Monday, February 16, 2009

Dos A Cero Otra Vez

This is one of the biggest rivalries in the beautiful game they call football, fútbol, calcio or soccer. The United States have owned Mexico on U.S. soil over the past decade, having never lost and only giving up 3 goals. Five times before, the U.S. had notched 2-0 victories over El Tricolores in the U.S. over the past decade. Meanwhile, Mexico still claims to be El Gigantes (The Giants) of CONCACAF, but their Achilles heel has been trying to beat the U.S. in the U.S. Mexico also has this complex that they’re never supposed to lose to the U.S., and every time they lose, they blame the refs or say that they played bad, but it’s never that the U.S. was better on that day. After Wednesday, I think the common rule is that the U.S. is better than Mexico, period.

The site was Columbus, where in the past two World Cup Qualifying rounds in 2001 and 2005, 2-0 victories were recorded by the U.S. over Mexico. The first one, in 2001, was played in such cold conditions that the game is forever known as La Guerra Fría (The Cold War). In 2005, 2-0 became “Dos A Cero” amid much warmer conditions. This game’s weather had a mix of everything: sun and warm temperatures, 60mph wind, torrential rain, thunder, lightning, hail, and cold temperatures later on. But, despite three torrid squalls that dropped pea-sized hail and brought a deluge among the thousands of people tailgating before the game in the Columbus Crew Stadium parking lot, the spirit of this rivalry was never dampened. It was an electric atmosphere, as no one was going to let a bit of weather dull their experience at the most-anticipated game in all of CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying.

In the end, the result was the same: DOS A CERO. Two Michael Bradley goals (43’ and 90’+2) made the U.S. jump out to an early lead over their main rivals, with the 2nd goal in stoppage time in the 2nd half sending the majority of the 23,776 fans in attendance into jubilation and a resounding Dos A Cero chant. We also had the familiar dirty play from Mexico captain Rafael Marquez, who was sent off in the 63rd minute after spiking U.S. keeper Tim Howard in the knee when going up for a jump ball in the box. If you remember, Marquez was also sent off in the 2002 World Cup 2nd Round game (once again, a 2-0 U.S. victory).

Several kudos to hand out for the U.S. players. Tim Howard was great in goal, as always. If there’s anyone out there that thinks Tim Howard isn’t on the list of Top 10 keepers in the world, I want to know what other 10 keepers there are on their list. Michael Bradley: 2 goals. Enough said. He played splendidly. I thought Beasley was great on the wings, and he really had great pace, one that Mexico’s defenders had trouble stopping. Donovan was great in the box, with his play on corners setting up the first goal and assisting on the 2nd goal even while being fouled. Gooch was the man in the middle, really played well and stopped just about everything that came his way. Frankie Hejduk played inspired soccer in front of his home fans (he plays for the defending MLS Champion Columbus Crew). He was injured on one play and many of us thought it was serious enough for him to be subbed. However, he stuck it out and really controlled play on the sides. Hejduk is a player that I love sometimes and sometimes I wish he would not be on the pitch. Wednesday night, I had to give him props for that play. He also got slapped after the game by Mexico Assistant Coach Paco Ramirez. Why, no one knows, but I’ll say that Hejduk got the last laugh.

Finally, being in Sam’s Army for it all made the 15 hours of total driving that I had to do worth it. We were loud, we were intimidating, we had fun, we waved flags, and it was a blast to be a part of it. Special shoutout goes to the 8-10 Motor City Supporters who came down for the game. It was great to finally meet all of you, and I look forward to meeting up for more events. For now, DOS A CERO viva otra vez! (2-0 lives again!).

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