There is an adage in CONCACAF that seems to be prevalent, one that American coaches and players alike say all the time.
"It's tough to play away in CONCACAF."
I've found startling new evidence that may help enlighten us all on just how tough it is to play away in CONCACAF.
Now, if you are talking about physically going down to a CONCACAF nation and playing a game of soccer, that may well be tough. There can be some hectic travel involved, you might play on a bad field and the fans hate the US and all that stuff. Fine. But in terms of pulling out results, it's NOT tough to play away in CONCACAF.
For the lesser teams I suppose it is. I didn't check to see how El Salvador and Honduras had done in their respective road games over the last decade. But for the US, Mexico and to a certain extent Costa Rica, aka the Big Three of CONCACAF, it's not tough to play away in CONCACAF.
To begin with, I did not count games the US played at Mexico and Costa Rica, games Mexico played at the US and Costa Rica and games Costa Rica played at the US and Mexico. Because that's part of the new redefined theorem which we'll get to later.
So anyway, save for games away to each other, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica are a collective 17-7-12 on the road in World Cup qualifying in the qualification for the 2002 and 2006 World Cups. So out of 36 games, the US, Mexico and Costa Rica lost a combined seven.
Now - here's the kicker - guess how many of those losses were from the United States? Take a second, think back, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005...
Astounding. Really astounding. Not one loss came from the Americans. Don't believe me? Look for yourself:
T 1-1 Guatemala
W 4-0 Barbados
W 2-1 Honduras
T 0-0 Jamaica
T 0-0 Trinidad
W 3-2 Grenada
T 1-1 Jamaica
T 1-1 Panama
W 2-0 El Salvador
W 2-1 Trinidad
W 3-0 Panama
T 0-0 Guatemala
Count 'em up and you get a combined road record of 6-0-6 for the US in away games, Mexico and Costa Rica notwithstanding.
Already this cycle, we've got the US adding two wins to that collective total and bringing their own total up to 8-0-6 in qualifiers since 2000.
So when we hear how fantastic it is for the US to have pulled out 1-0 wins in Guatemala and Cuba and how all these other nations would struggle to even get to the Hex if they had to deal with the conditions the US has to deal with... well, forgive me for laughing.
So you might say 'Why don't you include away games to each other?' Well, save for Mexico at Costa Rica, the Big Three struggles at the Big Three. Costa Rica beat Mexico in 2001 in Azteca and Mexico returned the favor in Costa Rica in 2005 but aside from that the Big Three usually loses away to the other Big Three teams. Neither Mexico nor Costa Rica can touch the US here in qualifying and same is true in reverse when the US plays away to Mexico and Costa Rica.
But nobody needs worry about that. Mexico, the US and Costa Rica will lock up spots 1-2-3 in the Hex next year; who can pull out a result against the other two nations away will determine the positioning.
Thus, the new theorem which will replace the old myth is this:
Unless you are the Big Three playing at the Big Three, away games in CONCACAF are not tough.
Oooh, that's a bit wordy. Perhaps someone can offer a shorter condensed version.