For years Mexican football fans have attacked the United States success in the most negative way possible: accusing the Yanks of playing a cynical game that relied on rough play and counter attacking. Every loss to the United States was judged as a triumph of negative football over beautiful football. Well last night deep in the heart of Texas, Mexico’s U-20 team was once again shredded on set pieces by the US U-20s but they did something very American or at least from the Mexican perspective: they played rough and tumble and sat back waiting to hit the Americans on the break, and packing the back resembling a team with little confidence.
It did not work as Mexico was thrashed 3-0 by Coach Thomas Rongen’s US side. But is this the new Mexico that the reign of Sven Goran Eriksson will bring to CONCACAF qualifying? For years Mexico has had probably two or three times as much skill as the United States but lacks composure, ideas in the final third and the general football sense required to beat the U.S.
I find it ironic that any Mexican National side would resort to the same “negative” tactics that the Mexican press, players and coaches have bemoaned for years. The fact that they resorted to these tactics last night having a side with superior technical ability tells us where the Mexican program is currently. The crisis of confidence that Mexico’s senior national team has displayed lately has worked its way down to the normally solid youth national teams for El Tri.
The U.S. has used the so-called “negative” tactics in the past partly because it had to: Mexico had superior technique but also had a bad habit of sending defenders too far up the pitch and playing a high line. The U.S. tactics originally devised by Steve Sampson and essentially continued by Bruce Arena for facing Mexico were not cynical as the Mexican press claimed: they were how an aspiring football nation beats an established one.
Now that the United States is more attacking oriented and not waiting to hit Mexico on the break, El Tri seems to have resorted to the old American fall back tactic without having the understanding of how to execute it. Ah, the irony.