Club World Cup 2011: Damage Control (Plus, Midweek Potpourri)

Posted on December 13, 2011 11:31 pm

Remember what I said last week about Monterrey having a shot at international glory? Unfortunately, the rayados took the first step on the global stage and fell flat on their faces.

Before we get into how they let their league, country and region down, let us remember a couple of things: first, they did not actually lose the game. Monterrey and Kashiwa Reysol tied 1-1 after extra time, and only a couple of failed penalty kicks by Luis Perez and Jonathan Orozco prevented the Mexicans from moving on. And considering the difference in rhythm – Monterrey had not played an official game since the end of the Apertura regular season, while Kashiwa rode their domestic championship form straight into the Club World Cup – it is impressive that Monterrey kept up with them and never looked overwhelmed.

Having said that, Humberto Suazo had two chances to put Monterrey ahead early in the game and wasted them both. He did not miss any open net, but one expects a striker of his calibre to put away those opportunities. As for the rest of the team, once again they looked a pale imitation of the side that won the last CONCACAF Champions League, struggling to build up any sort of attack from the midfield and leaving Suazo and Cesar Delgado stranded on top. Fortunately, an incredible goal from Kashiwa’s Leandro Domingues slapped Monterrey back into consciousness, and Suazo put away a cross from Delgado to even the score. He apparently hit the “Snooze” button, as well: Monterrey returned to their lackadaisical style of play, challenging Kashiwa more than Auckland City did without ever truly threatening to score the winning goal.

When the match went to penalties, captain Perez (Monterrey’s go-to PK taker) stepped up first, but had his misplaced effort blocked by Kashiwa’s keeper. Then, Jonathan Orozco made the bizarre decision to insert himself in the lineup at third – I don’t know if he normally takes penalties in shootouts, but I would generally prefer to let attacking players (e.g. Aldo de Nigris) step up before the goalie – and his shot hit the post. He did make amends by stopping a Kashiwa penalty, but Monterrey could not overcome the deficit and crashed out.

While Kashiwa’s dream run continues on to the semifinals (5:30 a.m. against Santos FC, all times EST), Monterrey have one more opportunity to save face before heading back home to inevitable ridicule…or even worse, the ignominy of cleaning up after Tigres’ trophy celebrations. Hopefully the chance to at least beat a fellow continental champion and earn $500,000 extra is enough to motivate Monterrey in the Fifth-Place Match.

Wednesday, December 14:

CF Monterrey (CONCACAF/Mexico) vs. Espérance Sportive de Tunis (CAF/Tunisia), 2:30 a.m.

Once again, Monterrey’s inexperience at this level makes it hard to handicap this game. Mexican clubs in general have a horrible record against African teams in the Club World Cup, with Pachuca’s 4-2 victory over Al Ahly of Egypt in 2008 the only exception. The tuzos are also the only Mexican club with experience against Tunisian opposition: back in 2007, they faced off against Esperance’s archrival, Etoile Sportive du Sahel. The goalkeeper for ESS put on the shakiest performance I have ever seen, routinely fumbling easy shots that came straight at him. Pachuca could not get the ball in the back of the net, however, and just when they started mentally preparing themselves for extra time, a late sucker-punch from ESS sealed a surprising 1-0 win. Hopefully Monterrey will be better prepared on this occasion; although it does bear mentioning that if they needed extra games in November to keep up their rhythm, they could easily have scheduled a friendly or two to stay fresh. And hopefully all the action remains on the field: according to Mediotiempo’s Maria Elena Partida, Esperance ultras started a couple of fights with Monterrey fans in Toyota Stadium on Sunday.

Speaking of shameful incidents, the Guatemalan Apertura will end with a rematch of the 2011 Clausura final that featured Municipal fans tossing explosives onto the field, Comunicaciones fans preventing their own team’s post-game celebration by rushing the field and blatant attacks by Comunicaciones ultras against rival supporters on the opposite side. The two Guatemala City clubs will face each other in the first leg of the Apertura Final on Thursday at 9:00 p.m. in the Estadio Mateo Flores – with improved, stricter security measures and more personnel at the stadium, if any lessons have been learned from last tournament’s debacle.

Finally, this has nothing to do with my area of expertise, but this piece of trivia was too good to pass up. Can you guess which US President has a club in Paraguay named after him? Click here to find out the answer, but if you want to guess, here is a hint: the club (among many other things) bears his name because of an 1878 arbitration of a Paraguay-Argentina land dispute, in which this president let Paraguay keep the Chaco region.

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