As anyone not a fan of Panama or Honduras expected, the USA and Mexico came out victorious from their CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal matches at Reliant Stadium on Wednesday night. The Stars and Stripes opened up the doubleheader with a high-scoring 1-0 victory over Panama, while Mexico needed extra time to send off their Honduran counterparts 2-0.
A lot was learned about CONCACAF soccer through the Gold Cup so far. Hair Balls put forth five tidbits gleaned from the Gold Cup's visit of Houston.
5. Mexico is human again El Tri started the tournament strong, winning their first two matches in the group stage 5-0, then finishing off Costa Rica 4-1. Then the situation got dicey for Mexico. They fell behind 1-0 to Guatemala, before Aldo de Nigris and Chicharito Hernandez bailed them out. Both players again came through for Mexico last night at Reliant, this time in overtime.
Both players are a part of Mexico's "golden age," along with Giovanni Dos Santos, Andres Guardado and Carlos Vela. Even though they steamrolled through the likes of El Salvador, Cuba and Costa Rica, they struggled against opposition of higher quality. Interesting to see how they do against the U.S. in the final.
4. The U.S. is a resilient bunch The Yanks have not had a good showing at this Gold Cup; in fact, they've been downright lousy at times. Their biggest low came against Panama in the group stages when they lost 2-1, the U.S.'s first ever loss in the group stages of a Gold Cup. Since then they've won three straight games and now find themselves in the final against Mexico.
U.S. Coach Bob Bradley said it best. "The mentality of the [team] was to look for a way to win." When it comes to American soccer, the product is not always as pretty as the end result.
3. The field is catching up to the superpowers The U.S. and Mexico have had heartbreaking losses to teams like Brazil, Argentina, England... soccer's superpowers. Yet against CONCACAF teams, they don't seem to rise to the occasion. Soccer snobs will say it's hard to beat a team when they defend with 11 players -- the max on field at any given time. Stats suggest something different. Mexico only outshot Honduras by one, while Panama actually had more shots on goal than the U.S. Perhaps with better finishing, we'd be looking at a Panama versus Honduras Gold Cup final.
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2. Mexican-American fans are confused Reliant Stadium was sold out -- 70,627 hooligans made their way down Kirby. Probably about 70,626 of those fans had on green jerseys. Yet when Clint Dempsey scored the winning goal for the U.S. in the 77th minute, the place went bonkers. After the match, Dempsey theorized that Mexican fans a) appreciate good soccer when they see it and b) they begin to cheer for a team that represents a country they call home. Could it be possible to cheer for two teams that absolutely hate each other, two mortal enemies? Apparently for 70,626 Mexican fans, it is possible -- just like all the moron Houstonians cheering for the Mavericks in the Finals.
1. Freddy Adu would look good in Orange In the history of the world, there have been two people who mastered the disappearing act -- Houdini and Adu. You remember Adu, he was the lovable 14-year-old that was supposed to be the American Pele. He recently was found playing in a second division team in Turkey, and not even as starter.
Yet by the good graces of God, and Bob Bradley, he found himself on the USA's Gold Cup roster. He didn't play a single minute until he got to Houston, where he came in as a sub in the 66th minute. Then he reminded us why he was a child prodigy. His best moment came in the 77th minute, when his vision started the play that would eventually be the game-winning goal.
He possesses all the qualities in midfield that are lacking on a team that -- well, their name rhymes with Shynamo. And the Shynamo really need to consider bringing in Freddy Adu, who would probably prefer not returning to obscurity in Turkey.