Let’s cast our minds back four…or even better, eight years. Remember when the US getting a point on the road in Central America while dodging urine bombs was a big deal? Back then, the media were all over the ‘hostile environment’ story and spelled out how difficult it was for any team—especially the US—to get a result in those places.
So, here we are in 2005. The US is even being considered by the most Yank-Bashing of Euros to be an ‘emerging football’ power. The US just qualified for the big dance next summer with a convincing 2-0 victory over—a rather half-assed—Mexico.
So, what does Bruce Arena do with 3 games left in qualifying and a ticket already booked for Germany? He sends the JV in of course.
Now, Guatemala are fighting and scratching for a spot at the dance. They are in a dog fight with Trinidad & Tobago for the 4th place in the region…and a chance to play against either Bahrain or Uzbekistan for the final spot at next summer’s party.
So, how did the kids do against the hungry Guats while playing piss-bag dodgem? Actually, quite well I thought. I’ll agree it wasn’t a classic—nothing like Saturday’s showdown in Columbus—but for a developmental game, I thought we did ok. In qualifications past, knowing Arena was playing a JV line-up, I’d have thought he was just giving the Central American’s a hand in qualification. Sending the kids to the lions figuratively. But it wasn’t at all like that. The kids, fighting for a spot in next summer’s roster, more than held their own.
Playing in Central America is still never going to be easy. The chance to take a team of mostly young players into a situation like that (with a mix of some more experienced players) and get a point shows just how far out National team has come…and in a relatively short time.
In my view, last night’s match was even better than Saturday’s match as an indication of where the US is as the power in this region. The kids never looked very out of their depth…one of these days, Twillman is going to score…and it’ll lead to an avalanche like we saw from Eddie Johnson.
Anyway, all is good with the national team and despite all my complaints; we have MLS to thank in large part to that success.
Now, if only we can win at the Azteca…