Call it what you want: a curse, a hex, some kind of hoodoo, whatever. Last night's victory for the United States over Mexico was an amazing, monumental achievement, and it lifted the malaise that has hovered over the USMNT when traveling south of the border for 75 years. This mystical spell has been broken, and nothing will ever be the same for either team.
That's not to say that the USA is going to start racking up victories in Mexico City; far from it. But no American team will make that trip again without knowing that it's possible. That a group of guys - a group of players who were widely panned as a B team, mind - did the unthinkable and conquered El Tri at home.
The match has been recapped and done to death already, so instead, let's take a look at some of the things we learned about the US National team and the players who made an impact.
1.) Jurgen Klinsmann is not a god, but he might be some kind of demi-deity
The courtship of Klinsmann was a long, drawn-out, well documented dance between the mad German and the US Soccer Federation, and all along it was promised that he would revolutionize the American soccer program from the ground up. Since his arrival, well, results have been a little mixed, and some people have wondered about his over-arching scheme and even - gasp - questioned his tactical nous.
All of those people can now eat crow. Nothing Klinsmann can do in the rest of his tenure, bar failing to qualify for the World Cup, will change the fact that Klinsi beat Mexico. And more importantly, all of the gambles he took, all of the choices we doubted, were 100% correct on his part. The roster composition, the questionable call-ups of guys like Orozco Fiscal, Castillo, and Shea, all of that was wiped away by that performance. Haters, doubt Klinsmann at your peril.
2.) Geoff Cameron is the truth
I think everyone already knew that Cameron was a good player. Stoke certainly did. The question was less about his ability to make the roster than it was about his ability to lock it down as a starter against Mexico. In any case, that question has been answered, and I think every USMNT fan needs to stand up and pay attention to Geoff Cameron.
At this point, the only thing that can hurt Cameron is if he is played at different positions. He looked to have established himself as a defender in Houston, but in Stoke's preseason he has seen time as a defensive midfielder, where he also played in MLS. Regardless, he showed on Wednesday night that he can hang with the best, and he has the physical ability, the positioning sense, and the soccer brain to be a consistent starter with the US National team. Brazil 2014 may be his finest hour, and that can only help the USA.
3.) Tim Howard is one of the best goalkeepers in the world
Those saves in the last ten minutes of the game were legendary. Professional gymnasts struggle to have the body control necessary to stop that kind of momentum and reverse direction like Timmy did on the deflection save, and those reflexes he showed on the header were more than cat-like. At this point, I think if I were picking a dream team, Howard would come before guys like Buffon and Cech. Honestly, I'm not sure who I would put above him.
And seriously, that last ten or so minutes with the one-goal lead? That kind of pressure, and then to put on that kind of performance? Ice water in his veins, man.
4.) For Shea, Orozco Fiscal, and Castillo, this was a lifeline back into the team
Brek Shea has had a miserable year. Michael Orozco Fiscal looked to be totally out of the national team picture, and I'm not sure people even remembered who Edgar Castillo was. All three were called in tonight, and Castillo even got the start. People had no idea why this was happening.
And then Castillo put in the kind of defensive performance no one has ever seen from him before. Yes, he still lost his mind a couple of times and pushed forward when he needed to stay at home, but he never really cost the team anything by doing it, and when he needed to play good defense, he did it. Edgar saw the slimmest glimmer of hope for his USMNT future, and he grabbed the chance with both hands.
Shea just showed everyone that he's still that guy who was a 2011 MLS MVP candidate. He put the whole nation - indeed, the whole world - on notice that he's still the future in the USMNT attack. His dribbling, the run he made, and then having the presence of mind to recover from a slightly poor touch and send in that lateral ball, all of that was the hallmark of a confident, mature, and dangerous player. How can you be anything but sure that he'll turn his 2012 around with Dallas, now, too?
Orozco Fiscal is a slightly more interesting proposition. He's getting all of his plaudits right now for doing something that he isn't expected to do, and likely won't affect his viability as a national team candidate: scoring the winning goal. It's impossible not to recognize him for that. But did he really show anything of himself as USMNT-caliber defender? Not really. The important thing, though, is that he demonstrated a hunger for the shirt that gets a player noticed, and could lead to more call-ups in the future.
What did you think of the big win? Do you agree with what we learned? Talk about it in the comments!