EDGAR ZUNIGA - Monday, July 25, 2011
In a clear cash-grab, the US Soccer Federation announced shortly after the forgettable CONCACAF Gold Cup final that the US would be getting another taste of Mexico in August...or is it the other way around?

Seems that way, since Mexico devoured the US-shoes, shin guards and Tim Howard's gloves, as well.

This time, instead of being diced up in enchiladas and street tacos in Los Angeles, the US is gonna be the key ingredient in a Philly jalapeņo-cheesesteak with some Bob Bradley Soft Pretzels and Sunil Gulati Dipping Sauce on the side, as the best rivalry in CONCACAF heads to the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia.

Makes you wonder how much love the Mexican fans are willing to give the home team-not Mexico, of course, but the actual home team.

Giving the recently repaired YA Magic 8-Ball a shake, it reads, "Outlook not so good."

Ah, Magic 8-Ball, what about the USA's chances against the hungry Mexican team?

"Better not tell you now."


While Mexico is sure to give Bob & Co. another difficult time, this time around the result, really doesn't matter. Even if the US manages to win at Lincoln Financial Field, it really won't mean much since Mexico owns the region and the Gold Cup.

Nevertheless, the US could benefit from playing Mexico again. The players get another opportunity to see a decent opponent display creativity and finesse in an effective manner. Bob can once again stand stoically by the bench and stare off into nothingness, as usual.

Meanwhile, in between stroking their bruised egos, the members of the US Soccer Federation should be pressed to take notes on how to put together a good program and get results by making good use of all the resources available to you.

As long as our players don't follow the example set forth by the Mexican U-22s and their foolish philandering, it should be a great learning experience for the US, overall.

With Mexico back atop the CONCACAF mole hill, it doesn't hurt to pay attention to what the Mexican Football Federation is doing right.

It also wouldn't hurt to pay attention to the Mexican Primera Division, where you can find several Americans toiling, including a few that are quite the big deal south of the border.

The league isn't as foreign as you would expect and there are some similarities to Major League Soccer.

Unlike most professional soccer leagues, the Primera Division season is split into two championships every year. However, beginning with the 2011-12 Apertura season, the league will switch from three groups of six teams to a single table. At the end of the season, the top eight teams qualify to a two-legged playoff format (including the final), to determine the champion.

MLS has done well to grow since its foundation in 1996, but it still falls short of matching the level of play in Mexico. Some MLS pundits want to believe that our league is up to par with Mexico's, but it is not quite there yet-as Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake learned in the CONCACAF Champions League final.

Although there are some MLS teams that have enjoyed varying degrees of success against Mexican teams, that supremacy is short-lived and Mexican teams always come back, hungrier and more determined to defeat the American squads.

Once again, it doesn't hurt to take a peek over the fence and check out our neighbors' yard. Don't let the loud music and carne asada fool you, the league is serious business and there is quality soccer played in Mexico.

Also, as mentioned earlier, there are a few Yanks to follow, including some future hopefuls.

First up, for the masochists out there, you can check out Jonathan Bornstein as he tries to reclaim a spot in the starting 11 with Tigres. At one point a starter, Bornstein has had some competition at midfield and has been struggling for minutes. But I thought he was a left back? Never mind...he still has Bob in his corner. Shrug.

On the flip side, you'll find Herculez Gomez, whose 10 goals for Puebla in 2010 tied for the league lead, marking the first time an American led a foreign league in goals. Since then, Herc has gone from Pachuca to Estudiantes Tecos, where he currently plays.

Of course, you'll notice that he wasn't on the US roster in the Gold Cup. Way to go, Bob.

One of the most storied teams in Mexican soccer, Club America also has a pair of Americans on the roster. Well, sort of.

On one hand, you have Edgar Castillo, who was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico but somehow ended up playing for (Old) Mexico from August 2007 to May 2009. None of those were senior-level international matches, however.

