I learnt four things this weekend. 1) US customs can take a long time (I hate airports) 2) The women’s World Cup got off to a great start 3) MLS games can be very open yet frustratingly boring, and 4) the Americans don’t half go on about it if they lose to Mexico.
Touched down in New York JFK on Saturday lunchtime, and finally left the airport an hour and a half later due to ridiculously long customs queues. Those guys are either very thorough or very prejudice, I seemed to stroll through in about three minutes. Anyway I was able to bask in the glorious sunshine visit Central Park, Madison Sq Gardens, Empire State… etc, all the usual touristy sites then collapsed in a jetlagged heap that night. So having woken up at half 4 Sunday morning absolutely shattered and then sleeping again until 9am, I decided to gear myself up for a day of football in my hotel room.
First up on ESPN, all that was showing were continuous highlights and analysis off the USA vs Mexico game. Now I for one am not surprised that Mexico are a good team. They have a lot of talented pacey players, and are always going to be a handful. Chicharito’s debut season in the Premiership last season proved this. But for some reason, american commentators are extremely surprised by this. How could the US’s lowly Southern neighbours be better than them. To cut a long story short the USA got ahead with two goals early on before Mexico fought back and came out 4-2 winners. There was also a great chipped goal from Tottenham’s forgotten man Giovanni Dos Santos, which was quite something. But the US pubdits couldn’t believe it. Every football show I watched throughout the day went on about it. Alexis Lalas then came up with his greatest worry: with no promising US youngsters coming through, where is the next generation going to come from? Exactly what generation are you referring to? Yeah the US had a good Confederations Cup, and did ok at the World Cup, but they’re hardly world beaters, and with football/soccer still not on the radar as one of the top sports in the country what was he expecting. I’m not saying that there aren’t talented US players. Landon Donovan has plied in trade in Europe for many years now at the top level, as has Rob Green’s World Cup tormentor, Clint Dempsey. Bolton’s Stuart Holden also deserves a mention as he has put in some fine performances in the last few years. But it was no great shock to me that Mexico beat the USA, and I don’t understand how it was to the Americans.
When they weren’t interrupting games with US highlights, I managed to watch a great game in the women’s World Cup between Germany and Canada. I didn’t catch the France/Nigeria game so I can only base it on one match, but the tournament has started just as well as the last one left off. And Germany looked in scintillating form. And the host nation certainly gave the 73,000 plus in attendance in the Berlin Olympic Stadium something to cheer about going ahead early on with a good header, and doubling their lead before half time. It looked like the Germans were going to romp away with victory and Canada rode their luck at times with the woodwork saving them on more than one occasion. But in the 87th minute a rasping Canadian free kick from 20 yards pulled them right back in it, and was also the first goal Germany have conceded in the WWC finals since 2003. For this reason, along with the talent of the team, I hope England don’t have to face Germany until much later in the tournament. They seem to be the team to beat at present.
Having enjoyed that game, I then turned my attention to Chicago vs New York, and was pleasantly surprised to see Thierry Henry returning for the Red Bulls. He never quite set the States alight in his first season, but has been enjoying a better vein of form this term. However my interest in the game quickly dissipated in about the first 10 minutes. I can’t say I’ve watched too many MLS games live so I don’t speak for all, but based on this showing I can see why the sport isn’t popular across the pond. The game was very end to end but with no penetration. Through passes didn’t seem like an option and I constantly found myself thinking a breakaway attack was on, only for a pass to go waywardly wrong. New York took the lead in the first half thanks to an Henry through ball on the turn, before some shocking goalkeeping allowed a long range effort in to draw Chicago level. If I’m honest I switched over about 70 minutes in and was never bothered to find out the final result, there was some ten pin bowling on and it was far more exciting.