Thursday, June 22, 2006

Well, Spain is the Red Sox of the World Cup...

Ok. I've been dreading writing this post all day, but I've talked all this through with anyone who would listen, and now I want a record of my organized thoughts some twelve and so hours after the debacle that was USA vs. Ghana. So, Sox fans (who may not be soccer fans), please suffer this sad fool for a few minutes.

First things first: Congratulations to Ghana, a country with the population of Indiana and Illinois combined. Interesting little anecdote from the pre-game: The president of Ghana asked all non-essential businesses to close at noon. So that there would be enough electricity to power all the televisions throughout the country so that people could watch. Because apparently the power system in Ghana is so tenuous that having the lights on in stores and such would black out all the TVs. And we in America think we know something about devotion to sport.

Now to the analysis:

1. Landon Donovan. He missed a wide open shot on goal in the first 20 minutes. He was non-existent in pushing the ball forward throughout the game. He sent in one of the worst corner kicks you'll ever see. Around the 80th minute, he took the ball swooping in on the right wing outside the 18 with green grass for days ahead of him, and didn't push into the box or take what was a direct, unchallenged shot. He dribbled into midfield and tried to slide a pass into the box that was intercepted. And throughout the game, he was tentative in attacking 50/50 balls; looked like he was afraid of the hard tackle.

2. Claudio Reyna. I love Claudio, he's the backbone of our team, with over 100 caps, but the mistake he made to give up the first goal was utterly inexcusable. Third-grade soccer at best. Instead of shoe-topping the ball back to Keller, he tried to make the turn and clear the ball, totally underestimating the speed of Ghana's forwards. Which was a problem throughout; Ghana was faster and tougher on every tackle and approach to the ball.

3. Bruce Arena. So many things to leave me scratching my head. Why no Bobby Convey in the starting 11? Why open with a 4-5-1? We needed goals, why not open with two forwards? Why, when Reyna left in the 37th minute, did he not replace him with Eddie Johnson instead of Ben Olsen (who was lightning in a bottle at times on the wing, but not a scoring threat)? Why not sub in EJ to start the second half? Why wait so long to start subbing in offense, while Ghana was freely subbing in for defense? Why sub out Eddie Lewis, who was the only one offering any sort of quality service into the box? Why stick with an ineffective Donovan/Beasley tandem in center midfield for so long? Beasley played one good attacking ball the whole three games- the feed to a very impressive Clint Dempsey. Bruce has brought stability to the team for the last eight years, but time is up. We need to go out and get a hard-nosed, veteran European coach who has been around the block and won. Our guys need to learn how to play from a champion if they ever want to be champions.

4. Marcus Merk. The German referee is one of the most respected in the world. Did he make a bad call on the penalty on Gooch? Maybe. But he's known for being a real stickler for rules. And anyway, if Carlos Bocanegra doesn't make two disastarous attempts at a clearance, the penalty never has a chance to occur. And the US couldn't get a second goal anyway. Ghana would have played no different at 1-1 than up 2-1. Italy was up on the short-handed Czechs. All Ghana needed was a tie. And Ghana registered 32 fouls to the US's 16, so it's not like Merk was picking on us. And the card on Michael Essien for Ghana was terrible as well, and now he has to miss the match against Brazil. So really, they got screwed pretty bad, too.

5. Bottom line: we don't have one go-to, game changing strike-fast player, like so many other countries do. We generated 4 shots on goal in 3 games; that's 32nd out of 32 teams in the tournament. Until we have a really threatening goal scorer, teams will sit back and give us midfield, but not the box. Plus, in all 3 games, we gave up a goal within the first 25 minutes. We were always playing from behind. You just can't win games at that level when you're constantly running uphill.

6. Final observation: there were nearly 75 people in the Irish Channel this morning by half-time. To watch an opening round soccer game in the United States. On a work day in mid-morning. Progress is being made. Maybe not as fast as some of us would like, but it's being made.

And seriously, nobody has anything to say about the Hester the Mo(Lester) post? Disappointing. I thought someone, besides My Wife, would chime in...oh well, I did tell a friend that that post was gonna lose my readers for a minute...have a nice Friday. Back to our regularly scheduled program real soon.


Blogger Peter N said...

Well-written, Matty. You sure know your soccer (football) better than I. Take care my friend.

9:22 AM  
Blogger The Omnipotent Q said...

I always thought that England was the Red Sox of the World Cup. Always finding a way to lose...
That is, until 2004.

It will be interesting to see if England has a "David Ortiz" on their club, starting Sunday...

Great blog, Matty!

1:30 AM  

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