It’s been another wild month of soccer around the globe, November bringing plenty of entertainment and drama to the table. For fans of clubs and national teams in the CONCACAF region, the month of November has seen a massive upswing in excitement and palpable tension. Since the beginning of the month, supporters in the United States and Mexico have been riding a crescendo to the penultimate matches of their domestic seasons, the playoffs taking center stage in both Major League Soccer and Liga MX. From sacked managers and frantic federations to glorious moments and stunning goals, here are five of the best November footballing stories from west of the Atlantic and north of the Panama Canal. Part one of November’s best focuses mostly on the Liga MX liguilla and the trials and tribulations of the United States Men’s National Team.
The end of “dos a cero”
It was Miguel Layun’s deflected first half strike that lifted the Columbus monkey off the back of El Tri. It was Rafa Marquez’s flashing header in the dying moments that truly ended a curse.
Mexico defeated the United States 2-1 on November 11th, winning and scoring in Columbus for the first time in five matches over a near fifteen year period. Juan Carlos Osorio, the much maligned Mexico manager, needed this result more than anybody. He still remains on the seemingly permanent hot-seat.
It was a memorable night for Mexican fans, and something right in between a swan song and a jolt of rejuvenation for the iconic Marquez. Will the goal be the final moment of brilliance from arguably the most decorated player in Mexican history? Or are there still chapters to be written in the book of Rafa?
The United States Men’s National Team traveled to Costa Rica just days after their loss to Mexico. The Yanks had never won in Costa Rica, and this time would prove no different.
A 4-0 drubbing at the hands of the Ticos spawned drastic change in the hierarchy of U.S. Soccer (we’ll get to that in a bit). The result was historically significant as well. In the last four World Cup Qualifiers played between the two teams on Costa Rican soil, the home side has scored at least three goals in winning each game. The matches in the late 90’s were heated and tightly contested. The U.S. on multiple occasions of yesteryear came agonizingly close to leaving Costa Rica with at least a point. Sadly, everything from some outrageous refereeing decisions to some downright diabolical defending from Alexi Lalas prevented that from ever happening.
In 2005, Costa Rica won 3-0. In 2009, 3-1. In 2013, another 3-1 final. And this time around here in 2016, they pulled off their biggest route of the Americans in this millennium, handing them a 4-0 loss, the same scoreline by which the U.S. beat Costa Rica in the Copa America group stage this past summer.
Bye Bye Jurgen. Hello again Bruce.
The back to back qualifying losses for the U.S. saw them placed at the bottom of the hexagonal standings after two matches, leading to the sacking of Jurgen Klinsmann. While the decision to dump Klinsmann seemed long overdue, many questioned if Sunil Gulati would ever actually pull the trigger. He finally did, and proceeded to bring back Bruce Arena, whom Gulati and his staff fired over ten years ago.
Clueless? Genius? A band-aid solution? Only time will tell.
Club Tijuana and Leon play one for the ages in Liga MX playoffs
Two teams who already have loads of history between them took to the turf of Estadio Caliente on November 26th and proceeded to play one of the most enthralling matches of this or any season in recent memory. The Xolos of Club Tijuana needed to overcome a 3-0 deficit from the first leg in order to advance to the semi-finals. They did overcome that deficit, all while losing their head coach Miguel Herrera to an 8th minute ejection and midfielder Juninho to a deserved red card for a studs over challenge to the thigh of Leon’s Luis Mejia. The home side carried on resiliently, continuing to press, even with ten men. After Dayro Moreno opened the scoring from the penalty spot, Yasser Corona and Guido Rodriguez both scored shortly before halftime to send Estadio Caliente into absolute delirium. Club Tijuana looked poised to miraculously hold on to the result which would have seen them go through via the tiebreaker of being the higher seed. Sadly for Xolos and their fans, Mauro Boselli smacked home a header ten minutes from time to make the score 3-1 on the night, before Luis Montes made it a 5-3 aggregate advantage just moments later. Words can hardly describe the emotion that was on display inside the ground on this night.
Club America get the last Clasico Nacional laugh of 2016
After squaring off in the semi-final round of the Copa MX in late October, the month of November and the Apertura playoffs saw two more editions of the Clasico Nacional in Mexico. In addition to routing America 3-0 during the regular season, Chivas also dispatched of their arch-rivals on penalties in that cup tie. After a 1-1 draw in the first leg at Estadio Azteca (which was covered in football lines thanks to the Oakland Raiders – Houston Texans Monday Nigh Football game that took place 72 hours prior), America went back to Estadio Chivas in Guadalajara and scraped out a 1-0 win thanks to a headed effort from Oribe Peralta. Las Aguilas are hoping to celebrate their centennial year in style with a league title. They also have the FIFA Club World Cup in just a couple of weeks, something that could significantly alter the Liga MX playoff schedule and give ample headaches to the FMF.
Stay tuned for part two of November’s best, which will include a quick trip to Wales to check in with Bob Bradley, a trip to Canada to check in on his son and Toronto FC, another trophy raise with the New York Cosmos, and a brief contemplation on the morals and ethics of playoff soccer.