By Jose M. Romero /@RomeroJoseM
For FOX Deportes
As expected. the United States and Mexico were far too much for their respective World Cup 2014 qualifier opponents, both CONCACAF powers winning by 3-1 scores Friday nght.
Both teams could have scored more often. The U.S. spent much of a rainy night at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa in the attacking third of Antigua and Barbuda and probably should have had at least four goals.
Herculez Gomez clanged a shot off the cross bar in the 58th minute, but he got his much-deserved goal in the 71st minute after two of his shots were blocked. The third try went into the net to give the U.S. a commanding two-goal lead.
Gomez made a strong case for man of the match. Out to prove he deserves to start in coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s 4-3-3 formation ahead of Jozy Altidore and Terrence Boyd, Gomez likely earned a place in the starting 11 in Guatemala Tuesday night.
Gomez buzzed around the goal box causing problems for Antigua’s defense. It was his header off a set piece in the seventh minute that was tipped by the keeper, then came out to teammate Carlos Bocanegra who had hustled behind the defense to knock in the deflecton.
Landon Donovan drew a penalty kick when he was taken down in the box in the 42nd minute, and Clint Dempsey converted the PK to make it 2-0.
This match was expected to be all U.S., and it was, except for a turnover in the Americans’ end that turned into Antigua’s lone goal in the 64th minute.
Oguchi Onyewu, a center back who looks to have lost some effectiveness judging by his play of late, took a bad angle on the goal and was out of position to stop it, beaten by the speed of Peter Byers.
Klinsmann also lost defender Jose Torres — pressed into service because of injuries to Edgar Castillo and Fabian Johnson — to injury and his status seems doubtful for the Guatemala qualifier. Of course, all of these World Cup qualifiers are very important matches, so losing players matters more than if it were a series of friendlies.
Torres is a midfielder normally. The U.S. hopes Johnson is ready to play by Tuesday night.
In Mexico City, El Tri took care of business with relative ease, Chicharito playing at level the Guyana players couldn’t match. He didn’t score, but he hit the post with a shot and made a fancy back-heel pass to Aldo de Nigris, who tipped the ball to Gio Dos Santos for an assist on Mexico’s second goal.
Dos Santos is the hottest striker in CONCACAF. He’s on a scoring tear.
Defender Carlos Salcido also scored, and Mexico also got an own goal (Chicharito was close to touching the service from Andres Guardado but just missed it) and gave one up. The reality is that Mexico appeared to be experimenting with its formations after it jumped out to the two-goal lead, so fans in Mexico probably would have liked a more lopsided score.
A win is a win. Too early to say if the goal differential will matter later; getting the three points was most important for both teams. Mexico must now travel to El Salvador for its next qualifier.
With only five dates remaining in the semifinal round of qualifying, every team is looking to accumulate points so as to be in the final six teams that will play for three guaranteed World Cup slots. Hence the importance of three points when a team – as in the case of both Mexico and the U.S. – was expected to get them.