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ASN Weekly Debate

Will the United States Win the Hexagonal Again?

The Americans are through to the final round of World Cup qualification. All that remains is the Hexagonal. ASN's Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon debate whether they can finish first again.
BY Noah Davis and Ryan O'Hanlon Posted
October 19, 2012
11:30 AM
ASN Weekly Debate runs every Friday.

Noah Davis: So, Ryan, first question first: Can the United States win the Hexagonal again?

Ryan O'Hanlon: Absolutely. But they also absolutely might not. We're talking about soccer, and the U.S.—very arguably—has the most talented team in the region, but we're talking about soccer and that also means basically anything can happen.

Davis: Right now, they don't have the most talented team in the region. Argument over. But, as we've seen a lot recently, talent and winning don't go hand-in-hand in CONCACAF. I think the five home games are wins, even against Mexico, which means it comes down to away results. Azteca is probably a loss. Does say 2-0-2 in the other four games get them first place? Can they go 2-1-2 in the five away games?

O'Hanlon: I'm not sure anyone on Mexico is better than Bradley or Dempsey, but I'm an American—and you're clearly not—and that's all for another time.

That'd bring the U.S. to ... "grabs abacus" ... 7-1-2 in qualifying, which seems ridiculously good and almost too much to ask for basically any non-Spanish national team. They won the group with a 6-2-2 record last time out, but presumably the competition's a little bit better this time around, no?

Davis: The competition is better—probably?—but so—maybe? at least on paper?—is the U.S. team. Let's assume Jurgen Klinsmann gets some things more or less figured out, which I think happens with a few more months of training, etc. To be honest, I think whether the U.S. wins the Hexagonal has more to do with Mexico than the Americans.

JK and the crew will finish somewhere in the 5-2-3 to 7-1-2 range, I think. But the Mexican team is really good. I can see them going like 9-1-0. You don't need an abacus for that. Add it up, and that's domination.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, Mexico scares me more than they ever have before. Math or no math, 6-0, 15 goals scored, and TWO allowed in the most-recent qualifying stage is something like domination.

Still, going 9-1 would take a good portion of luck, wouldn't it? We talk about how hard it is for the U.S. to go away in qualifying, but isn't it just as difficult for Mexico? Bags of urine aside, won't teams be playing Mexico the same way—bunkered in, looking to play on the counter—that they've started to play the U.S.? I'm not sure they're good enough to win against that every time.

Davis: Yes, although Mexico's road record in CONCACAF is better than the U.S.'s of late. But we're agreed that the Americans can win the Hex. The question: Will they? Give me percentages that they finish 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.

O'Hanlon: More math? Ugh, OK. First: 25 percent. Second: 40 percent. Third: 15 percent. The rest: I just considered the possibility of the U.S. not qualifying for the World Cup and my brain stopped working.

Davis: That's only 80 percent. You think there's a 20 percent chance the U.S. finishes fourth or lower? That seems... high to me.

O'Hanlon: Yeah, maybe that makes more sense? I don't know. Qualifying outright eight times out of 10 seems pretty good, doesn't it? I am still confident that this team will qualify for the World Cup, despite what my calculations might say. And that's what we should really worry about—just getting the damn team to Brazil, not necessarily in what place they finish—shouldn't we?

Davis: Of course qualifying is the most important thing. But the U.S. should qualify every time. There is absolutely no reason that over a 10-game tournament the Americans should finish lower than third. Even if they slip up at home and only win four games, that's 12 points. The third-place team finished with 17, 16, and 16 points the last three Hexagonals. You're telling me they can't go 1-3-1 on the road? (Fun fact: Did you know the US has a losing WCQ record against Costa Rica?)

O'Hanlon: I'm not telling you they can't; I'm just saying there's a small chance they won't. An 80-percent chance of doing anything seems like a pretty good chance of accomplishing whatever that thing is. But: things happen, people get hurt, balloons deflect shots, refs screw up, this is soccer, etc.

(That's not totally surprising. Costa Rica plays on turf, which, well, basically makes it a different sport.)

Davis: Give me your Hexagonal finishing order. And, if you can, think of another name for the Hexagonal because I'm tired of typing it already and we're still four months away from it even beginning.

O'Hanlon: I tried thinking of something, but again, numbers. Part of my brain started leaking out of my ear, I think, and—well, anyway: Here's my prediction for what probably won't end up happening: Mexico, U.S., Honduras, Panama, Costa Rica, Jamaica.

Davis: Mexico, U.S., Honduras is so lame, but so true.

I'll say those three, then Jamaica, Panama, Costa Rica for the sake of being different.

O'Hanlon: Great, it's settled then. If Jamaica doesn't come in last, I owe you a Pop Tart.

Davis: I'd rather have an abacus.

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