CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: The Hex Matchday One Review

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It was a unique day in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying. In a confederation where away teams often find it extremely difficult to earn three points, all three away sides won. Costa Rica claimed the only multi-goal win with their 2-0 defeat at Trinidad and Tobago. Panama got a classy free kick goal from Fidel Escobar to see off Honduras 1-0 at Estadio Olímpico Metropolitano, and the United States ended their streak of dos a cero wins over Mexico by falling 2-1 in Columbus, Ohio.

CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying: The Hex Matchday One Review

Honduras 0-1 Panama

Honduras is a notoriously difficult road trip for any CONCACAF team, even the other Central American ones. They proved a most difficult opponent for the majority of this one, too. They held a 58% advantage in possession and would outshoot Los Canaleros 14-9 at the end of the match.

Panama would play some stout defense, however. Their lone goal would come on a 22nd minute free kick from just outside the box. Center back Fidel Escobar, who plays for Sporting CP’s reserve team, saw his free kick take a touch of a Honduran defender and into the back of the net.

This is a valuable three points for Panama, who were booted out of the World Cup thanks to a USA win on the final matchday of the Hex in the last cycle. A road victory is valuable at this stage regardless of the opponent, and having it come in Honduras is simply outstanding.

Trinidad and Tobago 0-2 Costa Rica

Costa Rica may have entered yesterday as the only away side that may have been favored to win at the start. All due respect to T&T, but they are the weakest side in the Hex. Costa Rica is expected to be the third best team in the group and qualify for the World Cup with relative ease.

They looked very solid in this match, although it took them over an hour to score. Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Christian Bolanos would open the scoring on a Costa Rican break that resulted in a couple over pursuing Trinidad defenders. Bolanos received the final pass on the doorstep in front of a wide open goal for an easy tap in.

Trinidad wouldn’t go away quietly as they created a couple chances of their own. Strong defending and goalkeeping from Keylor Navas was more than enough to keep them off the board. Los Ticos salted the game away on a 92nd minute counter attack that saw Bolanos turn provider for Ronald Matarrita’s tap in.

That second goal gives Costa Rica the top spot in the Hex after one match on goal difference over Panama and Mexico.

United States 1-2 Mexico

Plenty has been written about this match on this website already. Here’s the full match recap. Here is Matt Pollard’s tactical breakdown. It’s safe to say that Jurgen Klinsmann had a terrible night. The match began with a ruckus Columbus crowd raining down chants of dos a cero in attempt to intimidate their Mexican opponents. That same Mexican team went out and dominated the opening 25 minutes and were unlucky only to have scored once in that time.

Some tactical changes brought on by some pleading by Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones allowed the USA to get back into the game and equalize early in the second half. There were a couple chances to go ahead, but none were seized and Rafa Marquez’s 89th minute header handed the USA their first home loss in World Cup Qualifying since 2001 and their first home loss against Mexico in qualifying since 1972.

The Standings

  1. Costa Rica- 3 pts.- +2 GD
  2. Mexico- 3 pts.- +1 GD
  3. Panama- 3 pts.- +1 GD
  4. United States- 0 pts.- -1 GD
  5. Trinidad and Tobago- 0 pts.- -1 GD
  6. Honduras- 0 pts.- -2 GD