Brent Latham: USSF President Sunil Gulati predicted Mexico regression

The U.S. Soccer Federation head claimed that regional dominance shifts over time - before El Tri's draw with Jamaica
SAN PEDRO SULA, HONDURAS -- If the scoreless tie with Jamaica at El Azteca on Wednesday night is the beginning of another of Mexico’s famous crises, then U.S. Soccer Federation President may have seen it coming.

On the eve of the U.S. team’s own setback in San Pedro Sula, Gulati sat down with media in Honduras, answering questions on a range of topics. As is the norm in an era when Mexico has won everything from the U-17 title to the Olympics, dominating CONCACAF at all age groups in the process over the past few years, the head man in U.S. soccer entertained a few questions on El Tri’s superiority.

Except that Gulati doesn’t see Mexico as vastly superior to the U.S. or the rest of CONCACAF.

“I don’t think that,” Gulati said. “I think they’ve had a good run. They obviously beat us in the [2011] Gold Cup final.”

Mexico not only won the 2011 Gold Cup, but also the U-17 World Cup that year. El Tri then finished third in the U-20 World Cup, a tournament the U.S. failed to qualify for. To cap it off, Mexico won the Olympic gold after the U.S. was knocked out in the group phase of qualifying.

But rather than viewing Mexican soccer as a rocket ship disappearing on the distant horizon, Gulati says that the issue of superiority in CONCACAF is a more nuanced game of ebbs and flows - one in which El Tri may be due for a setback.

“There have been periods four or five years ago when the reverse has happened - they failed to qualify for the Olympics and the Under-20 World Cup,” said Gulati.

After missing out on the Olympic Games in 2008, Mexico failed to qualify for both the U-20 World Cup and the U-17 World Cup in 2009.

“These things go a little bit in cycles,” said Gulati. “They’ve clearly had a good run right now.”

The USSF President said that much American accomplishment over the past year has been overshadowed in the wake of the failure to make the Olympics, and in comparison to Mexico’s excellent run. But he stands by the accomplishments of the national team in 2012 – the best year on record for American soccer, capped by a historic friendly win over Mexico in a match played last August at El Azteca.

“I was in the stands in August when we won at El Azteca,” said Gulati. “They’ve clearly had a good year, we’ve had some bumps, but the bumps last year were our best year ever. So I don’t read a lot into that.”

If Mexico’s success has been a thorn in Gulati’s side, the same can be said for Mexico in terms of that U.S. win last August at El Azteca. The teams will soon enough have another chance to match up and set things straight – they meet on March 26th in Mexico City, in the third match of the year-long Hexagonal.