Jon Arnold spends a night watching the United States national team's biggest foe in a pre-World Cup qualifier friendly and checks in on the rest of the CONCACAF goings on at the same time.
January 31, 2013
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GLENDALE, Ariz.–Mexico were the better team but their Liga MX-based squad lacked a finishing touch against a domestic-based Denmark side in a 1-1 draw Wednesday evening.
Both goals were scored on relatively soft penalties given by the American officiating crew, but neither manager took issues with the calls after the match.
The Mexicans showed a bit more flair than the U.S. did in their friendly a day earlier, like a 50th minute back heel from substitute and goalscorer Marco Fabian that nearly sprung an attack and a Man of the Match performance from Javier Aquino on the right wing. Still, the Mexican press reaction Thursday was similar to that of the U.S. press yesterday. “There is a lot to improve on,” read the cover of Meixcan sport daily Récord. Cancha called it an “insipid dress rehearsal.”
The manager, Chepo de la Torre, said there were positives to be taken from the match, such as good performances from younger players.
He also said that while it’s easy to jump to conclusions, he will take time after the match to analyze things. De la Torre noted it’s not necessarily about which player is better than the other at each spot but it’s more important to determine who fits with the team.
Mexico’s team, like all the Hex squads, will get a boost once their players based in Europe join up next week ahead of a qualifier with Jamaica. He said those players will have enough time to adjust to the dynamics of the national team and stressed the importance of the first match, saying “we have to have a great performance at home.”
Here are the goals:
It’s fair to say all six of the Hex teams are dependent on their players based in Europe, so it’s tough to tell too much from these January matches.
Honduras names roster
You may have heard that the U.S. starts the Hex next week(!) with a trip to Honduras. Los Catrachos have called in their team. No big surprises, especially if you’ve visited our Hex page. There are four MLS players: Victor Bernardez, Oscar Boniek Garcia, Mario Martinez, and Jerry Bengston, plus former MLS players Roger Espinoza, Andy Najar, and Carlo Costly. There are also familiar faces like Maynor Figueroa of Wigan and long-time keeper Noel Valladares.
Unfortunately for Hondurans, star left back Emilio Izaguirre sustained a knee injury in the first half of Celtic’s 4-1 win against Kilmarnock and had to be substituted. "Initial reports" were positive, but news broke Thursday that he will miss the match against the U.S.
Manager Luis Suarez was in the U.S. to scout the American and Mexican teams in their respective friendlies.
Costa Rica beat Honduras 1-0 to win the Copa Centroamericana (or Copa UNCAF).
Honduras had hoped to win the tournament but never were quite able to put it together. Costa Rica, the host, weren’t much more impressive as most teams looked like they were sleepwalking through a tournament in which five of the seven teams qualified for the Gold Cup. Panama clinched the final spot with a 3-1 win over Guatemala after a poor group performance and a random draw landed them in the fifth-place match. FC Dallas forward Blas Perez scored the opening goal for Panama.
Of interest to MLS fans, Jairo Arrieta of the Columbus Crew won the Golden Boot with two goals, Alvaro Saborio lifted the trophy as captain of the Ticos, and Rodney Wallace came on as a substitute in the semifinal and nodded the winning goal past the Salvadorian keeper in the semifinals.
To review: Costa Rica, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize, and Panama qualify for the Gold Cup.
Jamaica released a roster for the impending match in the Azteca. Headlining the side are the Reading trio of defender Adrian Mariappa and midfielders Jobi McAnuff and Garath McCleary. MLS is also well represented, with Donovan Ricketts called in goal, Jermaine Taylor as a midfielder, and Ryan Johnson as a forward. Former Red Bulls and Whitecaps member Dane Richards is also among the squad.
Los Xolos stayed undefeated and on top of the league by dispensing of Pachucha, 2-0 at the Estadio Caliente. Americans Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona both started. Castillo picked up a yellow card in the first half and Corona was subbed out at halftime.
Tijuana also announced a friendly with the LA Galaxy in LA on February 19, which sounds awesome. Liga MX champion vs. MLS champion, right? But it will be a reserve team since Xolos start their Copa Libertadores campaign the same night in Colombia against ex-Sounders player Fredy Montero and Millonarios.
Other Americans in Liga MX
Tigres are the only other unbeaten team in Liga MX after America were upset by Atlas on Saturday. Jose Torres played 70 minutes and got a yellow card. This is the third week in a row he’s played exactly 70 minutes, which is somewhat unusual. I mean, clearly Ricardo Ferretti has a plan, but you’d think just with stoppages and everything that he’d come out in the 69th or 71st at some point. ASN will stay on the story. Watch this space for future developments.
Hercluez Gomez started and played 83 minutes for Santos as they beat a Rafa Marquez-less León, 2-0.
DaMarcus Beasley started for Puebla but was subbed out at the break. He, like Castillo and Torres, was issued a yellow card as Puebla was thumped 4-0 by Cruz Azul in the capital. Michael Orozco Fiscal did not play.
Liga MX Team of the Week
Cruz Azul–I promise this feature won’t always just be the team that won by the largest margin, but it is for the second consecutive week. Puebla had looked somewhat formidable but ran into the maquina that is Cruz Azul. They moved to fourth in the table after taking apart the visitors, 4-0. The big question now looming is how the team will perform after losing star winger Javier Aquino, who is headed to Villarreal.
Rafa Marquez Watch
León bounced from the Copa Libertadores after drawing the second leg of their play-in with Iquique 1-1, which sent the match into penalties. The visitors from Guanajuato missed the first two and were unable to recover.
Here are the penalties:
Marquez missed the match as he continues to recover from an injury he picked up in the first leg of the tie.
That means Tijuana and Toluca will be the only Mexican representatives in the group stage of the competition, which is the South American equivalent of the Champions League. CONMEBOL invites Mexico to take part as well.
Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.