If you’re one of those apathetic Americans when it comes to World Cup soccer, chances are you don’t like it because there’s not enough scoring.
In soccer you can go a whole game without putting the ball in the net (as, for instance, Portugal and Brazil did in their first-round game). Meanwhile, in the “American pastime” of baseball, the New York Yankees scored four times in the ninth inning alone against the Los Angeles Dodgers Sunday night.
The two North American representatives at the 2010 World Cup -- the United States and Mexico -- ought to amp up their offensive games in the future following their round-of-16 exits in South Africa this weekend, the US in overtime to Ghana on Saturday and Mexico to Argentina a day later. If either nation wants its soccer taken seriously, they need to start scoring more goals.
This year’s American entry showed admirable flair for a US staple -- drama -- most notably in its lone win over Algeria, with Landon Donovan scoring in the waning moments for a 1-0 triumph. Americans value teams that know how to “come through in the clutch” -- think the US “Miracle on Ice” hockey team that upset the Soviets in the 1980 Winter Olympics -- and this quality helped the Americans enjoy one of their most successful Cups, winning their group for the first time since 1930. That said, the Americans ultimately lost this year because of a lack of scoring, in particular getting no goals from their forwards (Brian McBride, in 2002, is the last US forward to score in a Cup game).
“El Tri” of Mexico was just as frustrating offensively. Coach Javier Aguirre stuck with the same game plan in the Cup, and while this wins kudos for consistency, it also made Mexico look predictable. The Aztecs enjoyed a promising 2-0 win over France in the first round before their offense stagnated in a shutout loss to Uruguay and the 3-1 defeat in the elimination game against Argentina. While the Albiceleste had a formidable reputation, Mexico actually had quite a few chances on Sunday -- including five corner kicks -- but an inability to execute on offense doomed the Aztecs.
The Americans and Mexicans need to diversify on offense to get better results four years from now. They can do this by emulating the Albiceleste. Coach Diego Maradona’s team has shown admirable balance, as it has reached the quarterfinals despite the fact that its superstar, Lionel Messi, has not scored all tournament thus far.
It would also behoove the US and Mexico to move past dubious officiating by the refs … the Americans on the disallowed goal by Maurice Edu against Slovenia, the Mexicans on an allowed goal by Argentina’s Carlos Tevez that put the Gauchos up 1-0. As Boston Red Sox fans can attest, dwelling on the past can prevent you from progressing in the future.
My American citizenship and Mexican heritage make me root for both the US and Mexico in future Cups. Both squads may be stuck as spectators for the duration of 2010, but I hope that an improvement on offense can fuel their fortunes for 2014.