Red Letter Day for the USA

The only good thing about last night for Mexico, was as Javier Hernandez said, "thank God it was just a friendly and no points were on the line, but losing hurts." You have to hand it to Jurgen. He asked for and got a friendly in THE stadium that had been a major thorn in his team's side for decades. He said they were there to win and they did just that. A big, big win for the US.

It was bound to happen. Despite what many Mexican fans think, there was no way Mexico was going to maintain this hegemony over the US forever, just like there was no way that the US was going to do the same to Mexico in the US. Both teams are too evenly matched to think otherwise.

The breakthrough at the club level had happened last year, and it was only a matter of time before it would happen with the National Team. And it is going to make next year's Hex match ups a hell of a lot more interesting.

In addition to the obviously historical win for the US, this was only the third loss at the Azteca for Mexico since 2001 - Costa Rica's famous Aztecazo and a Paraguay win in a friendly. The victories were great for both, but the cost was high, especially for the Ticos. They have not beaten Mexico at home, away, on neutral ground, friendly, qualifer, or Gold Cup since. Paraguay got clobbered 6-0 in the Copa America a few months later and also has yet to defeat Mexico since.

Where does the loss leave Mexico? Aside from the massive cold-cock to their collective egos for losing "a clásico," they can draw some very valuable conclusions from the match. Above all, patience. Mexico was pressing in the attacking third far too much, due much to the US' defensive posture. Despite Mexico's frustration offensively, they made sure to put the clamps on the US counter. The US goal was borne of an unforced error by Gerardo Lugo, who gave the ball away in his own half with an awful pass attempt to Jorge Torres Nilo. And as we have seen countless times, give the US 18 inches of daylight, and they will make you pay. The goal itself came from Brek Shea play, whose center was followed by a series of very fortuitous rebounds that ended on the foot of Michael Orozco, who punched it in. After the goal, the ball continued to bounce the US' way at the other end as Tim Howard reminded everyone of his status as one of the premier netminders on the planet. Game over. Goals aren't deserved, they are scored.

Next for Mexico, a good chance to all but wrap up qualifying for the hex with a Tico double feature. 4 points from the home and home with Costa Rica would go a long way to assuring a ticket for the Hex. Mexico will have to play a lot better than they have in their last two outings at the Azteca in order to do so, though. Chepo de la Torre will also have his entire complement of players at his disposal, including several Gold Medalists. Gio Dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Hiram Mier, Jesus Corona, and Oribe Peralta should expect their phone to ring with some good news.

So should Carlos Vela. For as much progress as Mexico has made over the past few years, they are still not good enough to shut out players from the national side, especially ones that play and star for their clubs in Europe. Whatever has come between Vela and Chepo needs to be worked out.

But let's not forget that this was just a friendly - and the August friendly, at that. Thank goodness it is going away. And to think that CONCACAF scheduled qualifiers on this date in 2008 and 2009. I think we have all been guilty before of putting way too much value in friendly results, yours truly included. Historic win for the US? Yes. Huge psychological boost? Without question. Will they be able to do it again when the stadium has 220,000 screaming lungs, waving flags, sun and the smog at full throttle, intensity is ratcheted up about 1000%, and something on the line?

Their chances just went up considerably.