracket is filled out as well.

Anyway, let’s get to the recaps for Group A.

South Africa [RSA] 1 – 1 [MEX] Mexico

A dream start for the hosts in the second half saw Siphiwe Tshabalala put the Bafana Bafana ahead in the 55th minute, only to see Rafael Marquez equalize just over ten minutes from time. The draw easily favors the host side, as now El Tri must face their two toughest opponents in their next two games. South Africa still need a victory, but now the rest of the group knows they aren’t going down without a fight.

KEY PLAY: Asst. Referee correctly called offsides on a Mexican goal with S. African keeper off his line. The confusion of the rule, compounded by the ESPN commentators, is understandable. However, as a certified USSF referee, the rule states “second to last defender” and clearly there was only one defender.

France [FRA] 0 – 0 [URU] Uruguay

Clearly not much to go on here other than France is clearly struggling. Uruguay probably is satisfied with a share of the points and are in much better shape to advance than Mexico as of right now. France’s fixture with Mexico now become that much more important in terms of who advances in the group.

KEY PLAY: The final whistle.

Again, as I correctly predicted in my group A preview, the final set of matches are going to be very key for the group. And since all the teams are even on points, it is that much more important. France needs three points against South Africa to separate themselves from the pack and the Mexico-Uruguay game could be defacto elimination game, especially if Mexico is on the wrong end of the score.

Group B recap is on the way as I kill time before USA-England.

Posted on: June 6, 2010 10:10 am
Edited on: June 6, 2010 10:51 am

World Cup 2010 - Group A Preview

We're around five days away from the start of the World Cup. In honor of this, I've changed my profile picture to Old Glory and the next greatest flag. For those that can't tell what it is, it looks a lot better on my cell phone, it's a Hartford Whalers flag, taken in the parking lot of the USA vs. Czech Rep. game I went to a little over a week ago. What's the point of having camera phones if they look terrible on your computer. Whatever, let's get back on track here.

As promised, I have begun my World Cup Preview entries. Since it makes too much sense to use alphabetical order, let's get started with the Group that will lead off the World Cup, Group A, containing our vuvuzela blowing hosts and everyone's least favorite World Cup Qualifier.

France [FRA] – Rankings (9 – FIFA; 13 SPI)
Qualification – UEFA – Won controversial playoff vs. Ireland
Recent Matches – W 2-1 vs. Costa Rica, T 1-1 vs. Tunisia, L 0-1 vs. China

Rankings say the French are the favorites to win this group but their recent form and qualification say otherwise. F Thierry Henry hasn’t played much at the club level and hasn’t been effective when he has. If you’re looking for a favorite to go down, this is where you should be looking. Plus, they play their two hardest matches (Uruguay and Mexico) first, meaning they could be eliminated from the knockout stages by the third match vs. hosts South Africa. If they do get through to the knockout stages, M Frank Ribbery will have to carry the burden and he’s been in world class form recently.

Mexico [MEX] – Rankings (17 – FIFA/SPI)
Qualification – CONCACAF – Finished 2nd
Recent Matches – L 1-2 vs. Netherlands, W 5-1 vs. Gambia, W 2-1 vs. Italy

Mexico has played a grueling schedule of friendly matches to prepare for this World Cup and it seems to have paid off. El Tri are a very dangerous side and should not be overlooked in this group. Mexico has had no problems making it out of the group phase in every World Cup since 1994. However, the first knockout round has not been kind, as El Tri have been eliminated in the Round of 16 since 1994.

South Africa [RSA] – Rankings (83 FIFA / 51 SPI)
Qualification – Hosts
Recent Matches – W 2-1 vs. Columbia, W 5-0 vs. Guatemala, 1-0 W vs. Denmark

Normally I would say that the hosts would have nothing more than a narrow chance to advance out of this group. But their recent form says otherwise. The Bafana are certainly now a darkhorse in this group and likewise should be taken seriously. Any group opponent that losses to them, probably won’t make it out of the group phase, so pencil them in as a spoiler too.

Uruguay [URU] – Rankings (16 FIFA / 9 SPI)
Qualification – Won playoff with CONCACAF 4th Place – Costa Rica, 2-1 agg.
Recent Matches – W 4-1 vs. Israel

Uruguay has gone on the light side for their warm-ups, playing just one team leading up to the World Cup. They are respected as a two-time World Cup Champion (1930, 1950) but have not made an impact at the World Cup since a 1970 semi-finals appearance.


The third and final matches should be the most telling in this group. Will France be resting against the weakest team in the group having already qualified for the knockout stages or will the Mexico-Uruguay game be for top spot in the group. If I had to pick a scenario, I'd go with the latter one.

PREDICTIONS                             STANDINGS
RSA 0-1 MEX                        URU 2-0-1, 7 pts, +3 GD
URU 2-1 FRA                        MEX 2-0-1, 7 pts, +2 GD  
RSA 1-3 URU                        FRA 0-2-1, 1 pts, -2 GD
FRA 1-2 MEX                         RSA 0-2-1, 1 pts, -2 GD

Uruguay [A1] and Mexico [A2] advance to play [B2] and [B1] respectively.

I’m not a huge fan of the way France is playing right now but there is a pretty good chance they get more than one point in this group. I don’t think the hosts will fill either of their roles as darkhorse/spoiler (unless it’s to France). Uruguay and Mexico are the two teams in form in Group A and I’m picking Uruguay over Mexico for top spot in the Group, though I would not be surprised if they won it on a goal differential tie-breaker like I have it above or outright by beating Mexico.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com