CHICAGO -- Well, that was a relief. The U.S. national team emerged from its toughest week yet of 2010 World Cup qualifying, bruised but standing tall. After getting abused and flattened in Costa Rica 3-1 last Wednesday, the Americans responded by rallying on Honduras 2-1 Saturday at Soldier Field, its first comeback win in World Cup qualifying in 24 years. The end result is that the U.S. stands in second place halfway through the Hexagonal final round of CONCACAF qualifying with a 3-1-1 record and 10 points.
Just seconds after Costa Rica's third goal in the U.S.' 3-1 loss in Saprissa last week, the knives came out. They came in various forms: texts, emails, tweets, handwritten screeds on bathroom walls. The vitriol was loaded with so much venom you'd have thought Ann Coulter and Arianna Huffington were locked in a steel cage match.
CHICAGO -- A U.S. team, meticulously prepared and riding a wave of confidence, marched into hostile territory and proceeded to get ambushed. The whistle had barely blown before the Americans' game plan fell to pieces and they gave up an early, back-breaking goal.
I can't believe I'm writing this: The U.S.' 4-2 loss to Brazil on Sunday in Chicago was much closer than the score indicated. Here are my five thoughts from the most entertaining performance Team USA has put on in months.
Poor Mexico. The most soccer-crazed country in North America is blessed with a thriving league, a rich talent base and such passionate national-team fans that they turn NFL stadiums into sold-out green-and-white fiestas. But no matter how often the Mexicans claim style-point superiority, they just can't beat the U.S. north of the border. Nine times this decade the teams have squared off on Uncle Sam's soil. Not once has El Tri prevailed. "This time I thought we had them," muttered Mexican forward Jared Borgetti after his team squandered the lead and lost 2-1 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup final at Chicago's Soldier Field on Sunday. "I thought we had them."
New Orleans continues its magical ride this season. The Saints - who joined the NFL in 1967 as an expansion team - will appear in their first conference championship to offer more salve to post-Katrina New Orleans. The Saints are the first team in NFL history to reach a conference championship after losing as many as 13 games in the previous season.
CHICAGO -- A winter storm is bearing down on Chicago as Martin Luther King Day looms Monday, but that burst of warm air you felt swirling around the Windy City late Sunday afternoon was the local populace exhaling en masse.