1. I think the correct analogy for Mexico's playing style is not a football team that controls time of possession with a brutal running game and a short passing game. Mexico's tempo is faster than that. At least when playing at the Azteca, El Tri seem more like a football team with an excellent defense that forces a lot of three-and-outs and then runs a no-huddle on offense. They didn't strike me as playing a very deliberate game last week. They're more the Saints with a better defense than they are the Giants.
2. I quite liked this paragraph describing the reaction to the winning goal:
I will remember the reaction afterward: Complete and utter delirium. Everyone just threw whatever drink they had as far as they could. It was like watching a new Pixar movie called "A Snowstorm of Drinks" crossed with a full-fledged prison riot. Then and only then did we realize exactly how much that game meant to the Mexicans. As Hopper said right after the final whistle (Mexico 2, USA 1), "I guess the upside is that we're going to live."
The one sports experience that I can remember that was similar was Charlie Peprah's interception return for a touchdown for Alabama against Georgia in 2002. Peprah's TD was the second Bama TD in quick succession that turned a 24-12 deficit into a 25-24 lead. I've never seen a scene quite like that. Drinks flying everywhere. Noise like you wouldn't believe (amplified for us by the metal overhand right above our heads). I'll always remember looking at my wife and the two of us exchanging looks of utter disbelief at the anarchy going on around us. And two possessions later, Georgia drove down the field and Billy Bennett kicked the winning field goal.
3. I'm not buying the following paragraph:
The good news for U.S. fans? Our boys hung for two hours in Mexico without disgracing themselves. The bad news? The defeat reinforced some basic problems with our soccer program. We have only a few world-class players (Donovan, Oguchi Onyewu, Clint Dempsey and goalie Tim Howard) and lack a franchise guy who could swing any game, even one being played in Estadio Azteca. For instance, I watched Sunday's Liverpool-Tottenham battle, and Steven Gerrard was so ridiculously, dominantly good in so many different ways -- some overt, some subtle -- that I couldn't get over it. He makes difficult plays seem effortless; you never forget he's on the field. America doesn't have anyone like that. Just like in basketball, you can't win championships in soccer without a LeBron/Kobe-type player.
I watched the Spurs-Liverpool match on Sunday and Gerrard was mostly peripheral because Liverpool miss Xabi Alonso pinging the ball around behind him. It was not a dominant Gerrard performance because he lacked support, thus illustrating the fact that soccer, moreso than basketball, requires that the entire team function in order for a superstar to dominate a game. There are few soccer equivalents to a LeBron single-handedly winning games for his team.
4. Amen to this:
Whatever happens, the stars seem to be aligning for soccer in the United States. Subtle factors have made soccer a potential breakout sport for the next decade: high definition; few commercial breaks; games that almost always end within two hours; improved camera angles; increased exposure to international play; a generation of adults weaned on the 1994 World Cup; even the near-death of passing in basketball, which led people like me to gravitate toward soccer simply because I miss seeing telepathic connections between teammates and will take it any way I can get it. I don't think I'm alone.
I have the same thoughts on passing. Maybe it's a result of watching the Gretzky Oilers during my formative sports years?
5. Did you ever think that you would read a Red Sox nut like Simmons type the two sentences that conclude the piece?
As for the Mexicans, they averted a national disaster and reignited their Cup chances. On the way back to our hotel, driving in our bulletproof car, we passed under a bridge on the highway and noticed one lone Mexican man happily swinging a flag back and forth. He had to have been 45 minutes from the stadium. There was nobody around him. He just kept swinging that flag with a joyous grin on his face. I remember thinking to myself, "Nobody in America will ever care about a sport that much." And we won't.