Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Tap: Mexico v USA

In the spirit of our good friends over at The Shin Guardian, I'd like to proffer a film reference to illustrate my point on today's upcoming game. This one involves the 1960 classic Inherit the Wind, in which Spencer Tracy turned in an Oscar-nominated performance for his role as defending attorney Henry Drummond in the midst of the Scopes Monkey Trial. The film covers a broad swath of humanity, much too deep to delve into properly here, but something about that movie continues to strike me. It is apropos here.

What I'm talking about today is the immutability of truth. Or, if you choose to believe, the ability to challenge "inherent truth" and its principles as they apply to all humans indiscriminantly. This, of course, is the gap.

In the film, Fredric March's character Matthew Harrison Brady refuses to challenge those Biblical precepts he holds dear, refuses to even think them through. He sees. He believes. The end. Drummond, on the other hand, is beholden to the notion that one of our great gifts is the ability to reason, to think, to challenge. What does this mean? Can we get there from there? The beauty is that Drummond's world is not a pure contrast of whitewash and inky black. There are gradients of purple and blue and hues of green and ochre and, hell, maybe even a bit of bronzeberry frost.

I can liken Klinsmann's famed and inflamed "gap" comment more to Brady's world than to Drummond's. Mexico is in the midst of a fantastic run. El Tri is the world U-17 champion, the two-time defending Gold Cup champion and can now add an Olympic gold to the haul. Yes, impressive doings. But, in true Drummond-ian form, what is this gap? How is it defined? And where is it? It would be foolish not to acknowledge Mexico's advancement, but to not leave an equal amount of room for your own — all of which has been done on a parallel but independent track from Mexico — is leaving out vitally important facts. Shades of gray, these. And Klinsmann's assessment will undoubtedly become self-fulfilling, because who in their right mind expects this team to escape the Cauldron of Hell with anything other than a whipping? Not I, anyway. That, unfortunately, is no gap. That's history, altitude, mortifyingly bad air quality and a unruly crowd.

In any case, I just mean to say that this gap Klinsmann speaks of is undefinable and it is impossible to say when this arbitrary measure will be bridged, or if such a thing is even possible. Or what to say about the US's utter domination of the series in the last decade, and where that fits into this gap. So many millions of variables are at play during every nanosecond of a game, who's to say the boys don't nip a result today? History (and about every other conceivable measure) is on Mexico's side, but where would "the gap" be if Mexico tumbles today?

Mind the gap? I say screw the gap.

Facts and things from ESPN
Rising tide buoys all ships and so on, says Grant Wahl
Mexican fans respect us, says man who had a bag of piss thrown at him by Mexican fans
0-23-1 in Mexico? But there was that one time...
Brek Shea is in... so is Alan Gordon. Yup.

- Will Parchman


Paul Poenicke said...

Will, I agree with your general sentiments on the less than defined gap between the US and Mexico. One part of the supposed gap writers forget is the club sides and minutes for each starter. It is a fact that the US has more players, let alone starters, starting and playing more minutes for better sides than Mexico's starters. Mexico's run has been amazing given the fact that they have relied on players primarily from their national league.

In all the excitement over their sterling youth victories, Mexican fans have played down the fact that most of their youth players are, again, still playing in Mexico. To improve, most players need to play against superior competition, competition that is found across the pond. I'll take the younger US players who have found time in lesser leagues against a group of prodigious talents who have yet to make the difficult jump into a European side.

Jay said...

I suppose if you go into the argument with the belief that "a European side" is better than a Mexican club, prima facie, then it isn't really an argument. You're just making declarative statements. Of course, if you are open to the idea that maybe the Liga MX clubs are making considerable headway in developing their clubs such that players don't need or want to move to Europe in order to develop into athletes capable of playing on the national team ... well, maybe you'd see this as evidence that it's working. Sounds like the argument comes down to bias, really.

Paul Poenicke said...

Jay, you are right to think that I assume Liga MX is inferior to various European leagues--as is MLS. There is a good evidence that such an assumption is valid. We have direct evidence from competitions, like the Copa Libertadores, where Liga MX teams have struggled against top sides from other divisions in the Americas. Indirectly, we have various measurements of league strength that indicate European leagues are superior. Most importantly, successful World Cup champions have consistently played in European sides, or for better sides in Brazil and Argentina. This backs up the general intuition, and evidence from player movement you mention in your comment, that the best play in Europe.

Now, this doesn't mean Liga MX teams haven't been making headway in developing their clubs. And perhaps the evidence of successful Mexican youth teams does provide evidence that Liga MX has improved in developing young talent.

But this doesn't prove (1) these sides will provide the superior competition and training necessary for most young players to succeed; or (2) that a a lack of desire to move to Europe is evidence that these teams are providing the training and competition necessary for most young players to succeed.

As you admit, Liga MX teams are attempting to make headway to keep players from going to Europe. Time will tell if this headway allows for international success. We have seen various youth sides, especially in Africa, mirror the kind of success Mexico has achieved, without that improving in the World Cup or other international tournaments.

RM said...

great point Paul,

In the Copa Libertadores the teams from Mexico are poor, year in, year out...if it was one year fine, but it's been like this for 15 years now.It is a trend, the league is weak and that is clear.

Anyways, In 2011, the USA team in gold cup final included players like Bedoya,Adu,Goodson and yes,of couse, Bornstein.These guys are nowhere near the starting eleven of a perfectly fit US team.

