Pessimists are happier people than optimists, if you ask me. Optimists are generally disappointed, while pessimists get to be pleasantly surprised. Ya know what, before we go any further, let's look at the Kyle Dane Hexagonal chart, as it stands right this second. (For those of you just joining us - the theory behind these standings, in one sentence, is that you're supposed to win at home and draw on the road.)
Costa Rica: -1 United States: -1 Panama: -2 Honduras: -3 Jamaica: -3 Mexico: -4
We're going to hold the Cupcake and Corn Smut charts for a while, because it looks like you all might have been right, this group is evenly balanced.
Anyway, the US and Panama did what they were supposed to, Costa Rica lost a forgivable point, and the other three teams basically tap-danced on their ding-dongs. The first commandment of World Cup qualifying is Thou Shalt Not Drop Points At Home.
"Mexico will qualify with ease" was Ian Darke's refrain in the second half, which was well in keeping with what a colossal freaking outlier that game was. Chart says otherwise, and here's why. Once Mexico finishes burning those black uniforms, they can contemplate having thrown away two out of five home games for the first time, like, ever. It goes without saying they need to win all three of the remaining. They also need to make a few other teams violate the first commandment, and probably not simply with ties.
Finishing off Honduras would have been a significant mitigating factor, to say the least. But tying on the road isn't bad. Tying at home is bad. Doing it twice is, well, not wonderful.
So what does Mexico do at this point? They could panic and fire Chepo. Or, they could relax, take a few weeks, calmly assess the situation, and then fire Chepo. Or, they could let Chepo drop a few people who badly need dropping - looking at you, Johnny Two Saints. Or, they could shine more laser pointers at the opponents. (Seriously, bitch move. Jail those jackasses.)
But they have to do something, because that was an uninspired and uninspiring team breaking the hearts of an entire country. Sure, Mexico deserved to win at least 1-0. They were the better team. It would be easy to blame the refs for the loss, but this wasn't a team that should have been relying on the referees in the first place.
Whatever ends up happening, it will be delightful to watch from afar - like, say, a rooftop overlooking a closed practice. What Klinsmann went through last week will seem like sweet whispers from soft lips compared to what Chepo has bought himself.
Speaking of which. I'm not going to tell Brian Straus how to do his job, but what I want to read more than anything - even the posts from Mexico fans on this forum, which I am just salivating over - is a nice, detailed follow-up from his anonymous contributors. Don't tell me they only sing when they're losing. Where you at, guys? Step up to the mic. They can stay anonymous, too - well, obviously they should - I just want to get the reactions. Come on, AOL Sporting News, cheap hits beckon.
You know what they could say? Klinsmann is crazy and incompetent. Who starts an inexperienced back line in the Azteca? Who leaves DaMarcus Beasley out there to get murdered and murdered and murdered? Was there an offensive game plan to speak of? Should you need to tell guys as experienced as Bradley and Edu not to commit controversial calls on the road in the penalty area? Why can't he get a damn thing out of Altidore? What did he think was going to happen with that cobbled-together group of names picked out of the phone book and told to wish upon a star?
Turns out, I guess, he was watching players in practice, and picked guys he had faith in. The worst option would have been that Besler and Gonzalez got totally exposed. Once the game went an hour, Klinsmann accomplished his main mission and earned his salary - they held off Chicharito in Azteca for sixty minutes plus. Maybe something will scare them again in their entire lives, but it won't be on a soccer field. They're still in single digits, cap-wise, but they have experience that, well, would have been wasted on trotting Bocanegra out there again, if you ask me.
Sure, it could have gone horribly wrong, and maybe it should have. Part of it is that guys like Gonzalez, Besler and Guzan passed their finals with flying colors. I don't know how Sporting Kansas Wizards intend to deal with Besler's future (or for that matter, Graham Zusi, who I thought was just electric out there), but if you live in an MLS town, try to stop by and wave to Omar on his way out. You can't spell Gonzalez without "gone." LA was lucky to have him this long. Go with God, tall guy.
Hey...turns out Camp Cupcake actually mattered. Knock me over with a feather.
Oh, one guy who was not anonymous, and probably owes us a follow-up? Omar's club coach. Wait, gotta cue up Rick Derringer's "Real American" real quick.
Did you happen to catch how many guys for the US were born in Germany? Try none of them. Did you happen to catch how many guys for the US spend or spent significant time in MLS? Try every god-damned one of them. It was as if Klinsmann picked out a lineup, and picked out a series of injuries, just to make Bruce Arena look silly.
This result should keep Klinsmann safe, just like it did for the last guy to get a qualifying point in Azteca oh wait. Actually, for those of you just joining us - Klinsmann duplicated a feat first accomplished by Steve Sampson. Sampson ended up making qualifying look extremely difficult, and Alan Rothenberg (the Sunil Gulati of the 90's) considered canning him after the 1997 Hex. Which is a decision he probably wishes he could have over, wherever he is now. Probably swimming in his pool filled with money like Scrooge McDuck.
Realistically, this is still a United States team with many flaws, deep and wide. All the good done today is wiped out and then some if Mexico marches into Columbus and avenges Winfield Scott this September. Or if Klinsmann says "I proved I don't need Donovan, now I'll prove I don't need Dempsey!" and Jamaica and Panama take turns pantsing us. You never know what will happen next, not with the United States National Team. A hundred years of chaos. Forget the snake or the flying ball, the USSF should put Schroedinger's cat on the crest.
The other thing that will be worth watching is the fallout among America's casual sports fans. This was yet another example of a 0-0 game that was intense and exciting, if not exactly adorable. Right now, America kinda likes the US National Team, and will jump on board in a big way if things start looking good. Americans like seeing Americans as underdogs, and this game was approaching Miracle On Ice territory.
The other thing the average sports fan will learn is that there is literally never a dull moment in the Hex. I expect to see a big, big uptick in interest over the next few months. Come September, Ohio State may have to take a backseat in Columbus for a couple of says, that's how big.
All this, because the United States did what it was supposed to do. Imagine if they ever do something really special, like win a road game.