You might've noticed that there were some international matches today: England looked pretty outclassed against Spain, losing 2-0, as Golden Balls earned his 108th cap; the Luck o' the Irish prevailed against Georgia in a World Cup qualifier thanks to a highly questionable penalty call and a goal scored off Robbo Keane's shoulder; Eduardo had an assist for Croatia; and the NY Kid's les Bleus fell 2-0 to the Argentines.
But all of that was merely an appetizer for today's real action: the highly anticipated World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Mexico -- live from Columbus, Ohio. Many well-reported plotlines in this one. The Mexicans' struggles on U.S. soil. That voodoo doll "controversy." U.S. Soccer call for fans to wear red. The up-yours inclusion of Jose Francisco Torres by Bob Bradley. The rumors that Sven-Goran Eriksson is being courted by Pompey (will he throw the game to hasten his exit?). And, most importantly of all, the bad blood between the U.S. and Mexico (who still refuse to shake hands with the Americans).
To get you ready for the big match, here are some Columbia students assessing U.S. Soccer head Sunil Gulati's prowess as a university professor. First comment: "A bit of a douche." (h/t 100 Percent Soccer)
Live blog after the jump. And, as always, have your say in the comments.
I'll be back closer to 7:00 p.m. EST.
Pregame: Word is that the weather is nothing less than spectacular, with high winds and the threat of thunderstorms. This same system killed people in Oklahoma. So, you can expect lots of crappy commentary from ESPN about the storm on the field being the same as the storm between the Americans and El Tri.
I'm eating some All-American Mac and Cheese for dinner at the moment. USA USA USA!
Starting lineups are in...
USA: Howard, Pearce, Bocanegra, Onyeewu, Hejduk, Beasley, Klestan, Bradley, Dempsey, Donovan, Ching
Mexico: Sanchez, Salcido, Marquez, Galindo, Osorio, Medina, Augusto, Pardo, dos Santos, Castillo, Ochoa
And Harkes and Dellacamera are the broadcasters. Could be worse. Meanwhile, the sideline report is that SGE compared the weather for tonight's match to Albania. I knew the United States was edging closer and closer to a third world country!
The players are coming out onto the pitch to what sounds to my ears like Joe Satriani. USA USA USA! Lots of red in the stands, along with the Americans wearing red warmups. And then there's a smattering of boos and USA USA chants for the Mexican national anthem. God bless jingoism at its finest.
National anthem has been played and, man, now I'm totally fired up! Let's go invade some more countries!! Who's with me??
1: Mexico kick off, give up the ball and then the Americans make a nice move towards the Mexican goal that fizzles. That's followed by Bradley easily dispossessing little Giovanni Dos Santos. Nice start for the Americans.
3: Save by Howard! Really shaky defending by the Americans after Ochoa crosses into the box. Guess what the Americans weakness is? (I'll give you a hint: the back four.)
5: Really flying start. Feels like this game has an early goal in it.
7: They just showed the replay of the Howard save. If Dos Santos can get the ball up, the Mexicans are up 1-0. Meanwhile, Lando breaks in the Mexican box and is just a few yards away from a clean shot on goal. And now the frantic play continues, and again I worry about the American back four.
9: I have received my first dispatch from the Likely Lad at Nevada Smith's in NYC, who reports that whatever their capacity is there are 50 more people than that. About 70-30 for the U.S., but everyone booed Sven Goran-Eriksson.
10: Dos Santos almost has another shot on goal but Bradley comes back to help defend. He might need to do a lot of that today.
12: Now the Americans are attacking, with three crosses into the box. Americans end up with a corner.
14: The corner fizzles but the Americans retain possession, culminating in an offside on Beasley. This is all really nervy stuff.
15: Harkes says that SGE has the ability to coach world class players. How exactly is that an ability?
17: Nice counterattack by the Americans, with Dempsey and Beasley swapping wings, leading to a skewered shot by Beasley that's not troubling the keeper. The most promising aspect of this game for the Americans is their ball control. Need better finishing though. No sign of Ching so far.
18: Onyewu makes a sliding tackle and goes flying slip n' slide style on the wet grass.
