By NICOLAS IPARRAGUIRRE
For fans of the U.S. men’s national soccer team, the past year has been more disappointing then any in recent memory. Failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup was a devastating end to a tumultuous qualifying campaign that saw the team lose the first two games of the Hexagonal stage of the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (Concacaf) qualifying process and never bounce back.
Now 11 months removed from failing to qualify, fans finally had a reason to celebrate when the United States defeated rival Mexico 1-0 in an international friendly on the 17-year anniversary of 9/11. The team bounced back from a forgettable first half and was able to frustrate the Mexican side with extremely physical play.
The highlight of the game came in the 63rd minute when 6’4 center back Matt Miazga stared down the 5-foot-5 Mexican midfielder Diego Lainez and ended with Miazga mocking the Mexican player for his diminutive stature.
Following the encounter Mexican forward was shown a red-card hard foul and the U.S. capitalized three minutes later with a goal.
With both teams fielding extremely young squads for the friendly, it would seem that post-game commentary would reflect how the squads reacted to the incident. The youthful Mexican squad reacted poorly to the incident and allowed themselves to become frustrated by the antics of the U.S. When asked about the incident, Mexican forward Angel Zaldivar said, “They poked fun [and] tried to play a dirty game that honestly we don’t think is how you should play. That’s their game and we couldn’t do anything about it.”
Some in the news media also felt Miazga’s actions may have represented some greater issue with the overall mentality in U.S. soccer culture. As ESPN’s Sebastian Salazar tweeted following the incident, “Not surprised it was a #USMNT player who made a short joke on a soccer field. Obsession with & size in ‘coaching’ circle in this country is absurd.”
While Salazar’s claim should be considered inherently absurd, especially considering that two of the U.S.’s greatest talents ever, Christian Pulisic and Landon Donovan, both stand at 5-foot-8, it does illustrate a dangerous tendency in sports commentary. To make one instance of juvenile smack talk between two competitors a part of a greater discussion about U.S. soccer development is not productive and fails to enjoy what should have been a fun moment in a fun rivalry.