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Saturday, June 26, 2010

USMNT's World Cup Run

I don't know if I have completely comes to terms with the fact that the US Men's National Team lost to Ghana AGAIN, for the second straight World Cup but there are a few thoughts that I think need to be thought by more people than just myself. Ghana were bigger, faster, stronger and more driven than the US was during their Round of 16 match but they were not better. The US is a better team. But that did not translate into a win. What resulted from a superior US team playing a sub-par Ghana side was the US giving up an early goal for the fourth time in as many matches. The USMNT allowed Ghana to score their first two goals in the run of play in the entire World Cup to that point. (Ghana's other two goals coming from penalty kicks). The USMNT scored only when given a penalty kick. And Ghana looked like a better team. They are not, but they looked it. All of that is neither here nor there in the scheme of things. Every team has those days no matter who they are. Brazil nearly had a day like that in the Final of the Confederation's Cup. Spain had one of those days earlier in that same tournament. Both at the hands of the US. However, the thing that bothers me the most about this defeat is that the USMNT is no longer a team that should be expected to drop out of the World Cup. An often quoted goal of the team was to get out of their group. But that is far too small a goal for this team. Obviously, depending on the team they had to play, the goal might be slightly different. For instance, if we had finished second in our group instead of winning it, we would have had to play Germany. The US is not a better team than Germany. Yet, on a good US day and a bad Germany day, they could have pulled out a victory. So there is no reason to expect this team to reach less than the Semi-finals of the World Cup. And here is where we, the fans, and our media are letting down our team. I will admit not reading every story or comment out there about the result of the Ghana match but of those I have read and heard the common theme is that they played hard, played well and we are proud of our boys. Now, if I lived near the airport where the team will return to the States, I would be in the front row welcoming them home. But that doesn't change the fact that this result is a huge disappointment, it is embarrassing and frankly, it is unacceptable. As fans, we must begin to let the USMNT know that these sorts of performances are no longer going to be met with "good job" and "you played well". It wasn't a good job. They lost to Ghana. They were not even close to winning that match. They let Slovenia take a two goal lead, they let England score in under 5 minutes, they took 91 minutes to score on Algeria and they only lead for 2 minutes of the 4 matches we played. That is pitiful. It wouldn't be any big deal if this was the team of 1990. But the USMNT is not the team of 1990. They are the team of the 21st Century. And THAT team is one of the best in the world and should be expected to play like it. We should expect them to play like it. Yes, there are many things about this team of which we can be proud. They never give up. They don't dive. (except maybe Altidore). They don't whine. They are tough. They can create chances, chances and more chances. They can attack. Still, in the end, they need to win the matches that they should win and they need to play hard in the matches where they are the underdog. And they should have won the Ghana match. And they should have played Uruguay and they should have beat them and they should have made it to the Semis. And as fans, we need to be there for them to push them to realize their potential. Not like the English or the French or unnamed Central American countries that shoot at their players but like Americans. This is our American team, this is our American soccer and as Americans, we need to demand the best from our team. Let's push them, support them, pick them up when they are down but let's not make excuses for them. The World Cup 2010 was a failure for the USMNT. Let's voice our disappointment and then let's show up at their next match and cheer them on to the heights we know and expect they can achieve. USMNT, if I didn't love you, I wouldn't care. And in so many ways, despite the disappointment, I, too, am very proud of you.

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Anonymous said...

IS VERY GOOD..............................

Troy said...

Bokk-man, well-written. On our way back home, Scupa and I discussed how many players away we are from winning the Cup. We decided on 2: Messi, and maybe another Messi to play behind Messi I.

After watching this match, however, I fear we are not very close at all. Howard, Cherundolo, Donovan, and (for the most part) Dempsey all can say they had a good tournament. Can you name anyone else who consistently performed?

I think it would have been different if Charlie Davies and Gooch had not been hurt this past club season. Gooch was running with a lot of pain before he was benched. DeMerit looked shaky at the start of every match (remember the 2 good Algerian chances inside of 10 minutes???), and I like Bocanegra out left much better than in the center.

Like you, I believe we under-performed, but wonder if we truly had the horses to go further. We have always had heart, but now we need better skill. Donovan and Dempsey have really stepped up since 2006, hopefully guys like Holden, Bornstein, and Torres will get regular time in Europe or South America, and take us farther in Brazil, 2014!