The US when healthy has a starting eleven including clubs such as Hoffenheim,Everton,As Roma,Schalke,AZ Alkmaar and probably soon even Liverpool.Who does Mexico have? Even Hernandez with the Purchase of Van Persie looks to be a bench warmer with Dos Santos.Mexico may be good at youth but the Adults of the US seem to be coming on stronger...I think will see that in Hex. Remember,the Gold cup final did not include many very poor players.

TrueCrew said...

Uh, the gap is defined by a 4-2 whipping in the Gold Cup final?

Strange that you can't seem to define a gap that is so easily definable.

Every time the two teams square off, the gap will be in evidence, until we win one (at or near full strength sides).

When the US is reigning U17 champ, Olympic champ, U20 semifinalist, and the Gold Cup Champ, then we can again talk about parity.

And I'd note: you can't say you've dominated a series when you've never won a single game at the other team's home field. Ever. At any age level.

RM said...

The gold cup final included many poor players is what I meant to write

dikranovich said...

im gonna have to call BS here. mexican club teams do very well in international competition. im not sure where you are getting your facts from, but chivas guadelajara, played in liberatadores final two years ago. pachuca won copa sud america.

lets try and keep it real!!!

Jay said...

I'm certainly not going to disagree with you re: MLS. It's a work in progress. Liga MX is also a work in progress, but it's also had more time and has more financial support, and had made more progress. If you presume that European leagues are superior and presume that leagues are now and will always be static, unchanging monolithic entities, yeah, sure, go ahead and make that claim. I'm not willing to say that the existing state of affairs will remain, and apparently neither is FMF. This is the same argument that comes out of the mouths of the euro-snobs and MLS-haters. "Europe is better, don't even try to compete. You'll only be good if I can watch you on ESPN at 6:30 in the morning."

As for the Copa Lib, let's be real: most Mexican teams treat it like the Europa League -- something that's kind of a pain in the ass when you have better things to do. Remember that Tigres sent Bornstein off to play in their qualifying round last year along with with a bunch of U-23 players. If that's not a bold statement of true intent I don't know what is. The top finishers in Liga MX qualify for CCL, and the next few clubs "get" to play in Copa Lib. So I'm not sure that performance in that tournament is all that great a measure of success.

And as I "admitted": Liga MX teams are attempting to build a stronger league. I'd wager that at the moment they're plenty happy to sell off top individual players for a big chunk of cash, particularly when the base level of player talent keeps getting better. I'd be curious to hear which national sides have shown the same level of success, across three different age groups, in a one year window. Really.

dikranovich said...

oh you kids are going to love the starting lineup.

Paul Poenicke said...


For the sake of argument, let’s grant Liga MX is making significant headway. Let’s also grant that the gap between MLS and Liga MX and various European leagues is changing and non-static, with various leagues advancing and declining in accordance with club play, investment, ect.

The question is whether or not Liga MX has the capacity to develop talented Mexicans enough to bring significant success in the 2014 World Cup. While Liga MX may be building a better league, the gap in funding, growth, training techniques, youth training, and other aspects critical for improving young players is going to significantly favor the European leagues. Can the changes the league has made impact the team for 2014? In other words, is it sensible to expect the changes to manifest themselves in two years? Probably not, given the significant advantages various European leagues have, including providing the best opponents to test and improve young players. Could the improvements lead to success down the road, in 2018 or 2022? Perhaps.

To your other point: does Mexico’s recent sustained success in youth tournaments forecast significant World Cup success? Not necessarily.

*Argentina has enjoyed a far greater level of sustained success at the youth level without seeing that talent succeed in the World Cup: Argentina won the U-20 World Cup in ’95, ’97, ’01,’05, and ’07; in the U-17 World Cup, the team came in fourth and third in ’01 and ’03, respectively; and won gold in the Olympics in ’04 and ’08.

*Nigeria came in second at the ’05 U-20 World Cup, won and placed second for the U-17 World Cups in ’07 and ’09, and won the silver in the ’08 Olympics.

*Ghana has seen far more success than Mexico on the youth levels yet did not see that success reflect in World Cup glory: between 1991 and 1999, Ghana came in first twice, second twice and third once in the U-17 World Cup, grabbed a silver in 1992 and secured second and fourth place finishes in the U-20 World Cups in 1993 and 1995.

Moral of the story: Mexico has enjoyed great success in recent youth tournaments. This does not entail future World Cup success. Finding success on the club level is just as important. (I wish Jason Kuenle was still around to analyze this data at Match Fit USA.)

dikranovich said...

not a bad first half from team usa. what a freaking nasty place to have to play in that cauldron of a building. its the elevation and its affect on the lungs, but it also has power over the flight of the ball, and a simple five yard pass can become frought with all kinds of danger.

nice work from the backline after a couple of early free kick chances for mexico. edu and cameron have looked solid and cameron might be hard to displace from the starting lineup. imagine what a season in england will do for his game. it will be huge.

danny williams blah, jose torres blah. herc, nothing special, donovan, not really trying, probably because he is already thinking about playing with deuce at everton.

i hate to harp on it, but this team needs freaking benny feilhaber to string it together, because there is space in between mexicos midfield and defense and feilhaber is the man that should be on this team. maybe coach klinsmann figures the longer he keeps him away, the hungrier he will be when he gets the chance.

Will Parchman said...

There's your damn gap.

dikranovich said...

he has already changed his name once, so why not do it again. michael azteca fiscal, take a bow, we take it all back. now lets go qualify for a god dang world cup down in brasil.

Alex said...

hey everybody, we won

Joe Dirt said...

Fffffuuuuuuuuuccccckkkkkk da GAP. We popped that CHERRY tonite fellas.