16 July, 2010

Superliga Day Two

An interesting second day of the MLS-vs-Mexico Superliga. Both games were decided by 2-1 scores. First, Houston Dynamo defeated Pachuca 2-1 on two goals by Joseph Ngwenya. San Diego State's own Tally Hall was strong in goal for Houston. The first goal was on a shot by Mike Chabala, deflected off Brian Ching into the path of Ngwenya, who one-timed it past Pachuca's extremely talented Colombian 'keeper Miguel Calero, one of my very favorites in the Mexican League for many years ever since I saw him score on a header on a corner kick to tie a game in the final seconds. "Every goalie's dream" said my club team's 'keeper when I told him about it.

Pachuca tied the game early in the second half with some give-and-go passing. That is what struck me about the game I watched, Puebla and Chivas USA. The Mexican team could string together five or ten passes in a row without any bad touches. Even though Chivas USA is predominantly Mexican-Americans, they couldn't pass more than three times without failing to control the ball and turning it over to the other team. Chivas USA was just trying to cross it in the air for a header, or sending long balls to the forwards for breakaways, while Puebla was patiently passing it around until someone broke free from their defender, then they could hit him in stride. It sounds like that is how Pachuca scored their goal. The score was tied 1-1.

Brian Ching immediately equalized but the goal was called back because he was offsides.

But Ngwenya struck again to win the game for Houston in the 85th minute, by heading in a free kick for the winning goal shortly after a shoving match with Calero. I get the impression that Houston really wants to win these Superliga games (remember they were originally going to be called Houston 1836, which was the year Texas seceded from Mexico, but they thought that might alienate Mexican-American fans. Pun intended). And, it is important to me that the MLS teams beat their Mexican League counterparts, just so I can say USA soccer is better than Mexico and the USA has the best soccer in CONCACAF. The problem is, the Mexican teams are better and they always seem to win these interleague games.

In the game I saw, there was no question that Puebla was the superior team. Their short passing game was superb. Puebla was up 1-0 by the time I turned the game on at halftime, and quickly took a 2-0 lead in the second half. Both goals were scored by Uruguayan players, Nicolas Olivera and Alvaro Gonzalez. Puebla also features Uruguayan defender Alejandro Acosta. No wonder they were so good. Chivas USA got a consolation goal in the 85th minute, on a corner kick from their newest player, Rodolfo Espinoza of Mexico, that was headed into the goal by Michael Umaña, a Costa Rican. The team plays in the USA but none of their good players are from here.

So, after two days of competition, the Superliga looks like this:


Group A

Puebla 1-0-0 3 2 1

Houston 1-0-0 3 2 1

Pachuca 0-0-1 0 1 2

Chv USA 0-0-1 0 1 2

Group B

Morelia 1-0-0 3 5 1

NE Rev 1-0-0 3 1 0

UNAM 0-0-1 0 0 1

Chicago 0-0-1 0 1 5

Photo: MLS

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