Take a look at the entire Mexican population right now. Glance up from your American newspaper (which forgot how to cover national sports) and look inquisitively at the Mexican celebrations that never should have been. Panama had it. America was about to gift Panama a World Cup berth and shatter Mexican dreams of World Cup glory.
But it was not to be. I would be the first one to say I would love to see the fall of “el tri” finally be completed. I would for the United States to be the only team in North America to earn its spot in the World Cup Finals. Jurgen Klinsmann instilled too much pride in this US team and I love him for it. As badly as Mexico in previous qualifying matches they still found themselves in control of their own destiny; win and you are guaranteed a playoff. Lose and you better hope the United States takes care of business. Costa Rica didn’t get the memo. They came out flying and made sure Mexico knew that they were going to have to earn a result. And Mexico couldn’t find the answer. The same problems that haunted the group during other qualifying matches continued. No creativeness of the past, no organization defensively, no Mexican bite. No grit, no fear in the opponents eyes. It is amazing what a few years can do to a national program. And for a few minutes, Mexico was out of the World Cup. The United States had gone down 1-0. They had tied the game. They had gone down 2-1. It was the 90th minute. Panama needed three minutes of clearances and time wasting to find themselves en route to a chance at the World Cup Finals. But, the United States decided that remaining in Panama for years after finishing the Panama Canal was not enough harm for the Panamanian people. It was like it was scripted. It was like TV needed a dramatic comeback just so Sportscenter could run a cool bit with the exact timing of Mexican’s demise and rise. Graham Zusi must have had his PF Flyers on and eaten his Wheaties before the game because I have never seen him climb that high to win a header. Yet, he did and tied the game at two in the first minute of stoppage time. Aron Johannsson. Aron Johannsson. Aron Johannsson. This name will haunt Panama and be the livelihood of Mexican futbol; especially if Mexico takes care of New Zealand in the playoff. (Which they definitely should) Johannsson decided to score a winner with no time remaining and ruin the hopes of the Panamanian team while revitalizing a Mexican nation that was otherwise lost and without an identity. The pure disbelief of the Panamanian team once the game ended was enough to see how massive a goal it was.
So USA wins. Crushes Panama’s dreams. Gives Mexico an out. New Zealand has no business beating Mexico. Mexico will qualify. I am sad to say that. If Mexico ends up in the USMNT’s group I will be upset because we did it to ourselves. On any given day, if Mexico decides to bring its game, they are a dangerous group capable of scoring at will.
Still, lets relish in the fact that the USMNT has shown itself well. It has proved that it is the top of this region and will be a force at the World Cup. It has shown that its depth (in certain spots) is greater than ever and that Mr. Klinsmann has some tough decisions to make before naming the official World Cup roster. I can’t wait and I hope to see more of him celebrating on the sidelines.