I have a marked tendency to shout out loud, be it at the stadium or to the impassive face of the television screen, when I see a goal of real quality, and do so at double the volume should the goal be scored by my club - be it the US, United, or Wednesday. So, it was almost with a bit of surprise that I found myself not only shouting, but also jumping out of my chair and punching the air when Feilhaber's goal went it. WOW!
As US-Mexico games go, this has to be up there amongst the best ever played. An unusually wide open match for a final, there would have been more goals if not for some excellent goalkeeping at both ends and some woeful finishing to boot. Now, I can forgive Ching for banging one off the post after he whirled his way through three players and the weariness of a match he spent himself completely on, but I hope Beasley signs his Rangers contract before they get a chance to see that shameful miss on the breakaway.
On the whole, the match was also marked by a blessed lack of the ugliness it usually breeds. Sure there was Oswaldo Sanchez blowing Donovan kisses before the PK, Blanco and Hugo Sanchez accosting the ref post-match, and methinks the magic elbows of Mr. Marquez may have been at work laying out Gooch. Those incidents aside, it was a fairly clean match and all the better for it. Perhaps with more and more Mexicans seeing fit to leave the smothering embrace of the MFL, they'll also start to escape the sort of insular attitude they routinely bring to the table. Marquez excepted, the players currently plying their trade in Europe like Torrado, Pardo, Osorio, and Salcido, have always seemed pretty classy. Castillo, on the other hand, while being fantastically talented, seems to have a wiff of the eau de spoiled bítch about him.
Speaking of Castillo - when did I know the US was going to win? Right about the time that Blanco took the field. Castillo had been the best player on the park, but when Blanco stepped on, you just knew that the attack would start to route through him rather than Castillo, and that was a good thing for the US defenders, who were struggling to keep up with the speedy youngster. Blanco - not so much.
A few final talking points:
(1) I wish we had a better option than Bocanegra at the back. Gooch hasn't been too impressive either, but I have faith in his potential once he starts getting regular games at a high level. Bocanegra already does so, but always seems more of an American football player than a soccer player. Mistimed heavy tackles, questionable positioning, and a seeming preference for just booting the ball out of play when he has time for a settling touch and to look upfield either for the pass or a clearance if the pass is not on. Sure he's dangerous from set pieces and he did make a key clearance today, but even with Fulham, I'm growing less and less enamored of him. Is it just me, or does it always seem like in the EPL he's trailing the play, not closing down players about to cross or shoot quickly enough, or making ugly, ugly challenges? While we're on the defense, does anybody reading this think that Hejduk should be starting over either Spector or Simek? I didn't think so.
(2) If Ricardo Clark can stay healthy, I think he's a keeper. He won the ball without flying in like Mastroeni and Little Bradley tend to do, he can dish the ball about a bit, and he looked a lot more confident coming into a game of that magnitude with very little international experience than he had any right to. I'm looking forward to seeing what he can do with more playing time against some opposition of really high quality in the Copa in the next couple of weeks. On the subject of keepers, keep Ching as well. It's not just that he's a big body, it's the way he holds up and then distributes to the burners surrounding him in attack that's so valuable. McBride did it with his head, Ching can do it on the ground as well and that puts him at the top of the list right now.
(3) I can't get this image out of my head from the trophy ceremony. There's Sepp Blatter, handing out the winner's medals, when he's confronted with Frankie Hejduk. Shirtless in shades Frankie with his long surfer locks screaming his joy in a most likely terrified Blatter's face. The camera cut out before I could see if he hugged the old schemer, but it sure looked like he was going to. Creepy stuff.
On a final note, I'd just like to pass along some well wishes for Borgetti, Guardado, and Spector. I can't believe how long it took the FSC announcing crew to notice something was amiss with Guardado after the match, but those were some scary scenes. I hope he didn't do any damage by continuing to play as I went through a similar thing during a youth tournament. I just played out the game after banging my head on the post defending a corner and was rewarded with months of headaches and dizziness afterward. Reports indicate that he's OK and ready to participate in Copa America, but I'm not so sure about Borgetti. Regardless, well done to all for a match well played, congratulations to Bob Bradley on his first silverware and mission accomplished in qualifying for the Confederations Cup, and extra special kudos to Salcido and Donovan for rising above the Capulets and Montagues scene to swap jerseys after the final whistle.