Saturday, June 26, 2010

Good, but not good enough

I think the title sums up the US this World Cup. I was also considering "Good, but not great" as the title, because that really is where we are as a soccer team.
It's super disappointed to lose a very winnable game. I won't say we were unlucky or that the better team won. It was a deserved draw after 90 minutes and then again an early defensive lapse cost the US their place in the tournament. Shit. This will be one rued for a long time, not because of the way we lost, but because of the way the bracket went down. If we lost to a team that was truly better, I would not have a problem. Once again, as it is summer, and I am lazy, I will refrain from creating coherent, flowing paragraphs and just use bullet points to summarize this game.

1.) Heart - I loved the heart the US showed in this game and in the entire tournament. I am proud to be strong supporter of team USA.

2.) Early lapses - This is one I really don't need to touch on, we all know it killed us in 3 out of four games this tournament.

3.) Starting line-up - One will question Bob Bradley's starting XI. Clark made a mistake and again Edu and Feilhaber looked great again. And, as I have said before, and John Harkes actually pointed out well this afternoon, it isn't that Clark is much worse than Edu, Edu just plays a better position for this team. He is a true defensive midfield, giving depth and providing that bridge between the defense and midfield, which is especially necessary with an unproven center defense. His depth allows Bradley to get forward and even the outside defenders. Feilhaber is great on the ball. I only assume it is his lack of defense that keeps him out of the starting lineup.

4.) Post goal play - The US needed to score in the 15 minutes or so after Landon Donovan's PK. This is when they really had Ghana on their backfoot and were really playing their best football. They had Ghana on the ropes, but could not deliver the knock out punch (sorry about the overuse of sports metaphor). After about the 75 minute mark, though, the USA again looked flat. Most of it was fatigue, but they needed to capitalize on their quality play.

5.) Where we are lacking - It is abundantly clear where Team USA is lacking - a strong center defensive partnership and a strong striker. These were the things many were worried about coming into the World Cup. Oneywu's injury hurt is in the end and I really hope he can come back and again be our best defender. I've been a big fan of Demerit's this tournament, but he really fits into that good, but not great category. He works hard and wins a lot of balls, but you can't have any lapses at this level. He could be part of a central defender partnership, but not the main guy.
And, man, was it evident that we need better strikers. All our goals came from the midfield. The loss of Charlie Davies was huge, but I don't think even he would have been enough. We don't need a world class striker, just a reliable one. Brian McBride is a perfect example of this. You know what he is going to bring and you know he is going to trouble defenders. Just look at what Gyan did. He is not an amzing player, but he pretty much created his own goal against two defenders and always puts pressure on, even like that goal out of really nothing. That is what we are missing. Altidore is just not good enough.

6.) Hope for the future - There is much hope for the future, though. Team USA is steadily improving. We can't have another 98 or 06 though. Donovan and Dempsey still have another World Cup in them. I don't think they'll be quite as effective in four years, but they'll have the experience.
Best reason for optimism - Michael Bradley is only 22!
More reason's for optimism - Edu 24, Torres, 22, Spector 24, Feilhaber 25, Stuart Holden 24, Brad Guzan 25, Freddie Adu, still only 21, haha. This team is good, and going to get better. MLS is getting stronger and hopefully that will continue to raise the play of the US. We know that we can beat anyone on any given day, but we need to no longer be a team that can also lose to anyone on any given day.

7.) Missed opportunity - This was definitely a thrilling World Cup for team USA, great come from behinds in 4 games. Exhilarating stuff against Slovenia and Algeria. This was fun and amazing. Lots of new interested people. But in the end, this has to go down as a missed opportunity for the US. Easy group, winnable knock-out games. This was a chance to make it to the semis at least. Man.
And the bad thing about soccer is there won't be another truly important USA soccer game, one that everyone pays attention to, for about 3 years and 50 weeks. Damn. It's not like other sports where you can say "We'll get them next season. We'll be better next year." Nope once every four years. Things could be compteley different by 2014. That is part of the beauty of the World Cup, but ultimately for us, part of the frustration. We'll be hard pressed to have another opportunity like this.
So in the end, some amazing, unforgettable moments, but utterly disappointing.

USA 2014!

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