21: Ching gets pushed to the ground just outside the box for a free kick. Big opportunity here. The Likely Lad reports that the Mexican fans at Nevada Smith's are far more tense and nervy than the Americans.
22: Donovan sends the free kick just wide. Oh, and thanks ESPN for a live report that Brett Favre retired. Right and what else is new?
25: As expected, the game has settled down a little bit. Most promising aspect of this game is that the Americans are playing well together. We're still not the momst talented side in the world, but at least we're retaining respectability. (That's about all I can ask for, really!)
26: Pedro Gomez with a live sideline report about those voodoo dolls. ESPN still has not quite got the idea that football doesn't take breaks. Meanwhile, Beasley with a shot on goal that is pretty easily handled. Going the other way, Dos Santos runs fast.
29: American midfielders are doing a good job of tracking back on defense, which is good, because Bocanegra and Onyewu are as likely to clear a ball as kick it directly to a Mexican player.
31: Save by Sanchez on a Dempsey shot on goal! Nice play going both ways. Beasley crossed to Lando, who headed it back to Dempsey.
32: Castillo is down with a hamstring pull, giving all the players (and me!) a chance to catch their breaths.
36: Mexicans continue to press, with dos Santos having his way on the wing. Thankfully we have Tim Howard to make the save on the resulting shot.
37: Bradley takes a 25 yard shot that's just wide. I agree with Harkes that it's nice to have a defensive midfielder who can take long shots like that.
39: Beasley kicks Marquez's foot, who writhes around on the ground and then magically gets up. Going the other way, Bocanegra gives up a stupid foul just outside the box. Theme of the night: the American back four is not very good.
40: But thankfully the goalkeeper is in good form. Easy save on a pretty tepid free kick. Pearce a bit shaken up, but ESPN didn't have a camera on it so who knows what happened, except that it resulted in a free kick.
42: GOAL USA! 1-0 Hejduk earns a corner, which is sent deep by Beasley. The ball is headed into the center by Lando and Bradley heads it into the goal. Nice play!
45: Beasley almost makes it 2-0. He's having a nice game, makes a run and his shot is just blocked for a corner, which drifts out harmlessly.
End of First Half. USA 1-0. Pedro Gomez with a live interview with Bob Bradley. Why can't we have mid-game interviews with Sir Alex Ferguson? Much props to Beasley, Bradley and especially Lando.
Oh look there's Carrot Top! Nevermind, it's just Alexi Lalas.
The Likely Lad reports again from Nevada Smith's: "Here We Go Here We Go Here We Go Here We Go. The Americans need better material. But, lots of love, and rightfully so, for Lando."
Precious Roy makes a good point (as always) that the ref has done a great job of calling this game. No cards, letting the teams play. And hey look there's Argentina v. France highlights... Sorry the NY Kid.
Anyone want to guess how soon it'll be before Demarcus Beasley comes back to MLS? Seems like he's still got plenty in the tank, but there doesn't seem to be much future for him at
Celtic Rangers (whoops!).
Oh, and to correct myself on the goal, looks like Onyewu headed the ball towards goal, it was saved, and then Bradley wheelkicked the ball into the net. Phil reports that Univision claims that Bradley used his arm.... But are we going to believe them?
45: And we're off. No subs. Pedro Gomez relays his halftime talk with SGE, who claims he's happy with the result after the first half, just a bit unlucky, etc. Yup, Sven-Goran is looking forward to moving to the EPL.
48: Michael Bradley is really coming into his own, made a great pass to Beasley that forces Sanchez out to smother the ball.
49: Corner for the Americans is punched out by Sanchez. Americans are looking to score a second and put this game away.
51: Onyewu wins a footrace with Ochoa. By my calculation, that must make Ochoa the slowest striker in the world.
53: Dempsey with a breakaway thanks to soft pass, but it fizzles. The Likely Lad checks in: "Relocated to McCormacks, which thankfully has no volume on the TVs here. From 14th Street on up pretty much every bar is packed with people watching the match."
55: So exactly why isn't Dos Santos playing for the Tottenham Hotspurs?
