Warning: Soccer post

Note: this post is about soccer.  I realize that I am a mortgage guy and should be writing about new home sales for mortgage shoppers right now, but I’m not, so you can avoid this if all you care about is business.  Meanwhile, I qualify as a solid observer of soccer on two continents, but I never played the game.  So take this for what it’s worth.

Yesterday the US “Men’s” National Team lost to Mexico 5-0.  In New York.

But honestly, today I feel pretty good about it.  Halfway through the second half, with the score still 0-0, I turned to my son Nicholas and said “at this point, I don’t really care who wins this match.  We’ve done all we came to this tournament to do.”  Five goals later, I’m sticking to that.

First, let’s start with the Confederations Cup last month.  The US got slaughtered in the first two matches, was almost unwatchably bad, then Bob Bradley decided to play Charlie Davies up front and his speed changed the US from a slow, nontechnical team that couldn’t find any space to move the ball forward to a fast, dynamic, hardworking squad that all of a sudden could manufacture goals.  Davies made a gigantic difference to that team, and the US by the end of the tournament was much improved.  Improved enough that I start to think there’s still a chance we could win CONCACAF.  That was the best team the US had to put on the field, and it was not a bad team.  Competitive.

Second, because the US miraculously made it to the finals of the Confed Cup, there was absolutely no break between the Confed Cup and the Gold Cup.  No training time.  No time for the top players to get any rest, or at least visit their club teams to say hello.  In consequence, Bradley left almost all of them home.  He took only seven or eight players from the Confed Cup to the Gold Cup, and those players saw very little time before bolting altogether (with the exception of Brian Ching, about whom more later).  So this Gold Cup team started as the US B Team, with only one player on the roster that would start for the full national squad (and that player, Davies, was an afterthought on the MNT before the Confed Cup).

Third, as the Gold Cup progressed, even those players – again, except Ching – that were backups on the MNT (Davies, Feilhaber, Adu, etc.) left for their club teams.  What you had on the field against Mexico was a team of 11 guys, only one of which is likely to make the World Cup team, and only one other one (Stuart Holden) that is even a strong possibility.  NONE of these guys is going to start even in their wildest dreams.  Still, this group got all the way to the finals.

Fourth, even THIS team, down to really the C team now, was hurt and tired.  Jimmy Conrad got knocked out on a header two games before this, which deprived the back line of any rest in the last three matches.  They were gassed, and it showed.  There really wasn’t anyone else to bring in (Brian Namoff having been inexplicably left off the roster).  They gave what they had, and that was all there was.

So the result in the final, against a Mexico team that really had to win and played the best people they had available (call it their B team, since only 5 or 6 of those guys will start next month against the US in the World Cup Qualifier), was still in doubt for 60+ minutes.  I feel pretty good about that.  If the US has one player, just ONE, to swap out with the spectacularly useless David Arnaud, then the US wins the match yesterday going away.  Swap Davies in for Arnaud, and the US wins.  Period.  So I refuse to get all upset about the JV team losing.

And the match wasn’t a debacle.  The US game plan was to let Mexico putter around in the midfield as long as they liked, then clamp them down when they started trying to move the ball through the center into the attacking third.  Result?  Mexico wasn’t even particularly dangerous until the late stages of the game.  The US counter was excellent, producing numerous chances, which were squandered about equally by Rogers, Beckerman, Arnaud, and Ching.  Mexico got a questionably penalty, in which the fouled player hit the fouling player in the head with an elbow, and that meant that the US strategy was no longer going to work.  The midfielders had to push higher, depriving the backs of cover, and Mexico is fast enough to cut that apart.  Which they did, to their credit.

What did I learn?  I learned several things.  Brian Ching is a hard worker without any real skill on the ball, especially when he can’t use his head.  David Arnaud is a hard worker that should never get a MNT jersey on his back again.  Neither of these strikers is good enough to play for the US in a match that matters.

Kyle Beckerman is good, and he might grow into a fairly good reserve defensive midfielder.  Good work rate, but not much pace.  Robbie Rogers needs another move.  Stuart Holden is the most accurate crosser of the ball and the most dangerous set-piece taker on the US roster at any level.  I really think he needs to be on the field in Mexico, this time with Davies and Altidore and Donovan and Onyewu to hit the ball to, and Cherundolo or Hejduk or Bocanegra to overlap with.  He is infinitely better than Beasley and – I think – more reliable with the ball than Dempsey.  He certainly works harder.  Nobody else from this team should even be on the US roster in South Africa.

All in all, a great month of soccer, with some encouraging signs.  Forget about yesterday.  Nobody that was on the field is even going to be playing next month in Mexico City.  Only one guy is likely to even be invited on the trip, let alone onto the field.  So relax.

One Response to “Warning: Soccer post”

  • Catherine Carlson says:

    I couldn’t agree more, but it was still painful to watch. We turned it off after the third goal.

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