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They will go down in history as two of the most important soccer matches in Houston sports history.
With Gold Cup soccer attendance going over the 100,000 fan mark for both doubleheaders July 13 and 17 history was made in stunning fashion. Houston soccer fans came out in droves to witness two of the best nights of soccer in the Gold Cup buoyed by large, passionate soccer crowds that brought a World Cup-like atmosphere to Houston.
Speaking to U.S. National team assistant coach Glenn Myernick on my soccer program on ESPN 790AM he felt that the Mexico/Jamaica game this past Wednesday was the best game of the tournament up to that point. He cited the huge crowd of 45,000 fans and the atmosphere that they brought to Reliant Stadium.
If that was not enough Sunday gave us over 60,000 fans and the stunner of the tournament when Colombia masterminded by head coach Reinaldo Rueda tactically outplayed Mexico to knock off the defending champions 2-1 with Abel Aguilar scoring the game winner in bizarre fashion. Driving in to break up a play his shot somehow went in over Moises Munoz in goal for Mexico whose lack of concentration cost the "tricolores".
The pro-Mexican crowd went home disappointed with chants of firing head coach Ricardo LaVolpe heard throughout the stadium. Colombian fans, although outnumbered, provided wonderful support for their young squad and many Colombian flags and jerseys could be seen in the crowd.
For this night the Colombian national team fans thought less about former legends like Carlos Valderrama, Tino Asprilla, and Leonel Alvarez and more about current players like Tressor Moreno, Jairo Patino and Wason Renteria who after consecutive losses in opening group play have now found confidence heading into their semi-final match at Giants Stadium this Thursday against Panama.
The trio provided that combination of explosive speed and pace and skill that proved troublesome all night for Mexico while the squad dealt comfortably with Mexico's attack that lacked Jared Borgetti.
One of the few veterans Farid Mondragon in goal who plays at Galatasaray in Turkey was a stabilizing influence and provided the timely saves.
Meanwhile with the focus on Mexico in Houston , Bruce Arena and the United States mens national team put forth their best performance against Jamaica winning 3-1.
The pride of Fort Wayne, Indiana, DaMarcus Beasley was the spark that the U.S. needed as Arena after giving every player on the roster in group play a start went with his strongest lineup.
Beasley struck for two goals but it was one right before halftime that reminded us of both his and Landon Donovan's value to the U.S. National team program.
After a great build up Donovan came across the top of the box and played Beasley in behind the Jamaican defense where he finished with conviction past Jamaican goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
The ideas, speed, skill, and energy that both Donovan and Beasley bring to the U.S. National team clearly takes them to another level especially evident against the upper echelon national teams in the world.
Jamaica have always had a problem with concentration over the course of 90 minute games something that Beasley and the U.S. were aware of.
"It turned out exactly like we wanted," said Beasley, who plays for PSV Eindhoven in Holland.
"We knew that they get disorganized in the back and we wanted to utilize Steve Ralston and myself on the flanks. We had a lot of space and when we attacked down the flanks the middle opened up. Our game plan worked perfectly."
Beasley and the U.S. will take on upstart Honduras this Thursday, a game that can be seen at 5 p.m. central time on Telefutura.
After the two amazing days at Reliant Stadium I am only wishing these games were at Reliant.
What a memorable two days…
Davis is a nationally recognized broadcaster for HDNET where he partners up with
former U.S. National Team defender Marcelo Balboa. He was one of the lead voices
for ESPN during the 2002 World Cup and has called major international soccer matches
for the Fox Network as well. He is a weekly columnist for the Houston Chronicle
and hosts the "Soccer Hour with Glenn Davis" radio show on ESPN 790 AM every Sunday
from 5-6 pm. Davis played soccer professionally for the Houston Dynamos where
he was a league all star selection and team captain.