U.S. Soccer, the aftermathThere are many things to be said about the debacle that was today's game. The Czechs just ate the Americans for lunch, there's no other way to say it. We will start with the bad, then the good, and then the lingering questions that Bruce Lee Arena must answer.
Wow, where to begin...The Yanks came out totally flat. Nearly every publication had deemed them "confident" and other such synonyms, but they seemed to think the world's #2 would bow to them. Talk about a wake-up call. There were some things that are particularly disturbing:
1) Lack of technical play -- There were an inordinate number of miffed traps, poor first touches, and mistimed passes. It was something that is typical either of a) an unskilled team or b) a team with the jitters, neither of which are characterstic of this squad.
2) Total absence of passion -- It seemed that at times, no one was running hard. Claudio Reyna could have been the only player who ran hard the entire game, and even he played below his normal level. They looked lazy, and nowhere were they more punished than...
3) Midfield whitewash -- Pablo, Convey, Claudio, DmB, Donovan, all of them bear a brunt of the blame. They played two of the best midfielders in the world in Rosinky and Nedved, but were thoroughly outplayed and embarassed. Simply unacceptable. And B-Mac showed nothing up top.
1) First and foremost, those of us who have seen this team play over and over know this was not the real US team. Whether it was overconfidence or jitters or simply being stunned by the steamrolling they took in the opening 10 minutes, the team seemed to find a little confidence around the Reyna posting. This team is very capable of waking up and taking out some anger on Italia.
2) The tournament is not yet over. There is a huge hill to climb, but not impossible. Our destiny is still in our hands. If we win the next 2, we are in.
3) Brazil is the only team better than the one we played today. We came out flat; at least it was against a team we would have had a hard time against anyway. It would have been devastating had we lost to Ghana in the opener because we were flat.
4) Some players showed up, most notably Johnny O and Gooch (pictured). Johnny O will be starting -- or at least better be -- and Gooch played well enough, including most headers and some ground tackles as well.
5) We did not sleep our way to the #5 ranking in the world. We know we sound like Stuart Smiley, but we ARE good enough, gosh darnit.
1) Most important: Who plays right midfield? DmB could not have been more out of place. But if you move him over, you take out someone (Convey) who has played much better than DmB in 2006. DmB possesses more ability than Convey, but if he is going to mail it in, you may as well have Bobby on the left. So who plays right mid? Move up Cherundolo and play Boca in the back? Put Landon out there and have others (Johnny O?) in the middle?
2) Who plays striker? We all know that Bruce loves B-mac. But if the ball is not served to him, he has trouble creating. Eddie Johnson showed some flare in the last 20 minutes but is also maddeningly inconsistent. We do not envy Bruce right now, but this is why he is the coach. We would have Eddie and B-mac up top, with Convey (or DmB, not even we can take a stand), Claudio, Johnny O, and Landon in the midfield.
3) How do the Americans bounce back? Do they come out and blow the doors off the place on Saturday? Or does Italy put in a quick one, fall back into their famous defensive cocoon, and crush our dreams? Only time will tell...
All we know for sure is that we waited 4 years for this, sat through all weather to see our team, and now are supremely disappointed. It shows how truly difficult this tournament is. But it is NOT over. We have at least 2 games left, and cannot wait to lie to our workplaces to be able to watch the Ghana game live.