Category: Mexico

MLS Insider- Erick “Cubo” Torres The All-Time Leading Mexican-Born Scorer In MLS History

At 21 years old, Erick “Cubo” Torres is already the all-time leading Mexican-born scorer in MLS history, having bagged 15 goals in his first full year with Chivas USA and another seven in the previous campaign. His goal celebration, the robot dance, is inspired by a celebration in the FIFA video game, and shows no sign of letting up as he recently opened his goalscoring account with the Mexican National Team in what was only his third senior team cap.

MLS does a great job with their digital content and this video is just one video in a long line of fantastic content they have produced. This subject matter is especially intriguing because it is hard to believe that Cubo was able to surpass the record for all-time leading Mexican-born scorer in MLS history at such a young age. US soccer owes a lot of its early success to the presence of foreigners and the close proximity of Mexico means it has a large influence on both our past and present soccer successes. The fact that there have been so few prolific Mexican-born scorers in MLS history is shocking at first. However, the domestic Mexican soccer league does pay better and is closer to home so the more you think about it the easier it is to understand why a lot of Mexican talent chooses to stay within their own league. Why go to a foreign land when they can make a good career closer to their friends and family?

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Post World Cup Rankings Update

With the close of the 2014 World Cup comes the ending of the biggest International Soccer competition until Russia in 2018.  This tournament caused the biggest movement of FIFA’s rankings until the next major tournament, so these rankings should be relatively stable until CONMEBOL’s Copa America (2015/2016) or UEFA’s Euro (2016).  Copa America and Euro will of course result in changes, but only for certain regional confederations, whereas the World Cup helps and/or hurts every FIFA team in the world.  Let’s get into these preliminary rankings, starting with the prediction for the new top 30:

Predicted rankings 14 July 2014
Predicted rankings 14 July 2014

Below is a chart showing how teams entered the World Cup Finals and how the final results moved them around:

Predicted Top 30 Changes
Predicted Top 30 Changes (ordered by pre-World Cup rankings)

Oh how the mighty have fallen. Given that Spain, England and Italy were all bumped from the tournament in the Group Stage, Spain fared quite well only dropping to number 8.  Italy and England were not so lucky, falling to 18th and 25th respectively.  The impressive tournament performance by CONCACAF teams advancing to the knockout stage (Mexico, USA and Costa Rica) only allowed Costa Rica to move up from 28th to 23rd.  The United States dropped from 13th to 22nd and Mexico held at 20th. Those European teams that made it out of the Group Stage did quite well, especially the Netherlands (15th to 3rd), France (17th to 6th) and Belgium (11th to 5th).  Of course, these are all predictions using the FIFA Prognosis Tool (better than WebMD) and will be either blown out of the water or confirmed come Thursday when FIFA is set to release their next rankings update.  IF these predictions hold true, the highest ranked team that is not a member of UEFA or CONMEBOL is…Algeria, at 19th in the world.  I’ll bet nobody called that one.

 

Check in after FIFA releases their new rankings this Thursday for a comparison of FIFA using FIFA math and my attempt at using FIFA math.

FIFA Rankings Update

FIFA won’t be officially updating the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Rankings until after the World Cup Finals are over (July 17th to be exact).  Here at the93rdminute, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to provide you with (approximate) updates to the World Rankings as the world progresses through the next four rounds of games.  You might be saying, “How on Earth can those brilliant minds at the93rdminute, my favorite soccer blog, know what the rankings will be?!?!?” and the answer is…math! We are using the FIFA Ranking Prognosis Tool, which can be found here. Essentially, the tool allows you to calculate your favorite national squad’s possible ranking points by inserting the results of recent matches.  For more on how the ranking points are determined, see here.

Below you can see the top 30 teams before the World Cup, with their estimated ranking points after the group stage.

As of 26 June 2014
As of 26 June 2014

The next image displays the newly ordered rankings, which has Colombia taking over first place and not surprisingly Spain falling off the top of the mountain.

As of 26 June 2014
As of 26 June 2014

There are a few surprises with how the math works out, like the USA dropping two spots and losing ranking points, Brazil barely staying in the top 10, and England and Italy plummeting.  Although Jürgen and the boys advanced to the knockout stage, they only managed a win against Ghana, the worst ranked team in the group.  A draw against Germany or a win against Portugal would have been a net gain of 50-100 ranking points, putting the Yanks near the top 10!  Math is crazy, I know.  Brazil played a relatively weak group (Mexico, Croatia and Cameroon ranked 20th, 18th, and 56th respectively) and didn’t exactly blow them all out of the water. As for England and Italy, they have had better group stage experiences that is for sure.

