91913_beslermatt_isi_usmnttq090613172_(1) Tony Quinn/isiphotos.com
ASN Weekly Debate

Why Does the U.S. Lose Away in CONCACAF?

After a two-week absence, our heroes return to discuss why the Americans struggle on the road in World Cup qualifying, the value of a win against Italy, and various other things of an important nature.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
September 20, 2013
12:00 PM
Noah Davis: Ryan, you raised a good point yesterday, which is shocking, but the United States continues to struggle on the road in CONCACAF while posting some solid results in Europe. Why is that? And what does it say about the state of the world and/or American soccer?

O'Hanlon: Oh, thanks! But I'm gonna do something not-shocking now and say: I don't know! It is really weird, especially considering this team has won a bunch of games in Europe against really good European teams. I get that those games aren't necessarily "competitive," but still. For everything that's changed under Klinsmann, this one's stayed the same.

Davis: Do you have any thoughts? At all? Debating with you is like sparing with a chair. A really soft chair that's encased in balloons.

O'Hanlon: It wouldn't be that easy to spar with a chair. You'd have to bend down pretty low to actually punch it—and then you're still punching a chair. So, it's like, what are you even doing... and okay, I get the point. My thoughts are: there are all the external factors—travel, crappy fields, "intimidating environments"—but any research on home-field advantage shows that almost all of it comes from biased reffing. Yet, I don't think either one is the answer here, which is why it's interesting.

Davis: I have to say that I was shocked by how loud it was in Costa Rica. The players always talk about how it's harder to play in CONCACAF than people think it is and I would agree having been in San Jose and Honduras. Ironically, all the talk about Azteca seems to have made it less invincible, not more.

O'Hanlon: And maybe it's more difficult now, almost, because so many guys play in Europe -- and a good portion of them didn't even grow up on this continent? Weirdly—and probably wrongly—maybe playing in Azteca now more-resembles playing in some massive European stadium, air pollution aside.

Davis: I don't know if I buy that argument. The air pollution and altitude is what makes Azteca Azteca.

O'Hanlon: Okay, but then just group Azteca in with the others—and is the team ill-equipped to play in Central America because it's so different from what an increasingly larger portion of the roster is used to?

Davis: I think it's a combination of how the team plays—takes it to the opponents instead of sitting back—and the atmosphere. The U.S. goes into these games in Central America as the favorite. That's not their best position.

O'Hanlon: But why would they go into these games as a favorite? They're decidedly not, based on every game the United States has ever played in Central America. Is their approach off? Do they need to try to play the same way they played against Italy or Russia, then?

Davis: Certainly not. I don't know if it really matters if they lose away in CONCACAF, either. They qualified for the World Cup easily enough.

O'Hanlon: I don't think it matters, either. It's just... weird. For as great of a year as this was for the team, not much changed in re: to how they did in the toughest games on the schedule.

Davis: Would you rather have the U.S. beat Italy in Italy or Costa Rica in Costa Rica? Serious question.

O'Hanlon: Now that they've beaten Italy, it's easy: Costa Rica. But all things being equal, probably Italy, even if it's just a friendly. That was a really good non-answer.

 Davis: I'm used to them by now. So is our fan. Hi fan. Fine, I'll say it: I'd rather have the U.S. dominate everyone in CONCACAF than win a friendly in Italy that was pretty lucky, all things considered. I want 10-0-0 in the Hex.

O'Hanlon: This is good. This is a very good answer from someone who just said, "I don't know if it really matters if they lose away in CONCACAF."

Davis: I try to have enough opinions for both of us. But I don't particularly think those things are mutually exclusive. It doesn't really matter that they lose but it's sort of ridiculous that they do.

O'Hanlon: My opinion would be that winning a meaningless away game against one of the best teams in the world says more about the team's chances of success at the World Cup than winning a meaningless game (because, ultimately, they never need to win this game) against a decent team in conditions that will never be replicated at an international tournament.

Davis: But the CONCACAF games do mean something. The Italy etc. matches don't. And the Central American/Caribbean teams come to play. I'm not sure you can say the same thing about the friendlies. Which isn't to take away from the accomplishment, but it should be stated.

O'Hanlon: Oh, it definitely means something to the team the US is playing—but is it that important to the U.S.? I'm not so sure—depends on the situation—and I don't want to get too far into office-chair psychology. It's weird to say it, but I guess the U.S. is lucky the World Cup is in Brazil, not Costa Rica, and that there is no way the US gets drawn into a group with three Costa Ricas.

Davis: I don't know, man. We're talking about FIFA where anything is possible.

O'Hanlon: Oh god. There are no FIFA rules on cloning, either.

Davis: Maybe that's what the Chinese will fund next.

O'Hanlon: Look for the story in the Costa Rica Star.

Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon like to say they do this every week.

Post a comment