MEXICO CITY -- The so-called "Summer of Soccer" is officially over, and unfortunately for fans of the U.S. national team, it's ending with the bitter taste of yet another loss to Mexico at Estadio Azteca.
Is this the same team that made so much progress with its run to the Confederations Cup final? Yes. Is this the same team that got blown out in Costa Rica 3-1 and then started the Confed Cup with back-to-back demoralizing losses to Italy and Brazil? Again, yes.
So which is the real U.S.? The answer is probably somewhere in between. When the Americans play together and execute
Here is the good and the bad of how the U.S. has performed recently:
"We went up early and kind of sat back," Dempsey said after the 2-1 loss to Mexico. "That's kind of been a pattern with us."
"We need to have better concentration levels when the ball turns over and possess it better ourselves, and better concentration at the end of the game," U.S. captain
It's probably not fair to ask any team to march into Estadio Saprissa or Azteca and come out on top -- I'd love to see the look of shock on
"It's nice to win on the road," U.S. keeper
The conclusion here? While the U.S. has taken a step forward over the past few months, it still has yet to completely shed its reputation as Not Ready for Prime Time. In many ways, we won't know for sure until the draw for South Africa 2010 goes down in December. If the Yanks get a Group of Death like they did at Germany '06, it may not matter how far they've come.
For now, all the U.S. can do is concentrate on qualifying, and that means putting the loss to Mexico in the rear view. And that starts on Sept. 5 against El Salvador in Sandy, Utah, and continues four days later against Trinidad and Tobago in Port of Spain. Both are very winnable games, and victories in both would leave the U.S. sitting pretty with 16 points through eight Hexagonal matches, on the doorstep of qualifying for its sixth straight World Cup.
"You know coming in that these 10 games are going to be difficult games and you're going to have to play hard for all 10 to be in the World Cup," midfielder