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U.S. vs. Mexico Man of the Match: Eddie Johnson

Sep 10, 2013, 10:51 PM EDT

FBL-WC2014-QUALIFIERS-USA-PANAMA Getty Images

After a memorable match like tonight where a number of players put in such tremendous shifts, selecting a Man of the Match can be a bit troublesome.

For example, how can someone argue that Tim Howard doesn’t deserve the recognition?

The U.S. goalkeeper proved his worth tonight in a big way. Entering the pitch with his typical chrome-dome and a beard that would make James Harden proud, Howard exuded confidence.

From the early corner-kicks, to Giovani Dos Santos’ menacing runs, to the long-range efforts of Christian ‘El Chaco’ Giménez, Howard had every angle covered. The Everton netminder’s save of the night came in the 43rd minute when Dos Santos slipped behind Kyle Beckerman and Jermaine Jones and stabbed a vicious shot towards the top corner. With a cat-like leap, Howard sprung left and sucked in the shot with both gloves, preventing the rebound.

But as good as Howard was, who could deny Omar Gonzalez the MOTM award?

Tonight we witnessed the coming-of-age story that was Gonzalez morphing from a boy with talent into a center-back worthy of international recognition. From the opening whistle he bossed the U.S. defense with thoughtful organization and intelligent positioning.

Dos Santos may have been active but Gonzo had him in his back pocket. Utilizing his robust 6’5″ frame, the center-back forced Gio off the ball on numerous occasions leaving the diminutive playmaker with nothing to do but foul. Gonzo’s best sequence of the night came in the 18th minute where his sliding interception ruined Dos Santos’ through-ball to Javier Hernandez. The play continued, however, with Omar then popping up and blocking Gio’s shot before Giménez forced a fine save by Howard.

And yet, incredibly, other guys were equally as impressive as Howard and Gonzo.

Alejandro Bedoya was a nightmare for El Tri, especially Andres Guardado. Landon Donovan overcame what had to be one of the gnarliest forms of pink-eye ever seen to put in a shift that screamed one word: desire. Heck, one could even argue that Jurgen Klinsmann, for all the depth and belief he has provided the Stars & Stripes, deserved the recognition.

But for me, tonight was all about Eddie Johnson.

One of the biggest narratives going into the match was whether the U.S. had the depth to defeat Mexico, and more specifically, whether the U.S. attack could inflict danger without Jozy Altidore.

Eddie Johnson more than answered that question in the affirmative. He caused problems for Mexico’s defense right away, working his way into channels where the U.S. midfield could work off him. In the 22nd minute he found one of these pockets on top of Mexico’s box and provided a cheeky back heel that sprung Clint Dempsey free only for his shot to be blocked.

Nine minutes later, it was Johnson’s trump card – his athleticism – that frustrated El Tri as he skied over the defense and unleashed a thunderous header that was right at Jose de Jesus Corona. The effort was a sign of things to come, however, as Johnson sensed Mexico’s timidity in the air and latched on to Donovan’s 49th minute corner to pound home the opening goal.

Johnson’s goal celebration at the corner flag was emphatic and justifiably so – he was a man on a mission. And tonight, he arrived in a very big way.

Brazil, baby! Brazil!

  1. hildezero - Sep 11, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    EJ was not the Man Of The Match. It was LD. A lot media and fans say so.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:11 AM

      And that (media and fans) makes it so?

      Landon did his job, EJ finished it.
      If you don’t think EJ’s forehead was MOTM, then I feel sorry for your ability (or lack of) to analyze a soccer match.

  2. merinarj21 - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:05 AM

    Did we watch the same game? LD was definitely the man of the match. He was the one that kicked that beautiful ball to EJ both times and he got a goal for himself. He definitely stepped up and made the most impact on the game. And he did it all seeing out of one eyeball.

  3. Dan Haug - Sep 11, 2013 at 2:12 AM

    I agree with the other comments. EJ had a nice solid match, but Landon Donovan was the heart and soul of this team. He dictated the pace of play for the US for long stretches of the match. His relentlessly harassed the Mex players when they had the ball. He tracked back on defense. His set pieces were Money… and he created multiple chances in the attack, including the assist and the goal. How could you possibly choose EJ? The only other viable choice would be Howard, who was very solid in goal… but he didn’t have to make any really outstanding saves. However Donovan was clearly the best field player on the pitch for either team.

    I wonder about this blog sometimes. You guys kept saying that LD would be starting on the bench in these qualifiers. What are you guys missing about his play? He has 8 goals and 8 assists in his 9 matches with the USMNT this year. That’s his best year with the USMNT ever.

    • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:13 AM

      I wonder about some of you fan’s and your ability to understand the impact of individual player performances. Wow. (Of COURSE, EJ was MOTM!)

  4. braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 3:17 AM

    BEAUTIFULLY written article, Mike

    • soccerjohn - Sep 11, 2013 at 11:43 AM

      I’ve gotta say, I went to sleep last night puzzling over who should be MOM last night. In addition to EJ, Donovan, and Howard I think you could make a decent case for Jones, who settled down and stopped trying to force things. Jones is a fantastic destroyer.

      But I ultimately decided that Donovan was MOM. He put two perfectly placed crosses on EJ’s head. And, if you’re going to give EJ credit for finishing a perfect cross you’ve got to give Donovan credit for doing the same later and icing the game. EJ also provided some useful hold-up play, but he really added very teeth to the attack beyond set plays. Donovan was not as clean with the ball as usual, but he contributed tons of good defensive work. That’s what finally cinched it for me. Mexico almost never attacked through Beasley’s/Donovan’s side of the field, but attacked often through Bedoya/Johnson. I can’t imagine that was because Beasley put such fear in their hearts.

      (Psst, braxtonrob, using ALLCAPS and questioning posters’ intelligence won’t make your argument stronger. That stuff makes you a troll.)

      • braxtonrob - Sep 11, 2013 at 4:34 PM

        @soccerjohn, a “troll” is like a fishing line, it’s not a mythical creature living under a bridge (as your attempting to use it TO INSULT ME).

        I questioned a posters “ability” to analyze a game, you resorted to name-calling (without even having a basic understanding of what “trolling” is) – pathetic; grow up!

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