PHILADELPHIA -- Three quick thoughts following the U.S.'s 1-1 tie against Mexico in a friendly on Wednesday night ...
• After a poor start, the U.S. was hard done by. Let's be honest: The U.S. struggled in Jurgen Klinsmann's first half as the national-team coach, falling behind 1-0 while looking out of sorts and often out of position (especially on the left side with Edgar Castillo and José Torres). But the second half was much better, and the U.S. was unlucky not to pull off a come-from-behind win in the dying minutes. Klinsmann's subs made a difference. Brek Shea was a menace on the left wing, while Juan Agudelo brought energy and good movement up top and Robbie Rogers looked dangerous in a U.S. uniform for the first time in ages. Jamaican referee Raymond Bogle missed two big calls: a clip that brought down Landon Donovan in the penalty box (no call) and what should have been an obvious red card on Gerardo Torrado for bringing down Rogers as the last man on the break. Tough luck for the Stars & Stripes.
• Keep an eye on Brek Shea. In Klinsmann's first game coaching the U.S., it was the 21-year-old Shea who made the biggest impact, coming on as a second-half sub on the left wing and changing the game. With his blond mullet in full flow, Shea used his pace and craftiness to create space and uncork some dangerous crosses. None were more impressive than the one he had in the 73rd minute, beating two Mexican defenders and hitting an inch-perfect ball to Rogers for the equalizer. Shea had a rough debut for the U.S. last fall, but he has been the breakout young star of MLS this season for Dallas and took a big leap forward in a U.S. uniform on Wednesday. His performance should earn him more time next month when the U.S. plays in friendlies against Costa Rica and Belgium.
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• Come on, ESPN. It was strange: ESPN sure treated USA-Mexico like a big game before it started. The SportsNation crew was here today with Michelle Beadle, and a cavalry of a half-dozen ESPN broadcasters was also on-hand, causing me to think the network was sort of overhyping this friendly. But the Worldwide Leader undermined everything by shunting the first 20 minutes of the game over to ESPNews so that a Little League World Series *qualifier* could finish on ESPN2. The network may have policies that call for such measures, but it sure came off as a statement that this game didn't mean much at all. With today's announcement that NBC Sports has signed a new deal to broadcast MLS and some U.S. games in addition to ESPN, I'll be curious to see how the presence of NBC Sports impacts ESPN's soccer decisions. The fact is that ESPN sees NBC/Comcast as a much more serious competitor than it ever saw Fox Soccer (which is being dropped by MLS/USSF at the end of the year). How will that impact things moving forward?