For the average American soccer fan, their engagement with the game peaks once every four years when the United States Men’s National Team gears up to participate in the World Cup and try to fight against the odds of international competition on the grand stage. And, when thinking about the United States team, the primary rival that comes to mind for many is bordering neighbor Mexico. Over the years, many “friendlies” have turned quite ugly between the two proud squads, and the one certainty any time these two sides face off in a match is that the game will be hotly contested.
With the Mexican squad holding the ratings advantage in FIFA 12—and some amount of national pride guiding my team selection—I decided to take control of the American side on the virtual pitch to see if I could lead the Red, White, and Blue to victory.
And to victory the Americans were led; in a game, however, that lacked a certain amount of intrigue. The 1-0 final score line was as uneventful as it sounds, and neither team managed a Shot on Target through the first 45 minutes of the match. It was a first half without any events to be recorded, indeed, as neither team had any substitutions, bookings, or injuries either.
After the halftime whistle, the United States side managed to get a few more shots on goal; Mexico, despite a few crosses trying to set up opportunities on net, went through the full 90 minutes without a single recorded shot attempt. In the 79th minute, Mexico made a substitution trying to create more opportunities, but it was unsuccessful. As the game drew to a close and Stoppage Time began, Clint Dempsey found striker Jozy Altidore with space just outside of the box on the Mexican side of the field.
Though I nearly held onto the ball too long—risking the chance of turning the ball over instead of putting a shot on target—Altidore drove the ball past the keeper’s hands and it rolled into the back of the net for the one and only goal of the game. After the celebration drew to a close, it was only a matter of seconds before the final whistle was blown and the game was brought to an end.
Looking at the Match Facts, the numbers make the game seem far more one-sided than it actually was. Though Mexico recorded no official shots on goal, they did attempt multiple crossing passes from the wing into the American box; these indirect attempts don’t count as scoring opportunities, but they required strong play by American keeper Tim Howard as well as stout defensive play to clear the ball when these opportunities were punched away. Possession was very close—the US maintaining only a slight 52% to 48% advantage—and neither team was able to secure advantageous opportunities like corner kicks. Passing Accuracy was also nearly even between the two sides, with Mexico holding a slim 78% to 77% margin.
With so little to speak of in terms of action during the match, the Player Stats are pretty straightforward. Altidore managed the one goal of the game on his only shot on target, while Dempsey got the assist for setting up the scoring opportunity. Man of the Match Tim Howard was given credit for three saves, though—as discussed previously—these came from handling crossing pass attempts and not pure shooting opportunities. Mexican keeper Guillermo Ochoa managed 2 saves on the United States’ three shots on target, but it wasn’t enough to keep his side alive and force Extra Time thanks to the late tally.
Although I saw some regression in terms of Passing Accuracy compared to last week’s match between Aston Villa and Liverpool, the continuation of my winning streak in FIFA 12 is cause for more personal celebration. Even though I had to wait until the very end of the game to finally convert an opportunity and take the 1-0 lead, there was a great sense of celebration when the ball crossed into the net and I knew that victory was assured. The game may not have featured the style points I’ve been looking for from my FIFA 12 action, but it was a sign of continued improvement as I try to become a more well-rounded player in the games featured for STAT BOX STORIES.
If you haven’t already volunteered to take on a Bowl Game for STAT BOX STORIES BOWL BLITZ INVITATIONAL, be sure to visit the forum here and see which games are still available. Tomorrow will be my second entry in the Bowl Game features, as Arizona State takes on Boise State in the 2011 MAACO Las Vegas Bowl; spoiler alert: it was an Instant Classic!