Friday, January 25, 2008

Argentina's near

Earlier this week, Argentina released their roster for an upcoming friendly against Guatemala. On Feb. 6, Argentina will play Guatemala at the LA Memorial Coliseum.

Argentina spared no expense in calling in a star-studded roster, which includes Juan Roman Riquelme, Javier Mascherano and Sergio Aguero, not to mention up-and-comers in Gonzalo Higuain and Fernando Gago, among others. The match falls on an international fixture date, which allowed Argentina to call in a mostly European-based squad.

I'm hoping to be at the game as it's not often you get to take in Argentina in person, at least not here in the United States.

Still, I can't help but thinking... the U.S. is playing Mexico that same night, in Houston. Wouldn't the U.S. be better off playing Argentina than Mexico? Sure, a rivalry match is always an enjoyable one but why not test your mettle against one of the best nations in the world?

U.S.-Mexico will undoubtedly be a good game. There will be moments of drama and (probably) pulsating goals. The action will likely go back and forth and few will complain about the entertainment value of the match once its over (though the result will likely irritate one group of fans).

But Argentina is Argentina, and wouldn't a friendly against them be better for the U.S. than another match against Mexico?

Now, I've often been supportive of U.S.-Mexico games, and still am. I think it's one of those things that you can't get enough of, for all the things I've said prior. But Mexico is close by. A two- or three-hour flight from Mexico City to American soil is usually all it takes for El Tri to arrive. Argentina is quite a bit further, especially when you consider most of their players are based in the Old World. That Argentina is willing to come to the United States to play against Guatemala seems a bit strange. I mean, if they are willing to come play Guatemala - all the way in Los Angeles - surely they'd be willing to play the United States here, no? Why didn't the U.S. make a greater push to play against Argentina?

Anyway, here's what the U.S. missed out on:

Goalkeepers: Oscar Ustari (Getafe, Spain), Sergio Romero (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands).

Defenders: Pablo Zabaleta (Espanyol, Spain) , Ezequiel Garay (Racing Santander, Spain), Federico Fazio (Sevilla, Spain), Martin Demichelis (Bayern Munich, Germany), Cristian Ansaldi (Rubin Kazan, Russia).

Midfielders: Fernando Gago (Real Madrid, Spain), Ever Banega (Valencia, Spain), Jose Sosa (Bayern Munich, Germany), Javier Mascherano (Liverpool, England), Damian Escudero (Velez Sarsfield), Juan Roman Riquelme (Boca Juniors).

Strikers: Gonzalo Higuain (Real Madrid, Spain), Sergio Aguero (Atletico Madrid, Spain), Angel Di Maria (Benfica, Portugal), Ezequiel Lavezzi (Napoli, Italy), Marco Ruben (River Plate).

11 comments:

FC Uptown said...

Outstanding point on the US scheduling. Dollars (and pesos) rule the day, however.

siva said...

As a soccer fan, I wish Mexico and Argentina played in LA (continuing off from WC'06 and CopaAmerica '07).

As a US fan, I wish US had set up a match against England (in England) -- the Three Lions have a lot to prove/play for after not qualifying for Euro'08, and it isn't obvious at all that they can beat a full-strength US team.

An off-season US "B" squad against an off-season Mexico team isn't nearly as exciting.

It's a bit silly that we couldn't play a full squad against a European team (in Europe) -- that way the "European-based" players don't have to travel much, and the MLS'ers that make the squad have all the time to travel to Europe.

FC Uptown said...

I too, have a strong interest in a US-England match. A match in London would be amazing (although they would probably not be interested). The Australians still talk about a match years ago when they knocked off England in England - we should have that chance. A game in the US would be great too though.

Eugene said...

I agree that the US needs to schedule much more challenging opposition. The match against Spain in Europe is definitely of that spirit, but the problem is its the only game of that caliber which has been scheduled.

Everyone is talking about our performance vs. Sweden's B-team, but in all honesty, the game was meaningless. Our MLS guys were able to play well because their B-team played so poorly. When it came time for us to beat their A-team in Sweden, we weren't up for the challenge. And I still don't think we could beat them with Ibrahimovic, Kim Kallstrom and Johan Elmander, let alone Larsson and Ljungberg, playing.

So its time for our friendly opponents to get more challenging, otherwise US Soccer is just buttering up our team for a slaughter in the next World Cup.

Eugene said...

And now that I look at the Argentina roster again -- this isn't even their strongest side! This is their B-team.

Frightening.

Anonymous said...

LB.

Don't make me laugh. You call that Argentina side a star studded roster that spares no expense. Please...

Let's be clear about this. A previous poster pointed out that this is about dollars and pesos. Clearly, the US couldn't either fill the seats for an Argentina "B" side or Guatemala was more willing to split the pot.

Eugene said...

To be clear about my comment on how this is Argentina's B-team -- that is in NO way contradictory to Luis saying its a star-studded roster.

It IS a star-studded roster. Ezequiel Garay, Fernando Gago, Mascherano, Riquelme, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria and Kun Aguero are all either stars or up-and-coming stars. And those are just the players that I'm familiar with.

I call it a B-team because they're not pulling in Messi, Tevez, Crespo, Julio Cruz at Inter, Heinze, etc. who have recently been the backbone of their full-strength squad.

Had this Argentina match been scheduled for NY instead of LA, I would definitely be there.

I think that SUM could definitely have filled the seats for a US-Argentina game with this Argentina roster. I just suspect that US Soccer doesn't schedule it because they're concerned about our full-strength squad being embarrassed on our own soil.

JT (Chicago) said...

Eugene, I hope you're not right about the US being afraid to be defeated at home. That would be silly.

Just as the Mexico v USA match was canceled last September so that both could play Brazil, I would have hoped that both countries could play Argentina this time around. Too bad.

Martin said...

This is the base of the team Argentian will send to the Olympic Games this summer in Beijing so it is an U-23 team with the three overage players permitted in the Olympics: Riquelme, Mascherano and Demichelis. Lionel Messi would have been selected for this team too but Argentina agreed to Barcelona's request that he be given the game off as he's just recovering from an injury.

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