Mexico trounced Paraguay in Oakland, now can U.S. do the same in Nashville?
That was when El Tri ran rings around the South Americans in the first half en route to a 3-1 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 48,110 at the Oakland Coliseum.
On Tuesday (5 p.m. Pacific, Fox Soccer Channel and TeleFutura), the U.S. will play Paraguay at LP Field in Nashville, hoping to improve upon its performance after a 1-1 tie with Argentina in New Jersey on Saturday evening.
The U.S. gained some credit for the way it battled back against the Argentines, but the fact remains that had Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and company taken advantage of the numerous chances they created in a dominant and exhilarating first-half display, Argentina could have won the game by three or four goals.
So descriptions of the U.S. performance as "thrilling" (U.S. Soccer) and "inspired" (Major League Soccer) need to be taken with a sizable grain of salt. "Adequate" would have been a better adjective, especially if preceded by "barely."
"What's worrisome is that the Paraguay we had in the first half wasn't the team I want," Gerardo Martino, Paraguay's Argentine coach, told the San Jose Mercury News.
Apart from the crowd-pleasing antics of Manchester United's Hernandez, Mexico enjoyed another milestone moment as veteran defender Rafael Marquez of the New York Red Bulls played in his 100th game for the national team.
Mexico Coach Jose Manuel "Chepo" de la Torre's team plays Venezuela on Tuesday night at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, with De la Torre hoping El Tri can improve on its showing in Oakland.
"We're just getting started," he said. "We can't really say the level was something other than it was. We're taking small steps."
Mexico's short-term goal in 2011 is the same as that of the U.S.: to reach and win the June 25 final of the Gold Cup at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena and thus earn a spot in the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil in 2013.
Right now, Mexico is a step ahead.
-- Grahame L. Jones
Photo: Jorge Torres Nilo (R) from Mexico competes for the ball with Hernan Perez from Paraguay during their international friendly at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California on March 26, 2011. Mexico went on to win 3-1. Credit: Mark Ralston / AFP / Getty Images