In this playful piece, we pose a question or make a statement about something in soccer that will be opined about, agreed and disagreed on, by YOU, the reader. No more talking heads giving safe, politically correct answers. Those days are over. Instead, we’ve opened the floor to everyone out there in Cyberland to throw in their two cents.
It’s all about Home Field Advantage in soccer, according to you, the average soccer fan. Just a month after collectively – and correctly – selecting France to win the 2003 Confederations Cup in their backyard, a good number of you decided that Azteca Stadium and all of its modern amenities (obvious sarcasm) presented too skewed of a playing field for the U.S. to overcome Mexico and capture the title of the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup. But to be fair, just as many readers agreed that the USA’s recent dominance of our border banditos will be enough of an edge to finally topple the Ticos at the mammoth venue. Here’s what you had to say about the state of CONCACAF and who will bring home the hardware:
"What matters is that the Cup stays here in North America. The next thing that matters is that it stays in the U.S.A. where it really belongs! I am sick and tired of the Mexicans with all their bellyaching and blaming who knows who and who knows what as to why they still consider themselves tops in the CONCACAF? El Salvador just taught them a thing or two about soccer humility, and the Salvadorans put it to them real good. The key is going to be keeping those Mexican Jumping Beans humble at El Azteca. Can they be beat? Of course they can! All Cortez had to do was convince the Tlazcalans who their real enemy was and with 300 Spanish Soldiers and an Army of Tlazcalans they defeated how many Aztecs? So I firmly believe that with the best 11 that Arena can muster up and SAM'S ARMY in the stands we should be able to keep the Cup right here in the U.S.A. where it belongs! Signed, A Loyal Mexican American!"
"Mexico? (They have) nice beaches, nice people. The futbol capital of CONCACAF has moved north. Of the CONCACAF teams, the USA is the best. Even if Brazil and Colombia only send their youth teams, they will present the best challenges for team USA."
--Michael Gilgun / 51 / Chula Vista, Calif.
"...and the U.S. have evened the mark at the cups a piece!!! Yes, I do believe the U.S. will prevail. Even though co-hosts Mexico would have home-field advantage, that team is not playing well, and is far from it. Brazil could take it, but not with its second string line-up. Jamaica and Columbia are both capable as well, but the U.S has the ability and skills to overcome them, especially after having some luck with the first round draw. They should dominate extensively in Group C. After that, a couple of goals will set them up for the finals. Go Team U.S.A.!!!!!"
--Manny Lomeli / Whittier, Calif.
"My prediction for the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup winner will definitely be the USA. We have tremendous speed throughout the midfield and forwards with Convey, Beasley, Donovan and many others. I do feel that USA has to work on their scoring ability. That is the only thing that separates us from some of the powerhouse teams in the world. We have many chances that should be buried in the back of the net. If they improve that and with our world class goalkeeping in Kasey Keller, there will be no stopping us in the Gold Cup and look out for the mighty U.S. in World Cup 2006."
--Lincoln Strehle / 21 / Philadelphia, Pa.
"The United States will win for sure. The only competition they appear to have is Costa Rica. Mexico has had a disastrous recent string of results, with just one win in six matches. If Lavolpe doesn't win the Gold Cup, he will be fired."
--David Uranga / 25 / Sarasota, Fla.
"Dream final: U.S. beats Mexico 2-1 at Azteca and puts a stranglehold on the region. Actual Prediction: Colombia knocks the U.S. out 1-0 in the semis, and loses 2-1 to Mexico in the final. Lavolpe keeps his job and Mexico regains their swagger just in time for WC qualification."
--Jon M. Haynes / 31 / San Antonio, Texas
"While the Gold Cup has some impressive countries participating, it seems that only four teams are probable winners: Mexico, USA, Colombia and Brazil. Of these four, Brazil has a U-23 team and Mexico is trying to rebuild. That leaves the U.S. and Columbia with somewhat settled teams and both having recently participated in the Confederations Cup in France. While the U.S. will face some tough games, including the opener against El Salvador (who looked very sharp against Mexico), they should have enough to get to the second round for a possible match up against former coach Steve Sampson and Costa Rica. If Reyna can contribute in midfield and we avoid injuries, I think the U.S. can successfully defend the tournament. However, if Mexico surprises me and makes it to the final, they will probably win given the huge home support. It should be a good tournament!"
--David Gracie / 46 / Long Beach, Calif.
"People, it will be Mexico. Reason: 100,000 reasons in Azteca Stadium."
--Marcus Dodd / 46 / Ormond Beach, Fla.
"I'll make this short and sweet. I believe the U.S. has a fighting chance to end up in the finals of the Gold Cup, but won't win it all because of mental lapses, defensive miscues, and the lack of a consistent line-up through-out the Spring. Mexico has a revenge factor in its corner and a hometown final, but has been spotty on the offensive side. They look like they're falling into old patterns of poor conditioning and a disorganized attack. El Salvador might be my upset special (even more so than Columbia), although either team can pull off an upset on a given day. Which brings me to my champion prediction: Brazil. I just can't bet against them. They're coming off a strong European showing, are well-balanced, confident and love playing in the mid-summer heat. Brazil has the balance to make it through the Gold Cup marathon. I predict they will tie one or two, but in the end they'll find their way to the final and win! Brazil can be beaten (we'll see which defense shows up for them), but some country will have to put on a full blown effort in all the games to unseat them."
--Daniel DeCesare / 41 / Providence, R.I.
Thanks to all for another month of measured patriotism with regard to the July question. As you know, the odds of being printed are better if you keep it under 150 words so that we can put as many as 10 opinions on display each month.
For August, we switch our focus back to women’s soccer. The obvious question: Who will win the Founders Cup III?
While it’s been a quiet year for the WUSA in Year Three in comparison to all the hoopla surrounding the return of the FIFA Women’s World Cup to the U.S., let us not forget how well the league is preparing the world’s elite for the big tournament. But for now, the WWC can wait. There’s still a championship to be won before players trade club for country in September. Atlanta is back at the top of the standings after a dip in 2002, but the rest of the league is wide open, starting with the second-place Boston Breakers and the third-place San Diego Spirit, two much-improved teams that are poised to make it to their first post-season. And you can’t count out the Washington Freedom, with Mia Hamm and Abby Wambach in top form and at the top of the WUSA points list. With four games to go in the five-month season, there are still a host of teams that can rise to the top half of the table and surprise in the playoffs, especially with the exciting single-elimination element. Long-story-short, it’s anyone’s Founders Cup III…
Feel free to wait until the final four playoff teams have been determined before you make your pick. The deadline for submissions for the August issue is Sunday, Aug. 10, or the last day of the 2003 WUSA season. E-mail your BRIEF, but well-crafted response to email@example.com. PLEASE INCLUDE YOUR FULL NAME, AGE AND CITY OF RESIDENCE. Feel free to submit responses for as many months as you wish, but in the interest of sharing the spotlight, we will be giving space to different respondents from month to month.
Table of Contents
1) Armchair Midfielder (Dissecting the 2003 WWC Final Draw)
2) In Threes (w/ WNT forward Abby Wambach)
3) Mark That Calendar (MNT vs. Costa Rica – July 26, 8 p.m. ET – Galavison)
4) Queries & Anecdotes (w/ MNT goalkeeper Kasey Keller)
5) FAN Point/Counterpoint (Who will win the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup?)
6) "You Don’t Know Jack (Marshall)" (U.S. Gold Cup Trivia)
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