On Soccer

The following will make absolutely no sense unless you are a hard-core fan of soccer. Enjoy.

About the Copa America, and the state of US national team soccer…

The United States is demonstrating that is has the horses to play on the best stages. Unfortunately, it is demonstrating this by sending the “B” team to the Copa America, a competition that deserves better, even if there are flashes of solid play from a team that, let’s be honest, wouldn’t be expected to play very well against this level of competition.

But that doesn’t matter all that much. Facts faced, the US lacks strikers. Always have.

If you think this is because we only have Eddie Johnson and Taylor Twellman up front, I invite you to go back and watch the Copa Oro matches closely. The US finishing in those matches was absolutely hilariously bad. Yep, the US won. It’s hard to miss ALL of the point-blank shots in a match. But if there ever was a demonstration of the US strengths and weakness, it was the end of the Mexico match where Donovan AND Beasley got behind the defense, all alone, and Donovan set up the finish with class (which he is very good at), and Beasley promptly put the ball in row F from eight meters in front of a totally empty goal. Not for the first time. Not even the first time that week. Ching does it. Donovan does it. Dempsey does it. Twellman does it. These guys are excellent players and some of them are even world-class forward midfielders, but NONE OF THEM CAN STRIKE. It has been this way for years, for generations, even. Until late last week, Eric Wynalda was the top US striker of all time.

Eric Wynalda. Heaven help us.

Fortunately, there are signs that the long wait for someone with up-front skills may be over. Freddy Adu, who has been entirely forgettable when matched against players a decade older than he is, scored what might be the best international goal scored by a US striker in history, then followed it up with two more. Altidore can play – and score – and Szetela is also showing real quality. They’re all kids, and if they stay in the US, chances are they’ll never get a lot better. But they won’t stay in the US, thank the Good Lord for the U-20 World Cup, and there is hope that we’ll have a first-rate cadre of strikers – for the first time ever – for Donovan to dish the ball to in 2010.

We’re getting better. Our midfield play and goalkeeping is excellent. We have a decent (if green and disorganized) group of defenders. All we need is a couple of real, honest-to-goodness killers up front. I’ll be looking for them tomorrow.

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