We will be updating this after every round (or more often) throughout the World Cup and see how it compares to the official rankings in a few weeks. Keep coming back to the93rdminute for all your FIFA-related mathematical skepticism!

I’m American, Should I Root For Mexico?

USA soccer fans being jeered at by Mexican soccer fans behind a fence at the Azteca in Mexico City, Mexico

US Soccer ,for much of its history, has been the little brother that has been taunted and picked on by the older brother, Mexican soccer. However, the younger brother has grown stronger and bigger and not only is it capable of fighting back against Mexico, the US is capable of defeating Mexico. The excitement surrounding this American soccer domination has been glorious for US Soccer fans to behold for many reasons. One of the main reasons behind this jubilation is the stark contrast between the USA’s dominance and Mexico’s feebleness. Our bitter rival has become a shell of their former selves. At first, this seems like a great event because US soccer has become the top team in the CONCACAF.However, there are many US soccer fans who should have felt a sigh of relief when the US helped Mexico sneak into the World Cup playoffs.

Although, I doubt the US did so purposely, it reminded those with siblings of the bond we share beneath the surface with our brothers and sisters. Even in competition, we are in this together. This may seem like the antithesis to all that US soccer stands for because why would our fans cheer for our bitter rivals? You needn’t be alarmed, we aren’t cheering for them to beat us when we play them or in the standings; instead we just want them to follow us to a worldwide stage where we can beat them again. Mexico and the US have a symbiotic relationship on the soccer field. Of course we hate each other and want to win at all costs when we play each other. Yet, when the chips fall we are inextricably linked because our soccer fans have become amalgamated. US Soccer is dependent on Mexican soccer players and Mexican fans (who converted after immigration) just as Mexican soccer is dependent on fans rooting for the team from the US. In fact, Soccer United Marketing, the marketing arm of MLS, has the marketing rights for both US Soccer and the FMF (Mexican Football Federation) within the United States. Therefore, profits from the Mexican soccer team indirectly affect the profitability of US Soccer in an extreme layman’s terms. Adidas one of the major companies marketing soccer in the US makes large chunks of money off of its Mexican soccer merchandise and spanish language channels such as Univision, which owns the US spanish language rights to the World Cup, stands to lose tens of millions if Mexico does not make the World Cup. All of this money invested in Mexican soccer will have gone down the drain and these companies will be less apt to take a risk on Mexico during the run-up to the 2018 World Cup.

The profitability of those enterprises directly affects the FMF itself. If the Mexicans do not make the World Cup then the FMF will lose millions upon millions of dollars in doing so. Without that money, they will be have to invest less in Mexican soccer in the following years which could have serious long-term effects. For example, the Mexican youth national soccer teams are notoriously dominant these past years. However, if Mexico loses all that money then they will have to start making cuts and those cuts will most certainly hurt their youth development which is a major factor in building their future national teams. An FMF that loses money will lose some of its infrastructure, which will make fielding quality senior national teams a problem. Missing this World Cup could create slippery slope that leads to Mexico missing out on the 2018 World Cup and who knows when the skid will end.

All in all, as US fans we do not have to root for Mexico to beat us or even get out of the group stage in the World Cup, assuming that they make it. During qualifying we have established our dominance and the world has seen Mexico falter. By this point we have had our fun. Let’s root for them to make the World Cup where we can embarrass them again. For the sake of the international recognition of the CONCACAF and of our soccer program we need our villain. We need Mexico to challenge us and to push us to exceed expectations. Like Larry Bird needed Magic Johnson, so do we need Mexico to be in the World Cup. Once they get there then we can restart our chants of “Dos A Cero! Dos A Cero!”

Game is at 3:30 EST on ESPN

Have a better point of view on why to root against Mexico as a US Soccer fan? Let me know in the comment section below.

USA/Honduras and Panama/Mexico Highlights

The USMNT played a fantastic game with Landon Donovan leading the charge as he has all tournament. There is no doubt Landon Donovan will be on the World Cup roster and there should be no doubt that the US will be the favorites in this Gold Cup final.

Mexico hasn’t lost a Gold Cup Semifinal since 2005 and has only lost two in its Gold Cup history so there were heavy favorites heading into this game. However, Panama proved very resilient and there impressive display proves that they have a chance to upset the US.

