Charles Dickens, a brilliant Brit, wrote a classic novel called “Great Expectations”. It was about a little orphan lad named Pip. In the book, Pip overcomes his ugly history of bad fortune and poor decisions to finally become a proper gentleman and earn the respect (and long-distance-love) of his childhood crush, Estella. Hmm, Estella sort of sounds like “Azteca”.
Many US players have longed to win @ Azteca just like Pip pined for Ms. Estella. Unlike Dickens’ protaganist though, the US still doesn’t have a happy ending to its tale of woe. The US failed to win in Mexico today for the 24th time.
We have still never beaten El Tri on their home turf. We played as well as we ever have, but we still came up short.
Who knows? We lost on an improbable goal that came late in the second half. The goal was a little arbitrary, sure. It made me sad, definitely. Most of all, it made me say “Ay caramba!”
The second goal wasn’t anyone’s “fault”, per se. Perhaps Bradley should have attacked the player instead of blocking the goal line. Perhaps Onyewu could have been a hair quicker blocking the shot. All in all, it was simply not the Yanks’ day. Sure, they didn’t get the calls. Yes, they didn’t deal well with ugly fan behavior. Mostly though, they simply didn’t deserve to win.
As much as the US clearly wanted this game, Mexico definitely needed to win it, and they played better soccer than the US on the whole. Knowing that a home loss to the Yanks would be a serious blow to their World Cup qualifying chances, Mexico played like a team possessed, while the US couldn’t maintain possession. El Tri wanted it more.
And, unfortunately for this US fan, wanting it more usually translates into winning. That was the case today, and it will continue to be the case until every US player takes the pitch with the same maniacal desire as Bradley, Skeletor’s son. Hopefully, he and his mates have learned valuable lessons today that will help them stay strong come 2010.
What did I learn today? I learned Donovan is playing at his personal peak, which is perfect as we approach 2010. I noted that Davies may be faster than Reggie Bush (even while dribbling a soccer ball). I understood Howard to be confident and consistent. Mostly, I learned that we are better than ever, but that we still have a lot of work to do.
But the bandwagon fans (all 6 of them) will insincerely bitch about the refs or whine about Bradley. Hey, it’s tough to win @ Azteca, so just spare me the negativity. I consider myself a US soccer optimist, and I too had “great expectations” for today. But, my real expectations (“not-so-great expectations that we would lose again“) came true.
Instead of moaning about the loss, I will just say good game El Tri and let’s do this again sometime soon. How about @ a neutral venue somewhere in South Africa in a World Cup 2010 knockout match. Actually, we’ll meet you anywhere but Azteca. It is our version of the title of another one of Chaz Dickens’ most popular tales: Bleak House.
And you know what else Mexico fans? We will beat you in Azteca one day too. It’s inevitable. You can say I’m just an optimist and a biased fanatic of the US team (and you would be right), and I must concede that it is possible that we would never win in front of 105,000 of you @ Azteca. But I believe we will. I think the 25th time’s a charm.
Yup, definitely an optimist.