I watched the Americans’ second game in the Confederations Cup from work this morning. I’ve had several hours to let the debacle sink in. I’ve decided that I can accept losing. What I cannot accept is not giving effort. For the last four US games they have shown absolutely no effort what so ever. They’ve been blown out by Costa Rica, scraped by an inferior Honduras team, got slaughtered by the Italians and have now been plastered by the Brazilians. In those four games, we’ve been outscored 10-4. Three of our goals have come from the penalty spot. The other came from a corner kick. That means we have not scored a goal during the run of play in over four games. That’s pathetic.
Again, I can take losing. We’ve only beaten Brazil once in history. That was in 1998 when Preki scored this goal to give the Americans a 1-0 victory. We’ve played them competitively many times in the past. In 1994, they beat us 1-0 in the Round of 16 in the World Cup. You may remember that game because of this play. I could recount some other meetings that were close games, well played and hard fought. If we had lost 3-0 today, but it looked like we were running our hardest and that we had left it out on the field, I wouldn’t be as upset. Weren’t these the games that American fans loved not so long ago? We wanted the respect of the soccer world, we wanted to play our best and show that we belong on the highest stage. Now, I hate them. I know the result before the kickoff and I’m afraid the players do too and that’s the problem.
Instead, I watched players walk. I watched players make mental mistakes; silly, stupid mental mistakes. Brazil’s second goal was scored on a brilliant counter attack after an American corner. Landon Donovan played the ball short to DaMarcus Beasley who let the ball roll under his foot which sprung the Brazilians. It was awful.
Jozy Altidore has tons of skill up front, but he has to finish the ball. Don’t pass it across the box, don’t try to beat everyone on the field. Just. Score.
Conor Casey came into the game for Altidore in the second half. I’m not sure I saw him run. He never put pressure on the Brazilian backline, he never put forth any effort at all. Conor, you’re playing for a spot on this team. Please act like it.
Sacha Kljestan became the second American players sent off with a straight red in two games. Unlike Ricardo Clark’s red card against Italy, this red card was deserved. Kljestan clamored into Ramires way late and way high. Just like Casey, Kljestan is fighting for his spot on the team. Stupid plays like this do not help his cause. What I didn’t understand about the red card was how it could be awarded after the play. The referee let play continue until the ball went out of bounds before showing the card. I didn’t know that was possible.
I can’t really decide what’s wrong with this team. It may be coaching. It may be expectations. It may just be that the the current team has taken giant steps backward from where they were. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.
If you made me pick some reasons for our terrible play, I’d give you three.
1) Center midfield play. Unlike some people, I kind of like having Michael Bradley out there. He’s not the greatest, but he can play. Benny Feilahber and Kljestan not so much. They’re okay, but they won’t get it done. I’ve liked what I’ve seen out of Ricardo Clark, but I want to see him with the National Team a little more. I love Pablo Mastroeni, but he has a tendency to get untimely red cards. I like to have a field general there who can run the game and keep everyone level headed on the field. We haven’t had one of those since Claudio Reyna retired. Hopefully that changes before next year.
2) Give us a goal scorer. As I eluded to earlier, Altidore needs to put the ball in the net. Brian Ching can do it, but he’s hurt. Donovan only scores from the penalty spot. Conor Casey doesn’t try. Can we please see Freddy Adu?
3) Coaching philosophy change. When we go out for a game, we look unprepared. We have no strategy. It takes us too long to get in some sort of rhythm, if we do at all, and by then, we’re already losing. I’m not advocating a coaching change just yet, but something needs to change in a hurry.
Now that I’ve ragged on US Soccer for 850 words, I’ll leave you with two videos that should remind you that we used to be good.
I also want to say that I have enjoyed Jay Demerit’s play in the wake of Carlos Bocanegra’s injury. He hasn’t backed down from anyone and hasn’t made any glaring errors. He’s been one of the lone bright spots. Honorable mention goes to John Spector.
Watch them. Enjoy them.