While we're waiting for this week's BCS poll on the Hexagonal....
There has been a lot of talk of moving this fixture away from Columbus, and I agree it's something that needs to be considered....as soon as Mexico wins or ties there. There has never been and will never be a financial benefit to losing to Mexico. Sure, the United States woulda won in Rio Tinto or Qwest last night. But in the words of Crash Davis, respect the streak. I don't just believe in superstition - I've seen it. I will swear that games are decided by players on the day, and that location matters not as much as we fans like to think...but I'm not sure our players and coaches think that. Why throw away an advantage?
No, Columbus isn't crucial. The US does perfectly well against Mexico everywhere from Chicago to Korea. But Columbus works. Columbus gets the job done. Columbus gets us victories. You don't switch that just for the sake of change.
Which brings us to Bob Bradley.
His job was never in trouble. Make no mistake about that.
Actually, you know what, you can go ahead and make a mistake about that if you want. Might as well make a mistake about something that won't change anything.
"I thought Bob Bradley was gonna be fired, but I guess not." Yeah, that's pretty manageable, as mistakes go. It certainly isn't "I didn't think the Nips were gonna attack on a Sunday morning" or "I don't care how many there are, the Seventh Cavalry is not going to back down from a bunch of god-damned savages!" or "Man, I could really go for Waffle House right now."
But until our interest in the 2010 World Cup is settled, Bob Bradley is the boss. Nothing - and this includes utter and complete embarrassment in the Confederations Cup - is going to change that. He knows the talent pool, he's found the players he needs, and in the first half we were even playing some pretty passing and such.
If Bradley wants Ching out there, it's because Ching looked better in practice, or matches up better against the opponent, or Bob got an insight from his lucky astrology mood watch (Steve Martin reference). I think Ching had about as good a game as you could have without having a goal, assist, or a shot on goal - and if that's good enough for Bob, I'm fine with that right up until June 2010.
So it's up to Bob Bradley to make sure that the team doesn't take second halves off like they did in Columbus last night. A man up, Mexico injured and behind, the talent and momentum wildly in favor of the United States - and Mexico dominates possession? I hope it was the wind and rain, rather than complacency...although the same wind and rain affected Mexico.
If Marquez wasn't an idiot...and I realize we're in "if the ocean weren't so darn salty" territory here, but bear with me...then Mexico ties it up. Does the US, armed with more subs and a deeper bench, make the adjustments necessary to retake the lead? Probably, what with Osvaldo Sanchez and everything. But it shouldn't have been necessary.
Yes, the 2-0 score is so comically satisfying that you could power the Eastern Seabord with American gloating. I'd rather have seen 3-0, or more.
Objectively, "Well, it's tough to win on the road in CONCACAF" should satisfy Mexican doubts, along with the suspensions and injuries. Since it's been 24 hours, and Sven-Goran Eriksson hasn't yet asked for political asylum in Portsmouth, there's a possibility he might skate. (As of this writing, he has the full backing of the FMF, which tells me he's Soon-Gone Eriksson, but I've been wrong before.)
He didn't tell Marquez to go nuts, he didn't tell Osvaldo to close his eyes and use The Force on Bradley's last shot, he didn't tell the midfield to stink up Ohio in the first half.
However, this should worry Mexico partisans and delight the rest of CONCACAF:
I guess Clue Airlines has cancelled all flights into Mexico City.
Hey, what about our guys?
Tim Howard: JP Dellacamera said he'll miss the next game, so it's a good thing it will be against El Salvador. I know, I know, no easy games in CONCACAF, El Salvador is a tough place to win, look how they came back against Trinidad...I know I sound like the complacent fan that doesn't understand the realities of World Cup road games, but The Salvation is not a very good team right now. Brad Guzan can handle it. In fact, that's a good thing, because it looks like Tim Howard is going to be the man for at least the World Cup cycle after this one.
The center backs: Mexico tried to beat them in the air, which was probably the silliest tactical decision since we tried to beat the Czech Republic in the air in 2006. Boca and Gooch have weaknesses, but if CONCACAF wants to play to their strengths then I'm cool with that. Keep the club form up, though.
The wing backs: Give Frankie Hejduk a 2010 roster spot right this second. And then give Marvell Wynne some minutes. El Salvador would be a good start, actually, even if Cherundolo's healthy. Steve, and of course Frankie, know perfectly well what Central American games are like; Marvell doesn't. I was surprised to hear that Heath Pearce let all Nats in minutes last year, because I kept expecting Bornstein or Torres to take his spot. Bornstein's career hit a serious, Feilhaberesque bump, but I highly doubt we've heard the last of Torres. This should be the most fiercely fought position on the team - second forward usually ends up defaulting to the tallest guy who isn't total crap, let's face it.
The midfield: Once Kljestan gets on the same page as everyone else, we're pretty much good to go. I keep raving about how nice the passing was, and how disappointing it was to see the passing disappear in the second half, but that's why you keep practicing. Kljestan, Bradley, Dempsey, Beasley, hooking up with Donovan, all of them roaming from sideline to sideline - what's not to love?
The other forward: Of course, it should be Jozy from here on in. But Bradley won't get fired for putting Ching up here, so I'm not going to stress over it. It's not like Brian Ching is Bradley's son or anything. In theory we put Donovan in the midfield, to give him two forwards to work with...but the midfielder benched in that scenario is going to be a lot more talented than the forward put in, so I like Donovan where he is.
The bench: it doesn't seem as deep as it did in years past, to be honest. Who's your favorite US player who seemed so promising and whose career has stalled like a 1982 Datsun in rush hour? Mine is Jay DeMerit, with Feilhaber a close second. We would also accept Kenny Cooper, Jonathan Spector, and...um, midfielder. Former Superdraft #1 pick. Freddy Shak, wasn't it?
Where to from here? Lectures from coaches and players about how road games aren't gimmes, which I'd rather wait to hear after a close win in Honduras or Costa Rica than after a tie in San Salvador. I hate to be That Guy, but we're not going to win in Azteca - beating the United States in Azteca is the only thing keeping Mexico from ditching Western civilization entirely and turning into Somalia. We'll run the table at home, qualify with games to spare, probably with some piss-poor performances as experiments don't pan out and players prove they've fallen out of favor for their European clubs for very good reasons. At least it's not the 80's.