Jon Arnold takes us on his weekly flight through CONCACAF, stopping in Mexico City for a surprising result, a wild one in Costa Rica, and all the other excellent action. Plus, your gratuitous Rafa Marquez update.
February 08, 2013
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Mexico Disappointed to Share Point at Azteca
U.S. fans still feeling wounded after opening the final round of World Cup qualifying with a loss might feel a bit better after bitter rival Mexico could only muster a draw with Jamaica at the Azteca on Wednesday night. The performance from Chepo de la Torre’s team was far from a good one. In fact, while both teams had chances, Portland Timbers forward Ryan Johnson could’ve scored for the visitors in the eighth minute and had an even better chance in the 68th, but both shots ended up being right at Mexican keeper Jesus Corona.
Corona’s counterpart, Donovan Ricketts, who also plays for the Timbers, was fantastic in keeping Mexico’s highly-touted attack from scoring with excellent saves on Hector Herrera and Javier Hernandez in the second half.
The brightest spot for Mexico was Javier Aquino, a midfielder who came on at halftime in place of Gio dos Santos. The typically incisive winger had a lot of trouble connecting with Hernandez and his fellow forward Oribe Peralta. Aquino, who now heads to Spain to join his new club Villarreal, came on to provide a spark. He did that, creating several chances, but Ricketts and Jamaica’s back line continued to thwart Mexico’s attack.
The attack lacking any rhythm has Mexican fans and press concerned, with Cancha simply calling the draw ridiculous. One of the country’s other sports dailies focused on an incident after the match in which center back and captain Maza Rodriguez was caught raising his middle finger toward a camera in the mixed zone.
The match was officiated by a mostly American crew with Mark Geiger in the center, Sean Hurd as one of the assistants and Edvid Jurisevic as the fourth official. Geiger’s night wasn’t too eventful, though he had an active stretch just before he blew the halftime whistle. There was a penalty shout for Mexico, but he was probably right in ignoring it. Then, he gave Jermaine Johnson a yellow card on a play that turned out to be an obvious dive by Chicharito.
Mexico heads for Honduras before welcoming (ha!) the U.S. to the Azteca in the next round of qualifying. The feared stadium wasn’t exactly rocking against the Reggae Boyz, but having the U.S. in town will change that.
Here are the highlights from the 0-0 draw:
Costa Rica Storms Back to Draw Level
In the other Hex match, Panama dashed out to an early lead, going up 2-0 in the 27th minute thanks to goals from Luis Henriquez and Roman Torres.
Real Salt Lake forward Alvaro Saborio pulled one back before the half for los Ticos and the match settled down from its frenetic pace. Finally, Fulham’s Bryan Ruiz, wearing the armband for Jorge Luis Pinto’s club, hit the equalizer in the 84th minute with the second-best bicycle of the week.
The entire match is on YouTube because apparently people have rights to do that. If you’d like something a little quicker, here are some highlights:
As Costa Rica is the next U.S. opponent in the Hex, we’ll have plenty more coverage, but the quick takeaways are that they’re somewhat susceptible at the back but make up for that in firepower. You’re probably familiar with Ruiz and Joel Campbell, the Real Betis forward who came into the match at the half, but keep an eye on Christian Bolaños as well. The winger who plays for Copenhagen provides very good service.
For the first time all season, los Xolos weren’t able to get all three points from a match. Americans Edgar Castillo and Joe Corona, along with the rest of the club, faced off with Tigres, who also had won all their matches in the young Clausura. The result was a thrilling match that ended deadlocked at two. Tijuana went up early, but Tigres hit back twice through Lucas Lobos. Tijuana were headed for its first loss until Duvier Riascos took advantage of a bad header by one of Tigres’ center backs and rocketed a shot into the back of the net for the equalizer.
As entertaining as it was, it wasn’t pretty, with all four of the goals coming on suspect goalkeeping or defending. Castillo was called into the U.S. national team for its 2-1 loss in Honduras, but he didn't make it onto the field in San Pedro Sula.
This weekend, Club América visits the border in a match pitting two early favorites to win the tournament, with Xolos in the second spot in the table and América just a point back in third. As frequent readers of this column know, Estadio Caliente is something of a fortress for Tijuana, and you’ll want to tune in on UniMas at 8 p.m. Eastern to see if las Aguilas can hand Xolos their first regular season home loss in a more than a year.
Other Americans in Liga MX
Jose Torres went 70 minutes. Yes, again. Torres, like Castillo, was called into Jurgen Klinsmann’s side (did they all take the same plane?) but also didn’t play.
Same story for Hercluez Gomez. He did, however, play for Santos in a 0-0 draw with Pumas last weekend. He got a yellow card in the first half and was subbed out in the 72nd minute. Gomez will see even more time up top with strike partner Peralta out for a couple weeks with a broken nose.
Puebla beat Morelia, 3-1, and both Americans started the match. DaMarcus Beasley played 66 minutes in the left midfield before making way. Michael Orozco Fiscal went the full 90 as the right back. Don’t get too excited yet, Timmy Chandler haters.
Liga MX Team of the Week
Club Tijuana–They went into the toughest atmosphere in LigaMX and conceded the lead but were able to bounce back and stay level on points with Tigres.
Rafa Marquez Watch
Marquez returned to the pitch for León, which is good because this feature was really suffering without him. Marquez has been getting over a leg injury and came into the match for Nery Castillo in the 58th minute. León play Morelia in this week’s only Friday matchup.
Only in CONCACAF
The best story of the week comes from El Salvador where the national team was prepping for a friendly with Paraguay. (They lost, 3-0.) Forward Léster Blanco, who plays with Marathón in Honduras, was told by his club that the national team was requesting his services for the match. It makes sense, as he started for the team during the Copa Centroamericana.
So, Blanco hopped in his car and drove to his neighboring homeland where he heard on the radio that he wasn’t selected. Yes, on the radio. He called up the manager who confirmed that he was called up in error. Blanco will be in future teams but was supposed to miss out on the friendly because of disciplinary issues at the Copa Centroamericana.
So, essentially El Salvador called up a player by mistake. “At first, I was upset because I missed a match with Marathón, and in addition the price of gas.” Blanco told El Gráfico.
Say it with us: Only in CONCACAF.
Jon Arnold (@ArnoldcommaJon) is a writer based in Arizona and is ASN's CONCACAF correspondent.