Nicholas said...

Here are my thoughts, tell me if I am waaay off base.

I agree that we're are not simply two players away from winning the Cup and I would have never considered that we could have won this Cup. In fact, if we had taken second in the group, which wouldn't even have been that much of a disappointment considering we were with England (assuming England were actually a good team which we now know they are not), we would have met Germany which as I said in the post, would have taken a certain alignment of the stars for us to defeat. So then we go out in the Round of 16 and maybe not feel too bad. But that isn't what happened at all. We played hard against England and we won the group and then were matched up against three potential teams that we should legitimately consider ourselves better than. And we lose so now the Cup for us is a failure. So I'm not saying that under any circumstance we should have expected the Semis but under these circumstances we should. Does that make sense?

I think Howard played well and I always think Cherundolo plays well but then I am biased. Donovan, I am going to be honest, in the Algeria match I said mere seconds before he scored that he seemed invisible in that match and then that all changed, ha ha. But then again in the Ghana match he wasn't a factor. So I have mixed feelings on him. I will get to, in a moment, one of the reasons he may not have had as great an impact as he could have.

Dempsey was, well, Dempsey. Hard working, sloppy at times but scrappy. Rarely a provider of beautiful goals but a provider of goals nonetheless. So I think he did well.

I like Bocanegra and was comfortable with him inside or out equally. Yes, he did totally give up on the second Ghana goal while playing inside but he was the one who left Gerrard unmarked to give up our first goal after only four minutes of playing in the World Cup. So I can't say I was satisfied with his performance or with DeMerit's. Demerit seems like a big, tough central defender so IDK why he has so many let downs.

Of course you know how I feel about Gooch. I was not upset in the least about him sitting the bench. With Bocanegra in that position, at least we didn't have to worry about him pulling someone down in the box, giving up a penalty, getting a red card and forcing us to finish a match with ten men. I have not disliked one of our own players as much as Gooch since Mckeon played for the Wizards.

I also agree that Davies would have changed things for us and pushed the other guys to step up their performance. But we will never know.

You are right that we need better skill. We need to learn how to strike a ball and finish. I would like to see the stat of the number of chances created each match cuz it seemed we were always getting chances but rarely finishing. That must change. How many chances did Ghana have and how many did they finish? If we had that percentage we might have outpaced Germany for goals scored.

Nicholas said...

This is what I see as far as our strategy is concerned. And I don't know if this stems from the coach or the players themselves due to where most of them play at the club level. But this team seems like a Germany trying to play like an England or Spain. We seem to want to build up our attack slowly and methodically with lots of possession and passing and then squeeze through the defense or send in the cross or the long ball. But if you consider how we most often score, it is a fast attack, running at the defense and scoring quickly, many times off the counter. So when we try to build up our offensive attack slowly, we miss out on Donovan's true skills which may have been part of the reason he seemed invisible much of the time. Someone asked me what the US needed to work on the most in order to improve to the next level and my answer was that they needed to begin to play to their strengths. If their success comes at attacking quickly and powerfully then we need to play that way instead of trying to be who we are not. And I am wondering if that happens because of the many players who play in England.

Of course I am not saying we are exactly Germany or that the Germans never head to the corner to cross. But the styles are very different and you can see pretty consistently now at every level which is more successful. A German style of attacking football is more successful with a group of sub-par players than an English style of kickball with world class players.

The thing that Germany does better than us is first, passing but secondly and more important, they are not afraid to strike from distance and they score goals from distance. This spreads the defense and allows more room to pass. We have no threat from distance at all and so defenses can just pack it in. Then we are not able to have the space to attack with speed and score quickly. Which is why we struggled so badly after giving up the first goal in each match.

My fear is that if we continue to send our best players to England and if we do not get a proper European coach, preferably not English or Italian, we will be stuck in this brand of unidentifiable soccer. I am not saying that we should try to copy Germany but I am saying that we should be developing a uniquely American style of soccer that accents our strengths and minimizes our weaknesses. If we do that, we may have a chance to win the Cup whether we have two Messis or not. (and really, where would we ever get a Messi?) What say you?


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