If you're bummed about the U.S. national soccer team's 2-1 loss to Mexico this afternoon at the Azteca, maybe this will cheer you up.
The Philadelphia Union front office sent along a batch of new photos this afternoon of the soccer stadium under construction in Chester. If you look close enough you can see that the stands are starting to go up.
As for my verdict on today's game, I thought it was impressive enough that the U.S. scored first. Charlie Davies scored a great goal in the ninth minute, set up by an even better pass from Landon Donovan. The strike merited a "golazo" from Telemundo play-by-play announcer Andres Cantor, whose call of the game was quite enjoyable even though I don't speak much Spanish.
Cantor has been a fixture in American soccer broadcasting for quite a while. But since Univision holds the Spanish-language rights to the World Cup, MLS and the U.S. national team's home games, we don't get to hear from him often.
If Davies' goal was pretty - and historic, as it gave the U.S. its first ever lead at Azteca - then Israel Castro's equalizer ten minutes laterwas an absolute missile. Castro smashed the ball into the top of the net from 27 yards, and Tim Howard had no chance of stopping it.
From there, Mexico simply wore the U.S. down. El Tri had most of the possession, as well as the built-in advantages that come with playing at Azteca. Even if the weather was cooler than normal, the 7,000-plus foot altitude and 105,000-strong capacity crowd make life difficult for any visiting team.
By the time Miguel Sabah won the game in the 82nd minute, the momentum was all going Mexico's way. But the U.S. persisted, winning a corner kick in the 88th minute and forcing a goalmouth scramble in the 92nd.
The Mexicans may well carp about how they have their swagger back, but they know full well that they got a stern test today. And if fans on this side of the Rio Grande are worried about where the U.S. goes from here, the rest of the qualifying schedule offers reasons for optimism.
The standings at this hour are as follows:
1. Costa Rica, 12 points
2. United States, 10 points
3. Mexico, 9 points
4. Honduras, 7 points
5. El Salvador, 5 points
6. Trinidad & Tobago, 2 points
Here's how it breaks down for the top four teams in the standings, including tonight's games. Match days after tonight are Sept. 5, Sept. 9, Oct. 10 and Oct. 14.
United States: vs. El Salvador, at Trinidad & Tobago, at Honduras, vs. Costa Rica
Costa Rica: at Honduras (tonight), vs. Mexico, at El Salvador, vs. Trinidad & Tobago, at United States
Mexico: at Costa Rica, vs. Honduras, vs. El Salvador, at Trinidad & Tobago
Honduras: vs. Costa Rica (tonight), vs. Trinidad, at Mexico, vs. United States, at El Salvador
To me, the U.S. definitely has the easiest slate left, with Mexico second. Yes, the game at Honduras will be tricky, and there could be real stakes with regards to who finishes at the top of the group. That will matter a lot when it comes to seeding the groups at next year's World Cup.
But I suspect that the Costa Rica game will be a much bigger factor in the standings - especially if the Ticos lose in San Pedro Sula tonight. I also don't think you can rule out El Salvador upsetting Costa Rica in San Salvador next month.
It's worth nothing that the U.S.-El Salvador game will be played at Rio Tinto Stadium in suburban Salt Lake City (where Real Salt Lake plays), and the U.S.-Costa Rica game will be played at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
I suspect that a few of you will be at the Costa Rica game, and I'm planning to be there as well. I'll have more information on that when the time comes.