CONCACAF Match Day 5: USMNT Recap and Other Ruminations

USMNT

First and foremost, let’s talk about that impressive, dominating 90-minute performance from the Americans. It’s difficult to recall a match where the ‘Nats took control of the game from start to finish and squeezed their opponent into submission so exhaustively. The Panamanians, aside from one or two chances against the run of play, did not pose any consistent threat to Tim Howard and the U.S. defense.

From a tactical perspective, the Canaleros (“the Canal Men”) came out putting numbers behind the ball, as expected, and looked to catch the U.S. on the counterattack. The U.S. were well-prepared and confident, exercising patience as they probed the defense and picked their spots in making the incisive pass to break down Panama. For the first 25 minutes or so, the U.S. was a bit sloppy and off rhythm in the final third, unable to connect on their final penetrating passes. However, as the ‘Nats worked themselves into the game and as their confidence built, they grew sharper and more clinical around goal. Both goals, and DaMarcus Beasley’s shot off the post, left the Panamanian defense helpless and showcased the potency of a free-flowing U.S. attack. Moreover, do not understate the importance of scoring the first goal early because the goal forced Panama out of their shell and opened up the game for the Americans. In the second half, the Americans controlled the game and choose the right moments to attack and build their lead against the overextended Panamanian defense.

While USMNT fans should be nothing short of ecstatic after witnessing a thorough take-down of a pesky opponent, I think it should be noted that a performance like this raises the bar, both for better and worse. For better, this games illustrates that the U.S. can play in the proactive approach, predicated upon keeping possession and attacking the defense for 90 minutes, that Klinsmann promised to implement upon his hiring. For worse, however, the collective expectations of all USMNT fans has risen, and rightfully so. While the U.S. is not going to transform into Spain overnight and a gulf still exists among the U.S. and other soccer powers, this game proves that the U.S. does not have to rely on counterattacking and exploiting set pieces when playing top teams around the world (though these strategies are still useful). Do not expect the USMNT to perform at this level in every match, as the team will undoubtedly face ups and downs during its ascension, but a match like this is a critical step in raising the level of play for the USMNT.

From a Panamanian perspective, they sorely missed Blas Perez, their mercurial, prolific striker, who could have tested the U.S. backline. With the exception of Alberto Quintero, no Panamanian player consistently threatened the U.S. defense, and Quintero seemed more interested in drawing a penalty than scoring or setting up a goal for himself. USMNT fans, note that this Panama team had not previously lost in the Hexagonal round and is no slouch. All in all, the key takeaways from the match are the many superb individual performances, the phenomenal, uplifting Seattle crowd, and the continued strong decision-making of Jurgen Klinsmann. Now, here are my player grades.

Tim Howard – 6.0 – While I believe the whispers of Brad Guzan being ready to assume the #1 Goalkeeper spot are premature and unfounded, Tim Howard has not been his dominant self the last few games. While he earned the clean sheet and made one strong save, Howard looked indecisive in not coming off his line on the Panamanian goal that was narrowly offside.

Brad Evans – 5.0 – I am still a fan of Brad Evans, but I think this game brought him down to Earth, especially coming off the heroic stoppage time goal versus Jamaica. Alberto Quintero gave Evans fits down the left side before switching over to the right side, and Evans was a step slow in stepping to his man on the pass that sprung Panama’s offsides goal. Evans had some nice moments distributing the ball, but, overall, his match was up and down.

Omar Gonzalez – 5.5 – Omar Gonzalez was mostly absent from the match, which is always a good sign for a defender, but, on one of the few plays where he was challenged, he completely lost his man who was streaking into the open space in the box behind him. While Gonzalez continues to grow and develop, it is vital that he learns to eliminate these mental lapses that seem to happen 1-2 times a match.

Matt Besler – 7.0 – For the third consecutive match, I believe Matt Besler outshined his centerback partner, Omar Gonzalez. Besler is rock-solid and plays with the poise of a defender who has been through the qualifying gauntlet numerous times. Besler made several strong tackles in the box to break up crosses and distributed the ball well from the backline.

DaMarcus Beasley – 6.5 – Making his sixth consecutive start, Beasley put in another strong, sturdy performance for the ‘Nats. While Beasley was beat badly by Quintero on one play when he switched over to the right side of the field, Beasley played very well otherwise and nearly scored a goal on a surging run forward, reminiscent of the Beasley of old.