56: Credit to Lando for going straight at the Mexican captain Marquez. See, Lando does have testicles afterall! Meanwhile, the Americans are probably showing the best concerted ball control I've ever seen from them. Still lots of obvious flaws, but I'm happy to see progress under Bradley.
59: Medina with a nice play for Mexico, who is rewarded by SGE by getting subbed out. I gotta say, green is definitely not Sven-Goran's color. Meanwhile the game is going in a circles now. Not a lot of good last touches, just fouls and offsides. I suppose that bodes well for the U.S. to hold onto this one.
62: JP and John must agree with me, because they're yakking about college basketball. Time to sub Jozy on for Ching?
65: Red card to Marquez Handbags!! There's a crazy, weird play in front the American goal on a free kick, players flying around. And then Marquez comes in with studs up on Tim Howard, who is still shaken up. The ref comes in and immediately raises a red card. Maybe a bit soft, but the ref was right on the play and has otherwise called a good game, so he gets the benefit of the doubt. Besides, fuck El Tri!
69: Now it's all getting a bit chippy. Expect more cards to start coming out now. Hejduk makes a nice open field tackle that sends Dos Santos flying. Going the other way, Ching is brought down with an extended arm tackle. Like I said, chippy.
71: Pearce spits up the ball and gives Ochoa the chance to take a long shot that's well wide. Dos Santos is subbed off. Hejduk has a knock. Oh, and Brett Farver is still retired.
74: If this were the NFL, we'd be hearing endlessly about how Hejduk is an ironman, you'd have to drag him off the field. Instead it's just blah blah blah later on ESPN it's....
76: Seems like tired legs from the Americans. Their final passes have been pretty awful. Meanwhile, Pedro Gomez and John Harkes are talking about Sven-Goran Eriksson. Uh, guys, there's still a game going on. For all that John Harkes speaks, you'd think that the word "succinct" would be in his vocabulary.
78: Hejduk comes running into the play, demanding the ball from Lando, and proceeds to dribble the ball out of play on what I suppose was a shot. This game is dragging. Bring on Jozy!
79: Mexico get their first corner and Bocanegra manages to make a great clearance. Oh, and it looked like someone threw a booze bottle at the Mexican player in the corner. How do I know this? The player held the bottle up in the air. C'mon, you're telling me that doesn't happen at Pachuca games all the time?
81: Finally, Jozy is about to come on just as the Americans are about to take another corner, which connects with no one.
83: Jozy on for Ching to a big ovation. Yup, us Americans know where our future is.
84: Hejduk makes what seems like his 10th sliding tackle of the night. He's shown good poise to not draw any cards. Meanwhile, Dempsey plays the ball up to Jozy, who is dispossessed after holding the ball for too long.
85: Mexicans are sending bodies forward. Maybe another goal in this one, either way though (even with Mexico down a man.
87: Sacha Kljestan off, Ricardo Clark on. JP and John seem bored, and cranky.
89: Americans have shown flashes of good play in this game, but have now reverted to form. Against 10 men they should be controlling the game, but they are too busy giving the ball away. Meanwhile, the Likely Lad says: "I feel better with USMNT holding a lead than with Spurs. Says it all."
90: So Howard picked up a yellow during the handbags and is out of the next international match. 3 minutes extra time, as Dempsey clears the ball out of the penalty box with a bicycle kick. Mexico still with the ball though.
92: GOAL USA! 2-0! Bradley puts it away! Jozy was brought down for a foul, but the ref waved play on as Lando had the ball on the wing. Passes the ball back to Bradley who is trailing and powers it in from around 25 yards out. Goalie could've saved but the ball skidded on the turf.
FULL TIME. USA Dos a Cero: Bradley was Man of the Match, with very good play from Lando, Howard and Beasley. The game wasn't played at the very highest level, but the Americans did enough to win. Most importantly, gotta love beating El Tri! Frankie agrees, as he's shouting to the crowd shirtless a la Lothar the Caveman.
That's it for me. Thanks for hanging out, everyone! Have a great night. (Oh and thanks to the Likely Lad for the dispatches from the Big City.)