Okay, so some thoughts on last night:
- Great atmosphere. I love how a city like Columbus, which is by no means a major metropolitan area or even a Houston or Phoenix (sites of the previous two USA-Mexico matches), can really throw down and make it an event. My dad walked in just after kickoff, and upon hearing the crowd, asked, "I thought we were watching soccer?" We are. "Wow. It sounds like a Duke-North Carolina game."
- I'm starting to feel a man-crush coming on for Giovani Dos Santos, the 19-year-old wunderkid who nearly made it cero a uno in the first ten minutes. It's rare to see a player so comfortable with the ball, even while plowing through defenders. Even though his early shot on Tim Howard yearned for a better finish, you can't help but wonder how much better this kid's going to get once he's old enough to date.
- Where the heck was Sacha Kljestan? I was expecting a solid performance after he wowed us with his hat trick last month. You tease us, Sacha. Or Gordon. Whoever you really you were last night. I couldn't tell, especially with that new close-cropped haircut.
- Speaking of fine performances, yes, I heart Michael Bradley. What a performance, on both ends. His goals speak for themselves - especially that fearless rocket from outside the 18 during injury time. Do I want to name him to the World Cup roster right now? You bet I do.
- I have to shout out Heath Pearce, whom I did not know until last night, had actually played the most minutes (945) for the MNT in 2008. He's quietly put together an impressive resume over the past two years.
- I don't think Rafa Marquez's collision with Tim Howard in the waning minutes was as malicious as it appeared to be. If you watch the replay closely, he actually leads into Howard with his shoulder, bracing for impact. The reason his studs show up appears to be a reflex of not wanting to fall awkwardly rather than causing injury. I know any player, even one of Marquez's world-class pedigree can lose his cool, but I think a red card, in that circumstance, was unjustified.
- The idea that the U.S. is closing the gap on Mexico in relation to claiming the title of top country in CONCACAF won't be validated until the Yanks win at Azteca. It's easier to beat Mexico on home soil, even if the Mexican contingency outnumbers the Americans more often than not. If the Yanks find themselves on the winning end of USA-Mexico in Mexico, THEN we can start talking about USA being the better team.*
(*Among other factors. Mexico is still superior technically. They're much more confident with the ball. Once they get a decent manager, look out.)
- Mexico had no business pressing the issue between the 78th and 88th minutes. The U.S. needs to learn how to start closing out matches if they hope to make any kind of impact in South Africa next summer. It was anyone's match until Bradley's second goal.
- The camera work and production of the broadcast still leaves alot to be desired. There were at least three occasions where a live ball was out of picture. This almost never happens during other ESPN international broadcasts, like Champions League. And don't get me wrong, I think Pedro Gomez is an excellent reporter, but less is more when it comes to sideline reports.
- Lastly, I love Alexi Lalas doing studio work. His enthusiasm for the game is contagious. His personality is perfect for the public eye rather than behind the scenes. I hope he sticks with TV for awhile.*
(*How cool would a weekly half-hour MLS show featuring Lalas and Eric Wynalda be? Two of American soccer's most opinionated and colorful voices together in the same studio? C'mon, who WOULDN'T want to see that?)