U.S. at a low ebb ahead of Costa Rica test; Mexico confidence soars
Following Mexico's 2-1 win versus the United States in the opening game of the CONCACAF "Hexagonal," we asked a writer from each side of the rivalry for thoughts on the state of their national team.
What is your reaction to the result?
Jason Davis: A loss to open the Hex, especially versus Mexico, is a bad way to start the campaign to reach an eighth consecutive World Cup. The psychological edge the U.S. once had on Mexico in qualifiers is gone. The team improved in the second half, but Mexico's early domination falls at the feet of Jurgen Klinsmann. He's got work to do, especially as postgame comments from the coach and his captain, Michael Bradley, revealed a fundamental disagreement about who was responsible for the failure of the formation used to start the match.
Nayib Moran: Although the U.S. national team had a great second-half performance, Mexico was able to muster its first-ever win in Columbus. In the first half, Mexico showcased the type of football favored by Juan Carlos Osorio, which includes pace and passing precision. Carlos Vela and Jesus "Tecatito" Corona kept the U.S. defense busy, while Miguel Layun and Rafael Marquez were able to find spaces to release key passes. There were moments where it looked like Mexico was going to break apart, but it didn't happen.
Where does this leave your country on the Road to Russia?
JD: The Americans have to avoid any sort of panic because there are nine games left to get the points needed to qualify. That said, with a trip to Costa Rica on Tuesday, there's a very real possibility the U.S. will be bottom of the table after the second round of matches conclude. It's not an issue of talent; the squad has more than enough quality to coast to a top-three spot by the time when all is said and done. But, as we saw in the 2014 cycle with Mexico, talent alone doesn't guarantee anything.
NM: It will be difficult for other CONCACAF teams to get wins on U.S. soil, so this result puts Mexico in a good spot to make this Hex campaign more straightforward than the last. Friday's first half should set an example for what's to come; Mexico should play its home games with the same intensity. Scoring more early goals would also set the tone and avoid the issues of four years ago, when Mexico finished with three scoreless draws at Estadio Azteca, one of which was against the U.S.
What is your grade out of 10 for the present mood, and what happens next?
JD: Three. The mood can't be good considering the way the U.S. played in the first half and the manner in which they conceded the winner. They have never won in Costa Rica and, if the team is lacking any belief in their coach, there's very little chance of breaking that streak on Tuesday. The leaders within in the team itself -- Michael Bradley, plus the likes of Jermaine Jones and Jozy Altidore -- must pull things together in time for an even tougher challenge than the one they faced on Friday. Missing Tim Howard through injury certainly would not help.
NM: Nine. In Panama, Mexico will be without the injured Andres Guardado the suspended Carlos Salcedo, which means players like Nestor Araujo, Orbelin Pineda and Jonathan dos Santos could get some minutes. Raul Jimenez and Marco Fabian could also be involved. Panama won at Honduras to begin their campaign in style but El Tri will travel full of optimism. The pressure has also eased on Osorio, with fans pleased after a period in which the coach was doubted.