Eddie Johnson – 6.25 – The hometown hero made a terrific run to time Geoff Cameron’s pass and calmly finished past the Panamanian goalkeeper. Besides his well-taken goal, I thought Eddie played decently but slowed the ball down on a few U.S. attacks, which broke up potential goal scoring sequences. I don’t think he played well enough to displace Graham Zusi from his position on the right side of the midfield.

Michael Bradley – 8.0 – My man-of-the-match. Bradley’s continued growth and development has been extremely satisfying to watch. Already one of the best midfielders in CONCACAF, Bradley is still improving and showed his class all night. Bradley worked tirelessly and sprayed the ball all over the field. His beautiful cross field pass to Dempsey catalyzed the Beasley near-goal, and his booming runs forward, including the one that started the first goal, consistently created dangerous chances for the U.S.

Geoff Cameron – 7.5 – Alongside Jozy Altidore, Cameron was the second most impressive player for the U.S. Cameron and Bradley completely controlled the midfield and owned their Panamanian counterparts in every capacity. Cameron tackled extremely well and was a calming influence in the center of the park, demonstrating surprising comfort despite his somewhat limited experience in that role. His pass to spring Eddie Johnson was perfect. Klinsmann must love the versatility that Cameron provides.

Fabian Johnson – 6.5 – Fabian Johnson showed marked improvement over his previous performance versus Jamaica. Johnson worked the left wing for the U.S. all game and delivered a perfect cross for the first U.S. goal of the game. I still think Johnson can be more consistent and impose himself on the game more frequently, but he is a promising player that showed his talent versus Panama.

Clint Dempsey – 6.0 – This rating shows the high standard Dempsey has set for himself. While Dempsey displayed glimpses of brilliance and showcased budding chemistry between him and Altidore, he was a bit out of sync the whole game. However, it should be noted that his surging near-post run pulled the defense apart to allow Jozy to finish the first goal.

Josy Altidore – 7.5 – How about scoring a few goals to boost your confidence? Altidore was a beast last night, getting involved often and providing excellent hold-up play. Altidore appears to have an insatiable appetite for scoring goals and extended his consecutive scoring streak to three games. While Altidore did a good job of getting involved, I still think the U.S. can do a better job of finding him, which is a scary thought for the rest of CONCACAF.

Seattle Crowd – Seattle USMNT fans, you were absolutely incredible last night and deserve to host many more matches as soon as possible. It was truly breathtaking to hear every chant of the raucous crowd through our TV sets, and I think I speak on behalf of every American soccer fan when I say that hearing the “We’re going to Brazil” chant emanating throughout my living room was my favorite USMNT crowd moment of the past decade.

Hexagonal Thoughts

After the completion of the first five matches, the Hexagonal is beginning to take shape. Having lost to Honduras, Jamaica is essentially all but eliminated and has reduced the competition to five teams competing for 3 (potentially) 4 spots. Following the loss to the U.S., Panama faces an uphill climb to qualify for its first World Cup, as it has three remaining matches on the road and faces group leaders, the U.S., at home. The U.S. has put itself in very good position, leading the group with 10 points after the first 5 games (3 of which were on the road), and can extend its lead with a win over Honduras next week, which would avenge its opening loss to Honduras in the first game of its Hexagonal campaign.

I would be remiss if I neglected to speak about Mexico. Firstly, what is happening to Mexico? They have yet to score in three home matches, much to the frustration of their fans, which boiled over into complete chaos when Bryan Ruiz, the Costa Rican captain, was hit in the head with an unidentified object as he attempted to take a corner kick.  It goes without saying, but there is absolutely no place in the game for actions like this. Players’ safety should not be endangered while they are playing. While I encourage each and every nation’s fans to cheer as loudly as possible to create a hostile environment, Mexico has taken it too far. On a similar note, Mexican fans’ affinity for shooting laser pointers into the eyes of opposing players is disgraceful. Perhaps if their team was playing better, they would not have to resort to such immature behavior. Finally, FIFA is planning to review this game and may prohibit Mexico from hosting future games at their storied stadium, the Azteca, so keep an eye on that development.

Looking Forward to Honduras

The U.S. has worked itself into excellent position as it heads to Salt Lake City to take on a Honduras team that handed them an opening loss at the start of their Hexagonal campaign. USMNT fans will be eager to see the U.S. build upon their sterling performance versus Panama and avenge their opening match loss to Honduras. With a week’s rest and no known injuries, Klinsmann should have a full squad at his disposal, leaving him with some interesting decisions to make.