Funny, though, when Castillo was actually called up to play World Cup qualifiers against Costa Rica in Mexico City and against Honduras in San Pedro Sula, in both cases, he was unable to travel to either game because he had somehow misplaced his Mexican passport.

Later that year, Castillo suddenly had a change of heart, proclaiming he would rather represent the nation where he was born and lives, switching to the US National Team, eventually making his debut in a friendly against Denmark on November 18, 2009. Except it was a sub appearance. At midfield.

In doing so, Castillo became the first player since Martin Vasquez to earn caps for both Mexico and the US.

On the other hand, there is teammate Isaac Acuņa, who was born in Calexico, California but has played for the Mexican U-22 squad and is listed as a Mexican international. But, with Castillo by his side, you never know, and Acuņa might follow his example and end up playing with his country of birth.

Another Yank worth noting is Pachuca's Jose Francisco Torres who has not seen any playing time with the US since a dreadful performance against Slovenia in the group stage of last summer's World Cup. Despite that particular game, Torres had otherwise played well for the US, so it was a bit of a surprise he didn't get a call-up to the 2011 Gold Cup squad.

Then, there are other Americans trying to make their mark with their respective teams, such as Adrian Ruelas and Frankie Lopez with Jaguares de Chiapas, Joe Corona with newly ascended Club Tijuana Xoloitzcuintles De Caliente (try saying that fast three times in a row), Michael Orozco Fiscal with San Luis F.C. and some fella named DaMarcus Beasley who recently made the move from Hannover 96 to Puebla.

It's the latest stop on the Beasley World Tour and Puebla will be looking for him to be a major player this season. While Beasley is no stranger to US Soccer fans, it'll be interesting to see how he does in the Primera Division. So far, he's off to a good start, having scored a goal in his unofficial debut against Monterrey in the Copa Tijuana and looking fresh against Atlas during this past weekend's opening match.

If you're feeling adventurous, you can dig deeper to the Liga de Ascenso (second division) and seek out Marco Vidal with Club Leon and Joaquin Alonso with Indios de Ciudad Juarez.

So, there you have it. A group of brave YAs playing in "enemy territory," worth watching.

If you do get around to watching them, you'll notice that the Mexican league is pretty strong. This is a league where you either swim hard or sink fast, but, with two championships per season, allows room for improvement within a moderate amount of time. Not to mention possible Copa Libertadores action.

While you'll find the usual suspects vying for the championship season after season, there are no clear favorites and the competition is brutal.

With Mexico on top, it's time to take notes.

It would be foolish to expect US Soccer to magically rebound from the last 12 months and challenge Mexico for the CONCACAF mole hill, but at least the US can try to emulate Mexico's example and try to catch up before Mexico takes a further step into international glory.

In case you missed it, Mexico just won the Under-17 World Cup - their second in the past six years. If you paid close attention, you'd have noted that several members of the 2005 edition just schooled our veterans for the Gold Cup. So you can expect Carlos Fierro, Arturo Gonzalez and Giovani Casillas to be kicking the USA's butt in the 2017 Gold Cup.

But, if you're the US Soccer Federation, you just gotta stay the course and everything will fix itself and work out just fine.

Now, who wants some of Bob's Soft Pretzels and Gulati Dipping Sauce?
Thursday July 28, 2011 4:14 pm
With Bradley essentially insulting players like Castillo and even Torres with his decisions, it is unlikely that Mexican talent will elect to play for the USA over a country where they are appreciated and the coaches actually know how to use them.

Fortunately, there is a glimmer of hope with the dismissal of Bradley this morning.
Thursday July 28, 2011 7:52 am
Bradley needs to go. His leaving Torres off the roster is inexcusable. He would have left Bedoya off the roster too were it not for Feilhaber's injury...We need a foreign coach to instill some creative play. God help us if Bradley is with us another 4 years...
Wednesday July 27, 2011 4:12 am
While I do think the MLS is a decent league and improving rapidly I can’t see how it would ever be the league to play in. Unless you mean for burnout superstars like Beckham and Henry and Frank Rost.

