Gold Cup Report; The Yanks' "Mexico Dilemma"

Before picking through the past two days’ MLS and U.S. Men’s-related Gold Cup results (I’ve had “things,” none of which should interest the present audience), I wanted to post some brief comments on the tournament in general.

Even though the print coverage has been pretty swell in general, I thought I'd chuck in a one-stop update or those not keeping tabs. The Gold Cup’s first two days turned in the following results:

Canada 2 - 1 Costa Rica (what?! Forza Canada!!)
Haiti 1 - 1 Guadeloupe
El Salvador 2 - 1 Trinidad & Tobago

All I want to say about that is, what a delightfully baffling tournament so far - especially the Canada/Costa Rica result. Costa Rica needing results from the next twoo sets up some lovely intrigue in Group A; I figured Haiti might cause some headaches, but now have to wonder whether 1) Guadeloupe might as well, or, 2) whether Haiti is weaker than I suspected. Good stuff.

The Group B results followed expectations a bit more closely, what with the chaos in the Trinidadian camp. And, without digging too deeply into my thoughts on the U.S.’s performance against Guatemala (more later), let’s just say I’m happy to be getting Trinidad first.

In semi-related materials, something that ran a couple days ago in the Houston Chronicle - something I had intended to pass on yesterday, but couldn’t due to “things” - laid out CONCACAF-only rankings for the participating teams. The rankings themselves aren’t all that shocking - e.g. Mexico is #1, we’re #2, Costa Rica’s #3, etc. - but it’s kinda nice to have rankings within the larger FIFA rankings available.

The 1-2 set-up, however, begs a question that the present tournament may or may not answer: why is Mexico, who the U.S. Men have beaten with meaningful regularity, still ranked #1? For what it’s worth, I don’t think the ranking is wrong so much as it could use some explaining. Here’s a stab at it: while we do beat Mexico, we don’t often look like world-beaters doing it; also, there’s the fact that we’ve never beat them in Mexico...everywhere else, yes, but Mexico, no.

That last detail is a curious thing, but it’s one that strikes me as especially meaningful. It provides a rejoinder of sorts to a contention in an Ives Galarcep article that the U.S. could “prove something” by beating Mexico in the Gold Cup final. While the contention that we need to prove anything is controversial on its own, it's the home-field angle that leaves me dubious on signing off on Galarcep's specific argument. Here’s the thing, we could deliver a humiliating, tear-provoking ass-pounding in the final, riding the score up to 14-0 and I’m around 90% certain the Mexican players and coaches would unpack the usual comments about American’s “playing like women.”

Given that, I don’t personally believe that the coming Gold Cup final - assuming both the U.S. and Mexico make it - will bring any meaningful changes in the perception of both teams. Even if we win our second consecutive Gold Cup, the changing of the guard will only come if and when Mexico perceives itself as the weaker team - and I can only see that day coming when we beat Mexico in Mexico. That’s when the denials will finally ring hollow and the crown fall from Mexico’s head. After all, we’ve gone 7-1-0 (W-L-T) in the past eight meetings and that hasn’t changed a thing. In other words, so long as any form of comforting excuse remains at hand, Mexicans won't buy into second-place status.

Another way to dry up the excuses would be to play the Gold Cup outside the U.S. (how is it we keep winning this no-bid hosting gig?) I'm less certain of this, but beating Mexico in any other Central venue would do go some distance to drying up excuses as well. But, seeing as that can’t come about for another couple years, seems like we’ll have an earlier crack at winning in Mexico.

Can we do it? Sure. Paraguay did just a couple weeks ago. And I don't even think they've got Mexico's number like we have lately.

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