CONCACAF just concluding its second round of qualifying matches on the road to Qatar 2022. Now six matches in, we have a sense of what each team brings to the table and the race is beginning to take shape. The top four teams find themselves separated by six points and the bottom half, only three points. Mexico leads the pack and it will be difficult for anyone to take the reins from El Tri. The rest of field looks wild open as no other team has yet to display separation from one another.
Mexico finished this round 2-0-1, a somewhat surprising draw at The Azteca versus Canada who are playing their best futbol in a long time. But El Tri finish in convincing fashion with a combined 5-0 score over Honduras and El Salvador.
The USA had an excellent opportunity to over take Mexico to the top of table but mishandled the preparation, strategy and match at Panama, a tough opponent but beatable. Greg Berhalter said as much as he took full responsibility for looking past Panama to the Costa Rica match in Columbus. The Americans still managed six points and are a point ahead of Canada.
Oh Canada! The Great North sits in third after two draws with Mexico and Jamaica and a huge 4-1 victory over Panama. Canada remains undefeated and could pose problems for Mexico at home in November and they also face the USA at home in January. What will make or break Canada is the Central American away matches next spring.
Panama doesn’t seem to know its identity six matches in, they play some impressive soccer drawing Mexico, beating the USA then provided stinkers like the loss to El Salvador and the trashing at the hands of Canada. Panama with its inconsistency; sits right in the middle of the table and they really could swing wildly either way.
Costa Rica has disappointed a bit, started strong with the USA scoring just seconds into the match in Columbus. Unfortunately for Los Ticos, they couldn’t find the back of the net for the remaining 90 minutes and an own goal that bounced off a diving Moreira, the back up for World Class Goalkeeper Nava gave the USA the three points. Costa Rica will be looking for at least four points to stay in contention for qualifying.
Jamaica, El Salvador and Honduras are sitting at the bottom of the table, none of these teams have the look of making a huge leap into qualifying into the World Cup. El Salvador did have the win over Panama but two red cards in the last two matches shows lack of discipline for the Salvadorian team. Honduras is well past its golden generation of 2014 and so far the youth have been unable to step up in qualifying. Jamaica with Mexico at home and Panama on the road have a tough challenge in January, losses to both could find themselves out of the race.
For the USA, after a disappointing loss in Panama and a win versus Costa Rica are now looking to a very difficult match against El Tri. No words need to be said on how monumental this match in Cincinnati will be. It will be the third time these two will face each other in less than six months. Mexico will be looking retribution as the last two matches went the way of the USA and both times saw the Americans lifting hardware. While a loss for the US wouldn’t mean a deathblow, a blowout by El Tri by an unprepared USA squad could bring the calls for “Berhalter out” to another level.
Will Greg Berhalter learn from the lessons in Panama and take no match for granted or will it be a repeat of the 2018 World Cup Qualifying?