It is still our league and there are good players in it.
I against I
Tuesday July 26, 2011 9:31 am
Mexico vs USA is never an embarrassment. I'll watch anytime the two step on the pitch. It's on!
Tuesday July 26, 2011 8:57 am
re Alex Davila: Totally agree. I grew up in South Texas and played soccer from youth level to college. Young, quality Hispanic players are in HUGE supply in Texas (and many other places in the country). It is nice to see more players of Mexican heritage get playing time in both the youth and mens national teams, but surely the federation can do better?

I'm not saying Bradley should look at every single person who plays in Mexico or has Mexican ties, but there is definitely something to be said about the vast Hispanic soccer community and what it could bring to the future of the national teams.
Tuesday July 26, 2011 7:43 am
The stomping we received in the Gold Cup final, along with the unstellar play of the the tournament, could provide us with the impetus to rebuild. New blood is necessary to our program, and since it seems that we won't be seeing any changes in coaching or administration, hopefully an injection of young talent may be the silver lining in the grey cloud of 4-2.
Tuesday July 26, 2011 6:16 am
Hey Rome wasn't built in a day. We've come a long, long way in this country with our football. We now have soccer specific stadiums, respectable crowds at the matches and MLS is an "acceptable" product on the pirch. Every major soccer power was in this country this month. For the most part we competed, look at the scores up to half time, our best 11 vs. their best eleven, the problem becomes the next group that go in are too green and untested. We are then exposed and look weak, the roster spots from 13 to 20 need to improve and upgrade with our MLS teams. Remember the Mexican league has been around for many, many years, we only started in 1996, look at how much we've accomplished in a very short time and how much more we're going to improve over the next 10 years.

Mark my words, at somepoint in my lifetime, the MLS will be the "league" to play in as a player.
Alex Davila
Monday July 25, 2011 9:58 pm
Great article. One thing our decision making guys, including BB, won't do, is to look at our players of Latin heritage. We are the only nation in this world that has the luxury of our melting pot. Hopefully sooner rather than later (remember Rossi, Subotic, Castillo for some time) we can see a national team that truly and strongly represents our nation.
Alex G
Monday July 25, 2011 8:35 pm
I care and I agree with Edgar for the most part, and letīs do the same with any major and important league around the World, maybe it was time for the US to loose and change itīs very foundation.

This summer I was deeply sadden by our teams results, any team, even the USWNT but I guess you need to hit rock bottom and then stand up, I really hope we learn and the first step is to fire BB and Gulati.
Juan from L.A.
Monday July 25, 2011 8:11 pm
Good article but I don't agree with the content and details of WHY Mexicans are better. The article turns out to be a promoter for hte players that play down there. Other than Ponce (who we already know who he decided to play for) there is no one down there worth USMNT. If we want to beat Mexico and reclaim #1 position then calling these players will not be the answer. Yes they are better even if we call them or not.

I believe aside from Mexican league being superior due to the passion of their fans, reputation earned through their years of competition (Chivas Guad already had 10 plus championships when I was born in the 80s!), and calendar and length of competition which MLS will take time to change.

MLS and US Soccer can change the following though:

1. Apply the 20/11 rule they had which made players U-20 earn minutes in first level competition
2. Branch out MLS into better competition like Copa Libertadores and Sudamericana. USMNT do the same and compete in Copa America.
3. Emphasize TO WIN instead of developing and feeding USMNT with hte U-17 and U-20 teams. The tide started to change with Mexico winning Peru 2005 with their U-17. GC team had 5 of those players generations including Chicharito who was part but wasnt called to Peru. WINNING causes exposure, winning mentality, and experience.

Bottomline and most unfortunate and easiest step is that BB is still around. He is not the problem but part of the problem and while he is there we won't go nowhere.
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