Will Klinsmann:

1. Rest any regulars to offer a chance to other players and/or prevent suspension from yellow card accumulation?

I believe Klinsmann will field the strongest lineup possible and look to earn three points at home to cap off an excellent three match qualifying series.

2. Continue to use the backline of Evans, Gonzalez, Besler, and Beasley for the fourth consecutive game?

I believe Klinsmann will maintain his backline, despite an uneven performance from Evans versus Panama.

3. Replace Cameron and Johnson with their predecessors, Jermaine Jones and Graham Zusi?

I believe that Zusi will reclaim his spot in right midfield over Eddie Johnson. The Geoff Cameron situation is more uncertain. He played well enough in Jones’ stead that Klinsmann may elect to keep him in as Jones recovers from the concussion he suffered versus Jamaica. Another possibility, although more unlikely, is Klinsmann replacing Evans with Cameron at right back.

That’s all from me today. Add any comments below if you’d like to discuss any of my thoughts in more detail.

USA Passes Massive HEX Test

This year’s Hexagonal is closer than in year’s past. There is no shot that after three games any of you reading this would have placed Panaman atop the group and Mexico currently out of Brazil 2014.I bet you didn’t have Jamaica at the bottom either. This year’s Hex will have no shortage of drama down the stretch. But that is down the road. I’m here to discuss the masterclass that wasn’t and the pesky Americans that went into the Mexican version of a gladiator arena and came out alive and unscathed.

A point is a point is a point. Expectations going into Estadio Azteca are always hindered by a multitude of factors including projectiles thrown from the crowd, high altitude and a Mexican team that is virtually untouchable at home. But the USA caught them at the right time. Mexico has zero wins and zero losses coming into this game. After a less than impressive performance saw them draw a not overly impressive Honduran that fought back from a 2-0 deficit to take a point at home. The USA found themselves riding high after a spring blizzard found the Colorado air and propelled them to a 1-0 victory over Costa Rica. It was not a pretty victory but it didn’t have to be. Anything to get the USMNT a vital three points.

So move on to match day and three hundred questions remain lingering in the air. Who will the back four be? Who steps in for injured Jermaine Jones? Will the incrdible run of injuries in the USMNT be too much of a challenge? Can Guzan be the man of the hour? When will Jozy Altidore get off the mark for his country? And lastly, will Landon Donovan suddenly parachute into Azteca for the start of the match and score the game winner? (WE ALL HOPED THAT HAPPENED)

And there it is, the whistle blows and off goes the madness. 100,000 screaming fans counting the passes of a Mexican side that enjoyed incredible spells of possession especially in the first half and a USA that looked better. I use such an awful, undescriptive word because that is excellent what they were. The USMNT were organized, they were relatively disciplined and they didn’t try to fight fire with fire. They weathered storm after storm after storm and took solace in whatever possession they were given. I think it was obvious that Mexico was looking to expose Beasley early and often. They might have had success had Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler been out to lunch but they were locked in and smart in their movement. The coverage they provided as a unit was impressive and integral to the USMNT backline suring up any mistakes from the midfield.

Alas, Mexico was clever in the attack and decisive with their movement, something that is difficult to cope with for an inexperienced backline and especially impossible for an inexperienced backline trying to defend the likes of Chicharito and Giovanni Dos Santos. But as of late, Mexico has had trouble finding the all important match winner as in apparent in their recent record. This was largely due to timely interceptions and blocks from my Man of the Match Michael Bradley.

Michael Bradley must have felt that his father was about to win a WCQ with an Egypt national side that has dealt with more adversity than half of the rest of the world’s international teams combined. Bradley’s time at Roma has helped him mature as a player and that is exactly what the USMNT needs. He is mature beyond his years and showed it last night with simple passing that helped keep the US team in possession. He made timely tackles and was the most consistent player on the pitch. His role as a back four buffer and combining midfielder were played to a T. He was a major reason the USMNT found a draw last night.

Lastly, Brad Guzan is on fire. He always seemed to be in excellent position. His feet were quick and his hands even quicker. When called upon he was absolutely stellar.

Even though this was a makeshift squad for the United States, some performances will not help make Mr. Klinsmann’s job any easier. These performances helped the USMNT to a week that they needed, a week that saved Klinsmann’s job and kep the USMNT at the forefront of qualifying for the next world cup.