November 5, 2010

MEXICO UPSETS US in World Cup Qualifying 2-1

A game Mexican squad, playing in front of a boisterous home crowd, upset the USWNT 2-1 tonight in Cancun, Mexico. For most of the evening, the underdog Mexicans outhustled and outplayed a US team that hadn't lost since a penalty kick decision at the 2009 Algarve Cup to Sweden.

Mexico had their foot on the gas peddle from the opening whistle, catching a sluggish looking US squad back on their heels. They struck first in the 3rd minute on a set piece. A long free kick was sent forward and Nayeli Rangel headed the ball toward the goal. Mexican star Maribel Dominguez slipped behind the defense and chipped the ball neatly over Nicole Barnhart's head for a 1-0 lead.

The US equalized in the 25th minute. A corner kick came loose in the box after Mexican goalkeeper Erika Vanegas was unable to handle it. Carli Lloyd slotted the loose ball into the net to knot the score at one.

It was only a minute later, however, that Mexico regained the lead. A high cross was sent into the box and former Saint Louis Athletica developmental player, Veronica Perez, headed it home past Barnhart.

The rest of the half saw the US often resorting to long passes and ill-advised shots, none of which came remotely close to scoring. Mexico headed into the intermission with a 2-1 lead. Little did anyone realize that there would be no more scoring.

The US would get very few good opportunities during the match. While they controlled the pace of the match much better in the 2nd half, the Mexican defense was more than up to the task, keeping most of the pressure away from their keeper. The Mexican team looked surprisingly poised compared to the far greater experienced USWNT. A frustrated US side was very ragged with their passing game and from a defensive standpoint, resorted to shirt-tugging all too often.

Perhaps the best chance for the US came well into the 2nd half as Alex Morgan corralled a loose ball off of a corner and turned with a hard shot that went right into the gut of Vanegas.

In stoppage time, Abby Wambach collided with Kenti Robles on a header that left both women bleeding, with blood gushing from Wambach's head. She got taped up, but the 4th official was unable to get the head referee's attention and Wambach was never able to rejoin the match.

A joyous Mexican crowd counted down the seconds to victory and the closing whistle set off quite the celebration. Mexico will now face Canada for the Concacaf championship, although both teams have already qualified for the World Cup. Canada broke open a close game late to win by a 4-0 margin over Costa Rica. Canadian goals were scored by Josee Belanger, Jonelle Foligno, Christine Sinclair, with a fourth coming on an own goal in stoppage time.

As for the US, the road just got a lot more difficult. They must now defeat Costa Rica once again in the 3rd place match. If they win that, they would face Italy in a home-and-home on November 20 and 27 for the final World Cup berth. Italy finished in 5th place in UEFA qualifying.