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The road to London now seems to go through Mexico

Mar 24, 2012, 11:00 PM EDT

Nana Attakora-Gyan, Jorge Villafana, Lucas Cavallini

We’ve covered the flaws in the U.S. under-23 team. And good luck fixing all that.

So now let’s examine the hole that’s Caleb Porter’s team just dug. Because his under-23s grabbed themselves a mess of shovels, started madly turning over the dirt and dug themselves a real lulu.

The United States definitely can beat El Salvador on Monday. It’s no slam dunk, for all the reasons outlined in the previous post. Still, there’s no reason Porter’s men can’t come shining through and extend the Olympic dream.

But that’s just it; this whole thing isn’t about showing El Salvador what’s what. Months of planning, training camps, new coaching hires, etc., weren’t all about overcoming a small Central American country on one Monday night in Nashville.

It’s about getting to London, of course. And the road to London just went underwater, suddenly much more difficult to navigate.  Here’s why:

Beating El Salvador only gets the United States into the semifinals, a stage that probably just became significantly tougher.

Best-case scenario for Porter and his team was to win Saturday, gain complete control of the group and switch on the cruise control by changing out eight starters. They could have rested the main men for that important semifinal ahead. (Both semifinal winners gain London 2012 berths.)

Now Porter has no choice but to put his best and brightest out there Monday – for the third time in five days, an absurdly demanding schedule. They will have four full days of rest before the March 31 semifinal in Kansas City. Still, fatigue becomes an issue, especially if their Group B opponent can comfortably rest its top talent in Los Angeles on Tuesday. (The full CONCACAF qualifying schedule is here.)

Speaking of that opponent:

It was always likely to be Honduras or Mexico. By finishing first in Group A, the U.S. under-23s could have maximized their odds of dodging Mexico in the money round. Now, if things go as expected, Mexico will finish first in Group B with Honduras placing second.

Because a U.S. win Monday would most likely leave Porter’s team in second place, that means … yep: Mexico and the United States would meet for a winner-take-all semifinal. Only one of the CONCACAF big boys will go to London.

That’s all assuming the United States can win Monday.

So it looks now like the road to London doesn’t just go through Monday’s dangerous neighborhood (the win-or-go-home against El Salvador). Now it also goes through Mexico’s talented assembly – more than likely, anyway.

  1. soccerknowitall - Mar 25, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    I feel bad for our us fans, there being duped still by us soccer and media who dont know the difference between good and great players or teams. We ran into a team equal in physical/athletic ability, organized, rested n hungry; they took us out of are game/comfort zone, an well they won ugly. coach porter would rather lose playing his rigid possession style than win ugly i guess. props to Canada.

    freddy adu is worthless as captain/leader, an just a little better as a player. when u struggle or fall behind u need a guy like landon donavan yelling and inspiring your team on the field. they also need tim howard in goal this summer organizing the backline and doing his thing in goal.

    coach porter talks big, ” were here to win all 3 games in group” how bout 1 game at a time like ncaa basketball. Porter wants to play pretty soccer & dominate teams,” score early to bring them out of there shell to play with us” has been his repeated quote this week. but had no plan in place when they fell behind, or failed to score at all during the first 57 minutes. the canadian team practiced together 4 Days! 4 days! and got a win against US, with our team/ coaches spending months together. the canadian coach stood on the sidelines instructing and cheering his team on. Coach Porter, sat with arms folded on the bench chatting it up with Reyna!

    having viewed the game film a few times tonite i see many glaring player/coaching problems for US. one is they lack a killer instinct around the last third of field; they’d rather pass the ball horizonally or back then take on the pressure/responsibility/ criticism of dribbling at an shooting on goal, this I see as a lack of training/coaching philo by pass happy porter/reyna-Reyna whom scored 8 goals with MNT in 111 games.
    Does US soccer/coaches review game film the way NFL coaches do? i guess not!!!
    also team usa players seem to receive the ball at there feet standing still & flatfooted way to much in the attacking third, when the mind set of a natural (south american/european player) is to advance, dribble and shoot. i could go on but i experienced this same thing with a pro team here during my playing days in the early nineties in california. US players/ and college coaches are so groomed and caressed, that they seem to lack many of the instincts and mentality were so used to seeing in euro leagues. its hard and sad to watch soccer at this level when you watch fox soccer channel all day.

    Finally, dont be surprised if mexico dumps wednesdays game, takes 2nd in group and avoids US in semis. we still have the quality, teamwork and skill to beat mexico any given day, just not at the levels of euro/ S american players of same age. maybe one day in future! but these kids are still missing out on superior coaching, soccer mentality and natural footballer instincts of the game as a player…… IMHO

  2. killerbones - Mar 25, 2012 at 9:25 AM

    soccerknowitall, that was an excellent commentary on us soccer. I’d like to add that if the men’s team had the same mindset as the uswnt, we’d see more wins also. An ugly win is better than a pretty loss.

  3. ndnut - Mar 25, 2012 at 6:04 PM

    Why hasn’t there been any coverage of the group out in LA? Even though this site focuses on U.S. Soccer, information about the Mexican NT is pertinent to the subject.

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