wherein DF travels to Deutschland for the 2006 world cup to follow the US men's national soccer team

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

USA-CZE II: the game

You’ve seen the result so I won’t say anything about that. I’ll just pose one metaphysical question: it’s a given that tragedy plus time equals comedy, but how much time will it take for yesterday’s tragedy to seem anything other than the embarrassing unmitigated disaster it was? I have a very hard time imagining myself laughing at that memory.

I’ll make only one substantive note about the game: it’s not true, as many have said, that the US is constitutionally incapable of playing big, burly central European teams well. On the contrary, one of the best games we played was the 1-0 loss to Germany in the quarters of the last WC. I think the more salient point is that when we go down an early goal, especially to world class competition, we tend to fall apart.

Last WC, our big wins were punctuated by early goals, and the tie against South Korea also featured us scoring first (and in the first half). But when we gave up a goal early against Poland, we fell to pieces, losing almost as badly as we did yesterday. I don’t know how much of this is psychological and how much is strategic, but I suspect that as usual there’s some of each at play. This team tends to be insecure, so an early goal by a strong team shakes our confidence and makes us play scared and tentative. But also, when a particularly strong team goes up early on us and then bunkers in defensively, we don’t seem to have the patience and technical skill necessary to hold the ball, pass it crisply in small spaces, and break down their D.

So this sets up the following scenario: we need a miracle against Italy or we’re as good as done. Vamos a ver.

{Pic: Czech fans celebrate Jan Koller's early goal as dejected US players trudge back to the center circle.}


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having watched yesterday’s games, I have two comments. First, that unlike the rest of the teams in our group (and many other teams competing in the Cup), the US has opted for a strategy involving no offensive striking capability. Which brings me to my second point: I feel like I’ve seen this exact same US team playing for most of the past fifteen years or so. When oh when is the supposed renaissance of US soccer going to start producing some young new players who can do stuff like score goals?

1:10 PM, June 13, 2006

Anonymous Evilyaron said...

Eh, that last comment was by me

1:11 PM, June 13, 2006

Blogger DF said...

Hey Yaron. It's true that yesterday's game was a disaster, but let's not read too much into it. This team has more talent than the one that got to the quarterfinals in 2002 (and scored seven goals, including some really nice ones, in the process). We've still got two more games left, so it's not quite the time for despair.

But it is true that US soccer's development has yet to produce a world-class striker. At the moment our best guy is McBride, and he (like the rest of the team) was off his game yesterday. On the other hand, he's scored three WC goals, so he's no joke up front.

The reason that we have more goalies, defenders, and midfielders than forwards may be that teams (and soccer nations) tend to develop back to front; that is, get better starting with defense and working up to offense. That may suggest why we've yet to get a really great international forward (though I thought Eddie Johnson played pretty well as a sub against the Czechs, and was unlucky not to score a goal).

6:30 PM, June 13, 2006


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