Let’s review what happens if the U.S. men’s soccer team doesn’t qualify for the World Cup. First, Jim Rome has a mindgasm, thinking that something has just been proven about something. Second, ESPN commits some kind of Jonestown-esque mass suicide; Bristol, Conn., becomes the new Pompei. Third, casual fans see the “U.S. Fails to Qualify” headline and think, “I thought we were getting good … I guess not.” Fourth, the Goff family is denied a fantastic and much-deserved trip to Brazil on Jeff Bezos’s dime. And most importantly, my blogging duties will be restricted to only D.C. United, in which case I might drive up to Bristol and drink some of that tainted ESPN Kool-Aid.
This cannot happen. But the Americans can book Steve Goff’s ticket to Brazil — and also their own — with a win tonight.
Matt Besler is serving an absolutely ludicrous yellow-card suspension, proving that Klinsmann’s concerns about a Mexican officiating crew were not paranoia. Bradley, Altidore and Cameron are also out, so Goodson, Torres, Davis and Corona have been called in. Tim Tebow was also contacted but didn’t want to switch from quarterback. Tonight’s lineup is: Howard | Beasley, Goodson, Gonzalez, Fabian | Donovan, Beckerman, Jones, Bedoya | Dempsey, Eddie. I completely agree with this lineup.
The atmosphere is more patriotic than a Toby Keith concert at a Hooters on the Fourth of July — well done, Columbus. Here’s kickoff …
1’ - We’re going to find out what’s a better motivator: reward or fear. The United States can qualify; Mexico is terrified it might not.
2’ - My experience with youth soccer has taught me that a trip to McDonald’s can also be a powerful motivator.
4’ - Howard saves Beasley from one of the worst own-goals you would ever see! You could almost hear the comical “doink!” as the ball deflected off of Beasley’s standing leg.
8’ - Mexico is on the U.S. like stink on a monkey, and I can’t be the only one wondering exactly how sprained Bradley’s ankle really is. Are we talking Lisa-Turtle-in-that-Saved-By-The-Bell-episode-with-Casey-Kasem bad?
16’ - Beckerman somehow avoids a yellow card after a terrible tackle. Play that one next to the Besler yellow card and then accept the mystery of the universe.
18’ - Mexico is still applying pressure, but Howard makes a nice save! Howard then celebrates in his traditional way: by yelling and pointing at his head. What is he saying? “Think about how mad I’ll be if you screw up again!”
27’ - The Americans are starting to turn the tide. Donovan just had a chance blocked. He has pink-eye. Well, if you go to Cambodia and pink-eye is the worst thing you get in the next year, then you’re doing pretty well.
31’ - Eddie skies for a header but sends it right at Corona! By the way: Eddie’s hair has gone from blond to black, presumably because he’s stolen $40,000 and plans to hide out in the Bates Motel until the heat dies down.
38’ - ESPN’s Ian Darke — whom I love — cannot get through one close match without saying “it’s poised on a knife’s edge.” During the World Cup I’m going to start a “poised on a knife’s edge” office pool.
42’ - Mexico is a team that pass the ball with no intent, is vulnerable on set pieces and can’t score on a corner. My God: it’s D.C. United!
Halftime: 0-0. Mexico looks “blah”, the Americans more “meh.” Now for the super-entertaining fun-time half time show: President Obama talking about Syria.
46’ - Okay, watched the president explain which bad option on Syria he prefers. Now that I’m nice and depressed … come on, USA, cheer me up!
49’ – GOAL USA! It’s Eddie Johnson with a repeat of his first-half chance, but this time Corona is kind enough to take himself out of the play! Eddie is unhappy with his Sounders contract, but maybe Sunil Gulati will come to the corner flag and start making it rain all over EJ, because that was a big-money goal.
55’ - A Mexican team with no creativity is like Dr. Seuss with no creativity. This team is the equivalent of Dr. Seuss drawing stick figures explaining the payment schedule of an amortized home loan.
74’ - Klinsmann brings in the young player pilfered from a small country that is struggling to qualify in UEFA Group E. That’s right: Mix Diskeruud.
76’ - This Mexican team is like Anthony Weiner in that it has no chance of winning, and unlike Anthony Weiner in that the blood isn’t exactly coursing through its veins.
78’ – Goal USA! Dos a cero! Diskeruud with a great play to get free, and Donovan finishes the cross! Donovan has an eye for goal! He’s got the eye of the tiger! Scored in the blink of an eye! There’s mud in your eye, Mexico! Eye could do this all night!
80’ - If the U.S. has a chance at a third goal, it shouldn’t take it. Dos a cero is a tradition, like Whacking Day or skipping work after the Super Bowl.
86’ - This Mexican team really is an embarrassment. They have completely given up. I know they were going to get ripped in the Mexican media no matter what their level of effort, but this time they deserve it.
88’ - Mexico will be fourth or fifth in the group after tonight; it might have to go to a playoff against New Zealand. The 43-hour flight to New Zealand alone is a pretty harsh punishment.
90’ + 4’ - Penalty kick USA! Miss it, Clint, miss it! And Clint … nice! Good stuff, Deuce.
Full time: 2-0 USA, and we’re qualified! The Worst Thing That Can Happen In Sports is postponed for at least four more years! American fans can feel good about our team.
Howard: 7.5. He didn’t put a foot wrong, so of course I want to talk about … the beard. Has he converted to Orthodox Judaism or Islam? The tattoos suggest probably not. Amish? Goalkeeper gloves have velcro, so no. I think he’s just getting a jump on Movember.
Beasley: 5.5. He had a tough time in Azteca, but Mexico mostly left him alone tonight. A lot of people — myself included — aren’t completely sold on Beasley as a World Cup-caliber left back, but he’s not making himself easy to dislodge.
Goodson: 7. Positioned himself well, dominated in the air. Figured out early on that Mexico weren’t going to score for a corner, so played it safe and conceded corners when necessary.
Gonzalez: 7. Much like Goodson: steady, sound, dominant in the air. I don’t know why Mexico didn’t start taking short corners.
Fabian: 6. They came right at him in the beginning, but I thought he found his feet and ended up doing well.
Donovan: 7. It had to be Donovan who scored the clincher just to drive home the awfulness of this night for Mexican fans.
Beckerman: 5. Played the hard-man role.
Jones: 5. Played the hard-man role. Unfortunately, no-one was playing the “keep the ball and unlock the defense-man” role.
Bedoya: 6. Like Fabian, he needed to adapt to everything coming down his side and eventually did. He’s growing on me.
Dempsey: 3.5. I’m completely willing to believe that he missed that penalty kick on purpose. But let me be the first to say it: He’s not in top form right now. Though Donovan and Eddie have shown that you can reach top form playing in MLS.
Eddie: 6. I’m on record as an Eddie Johnson skeptic, even going so far as to call him the “American Chicharito” because he only scores from close range. But maybe the American Chicharito label isn’t fair because unlike the actual Chicharito, he’s been scoring a lot lately.
Parkhurst: 6.5. I did not want him to start; I thought he would get eaten alive by Andres Guardado. But then he came in and made it look easy.
Diskeruud: 6.5. The touch to free himself on the goal was fantastic. That’s a touch that’s only appeared in American soccer within the last decade or so.
Zusi: No rating. There will be a healthy competition for the wide spots in Brazil. Don’t completely rule out Chris Pontius.