Here were my musings on the first half as it unfolded:
The lineup looks good. Bradley is employing a 4-4-2. Corrales is a surprise starter on the back left, but otherwise Bocanegra, Onyewu and Moor were to be expected. Bradley and Clark are in the middle with Donovan and Convey on the wings. Dempsey is up top with Altidore, who is making his first start. Howard is in the net.
Ricardo Clark is playing like he is nuts but its kind of working. Clark never should have taken that first shot though. He basically threw away the U.S.’s first offensive chance.
12:30 Early on, its all Mexico, as usual. They are controlling possession and peppering shots at Howard, who is equal to the task.
Donovan is without a doubt the best player on the American squad. After tonight, I would be hard-pressed to be convinced otherwise. He is the only guy on the team whose dribbling consistently creates scoring opportunities. He plays tough defense and no one else can spring our counter-attack with as much agility. He is flying around creating problems for El Tri, whose fans shower him with some garbage and empty cups when he approaches for a corner. Home game? Yeah, riiight.
Onyewu hits a freakishly strong header off the far post and past Ochoa. I love that guy. He should be a fixture on the U.S. team for years to come. Not a great scoring threat normally, but just a huge dude who can play aggressive soccer. The assist comes, predictably, from Donovan, who extends his all time team lead in that category. Like I said, best player on the team, hands down. 1-0.
Questionable penalty sets up a dangerous free kick for Pardo.
Ugh. Goal Mexico. I hate that Mexico’s goal came off what looked like a questionable penalty. Of course, I am probably just not being objective. Penalties like that are called all the time. It’s part of what we all lament about soccer, but really what can we do so long as those on the pitch keep awarding free set pieces.
The finish was perfect though. Moor was beaten by Magallon by less than a vintage Alexi Lalas-style goatee. But it was enough. 1-1.
Shame too because Howard has been playing absolutely fantastic. He has made some athletic saves. He is screaming at everyone like a madman though. The noise inside the stadium must be deafening.
Donovan is tackled hard and looks hurt. Turns out though, he has merely put in another Oscar-winning performance in order to get the yellow card produced. Now Mexico fans know how I just felt before the Pardo free kick. At least the B.S. is flowing both ways.
The funny thing is, ESPN has missed a lot of shots all night, but they have a great camera angle on Donovan as he faux-grimaces in pain and then impishly opens his eyes with glee as he sees his dramatic stylings have persuaded the ref to punish Salcido. Five seconds later, he’s running at full speed again like a freaking track star. His quick recovery does not endear him to the Mexico fans who react with displeasure.
Altidore scores his first goal in an international game at the highest level when he powers home a fantastic cross from Moor (who needed a little redemption after being picked on by Mexico during the first half). Jozy has made some great runs, and that was a fine header, but he has shown no passing ability. He is simply raw. He needs a lot of work, but he has showed that, despite his defensive inabilities and difficulties passing the ball, he should be on the field simply for his knack for finding the net. 2-1.
Holy shit! The U.S. gets another quick strike from Dempsey, who just crushed one past Ochoa from the top of the penalty area. 3-1. Wait a minute, it’s been waived off. Damn, 2-1 again.
What the fuck happened to the 3rd goal? Was the foul called on Dempsey when he first received the ball? I didn’t see anything on TV, even with all the money ESPN put into the camera coverage. Seriously, how could they have missed it with their sweet two camera coverage. I would joke that if the coverage of Monday Night Football is called ESPN 360, this is more like ESPN 20, but I doubt the ratio of cameras for the two broadcasts is even 18-1. More like probably 90-1. ESPN 4, I guess.
The coach’s son receives a yellow. Bradley kind of deserved it too. He was flying around out there like a wild man. He has been playing well, but I almost feel like he is trying to do too much. How the hell do I know though. I am watching on TV thousands of miles away.
I am now hearing they have called it back because Dempsey was off-side. I would love to see that again, but apparently ESPN does not have the angle. Damn, if Beckham were here ESPN would have a camera on each of his golden balls, one on Tom Cruise, and one on his Austin Powers- style femme-bot wife.
My wife just asked me why Beckham wasn’t playing for the U.S. team. Explaining this whole nationality thing to her could prove tough. Smart girl, but sometimes forgets to use the ol’ noggin.