This week, I have been traveling up and down the east coast of the good ol’ US of A. I got to take in baseball games, visit stadiums, see eight different states and a District, and enjoy a well needed vacation from reality. Along the way, we made a pitstop at my old summer stomping grounds in beautiful Long Beach Island, New Jersey to watch the Round of 16 USA versus Belgium matchup.
If you watched the game, and judging by bar sales from the past month, most of you did, it ended in disappointment. A lot of people, both fans and media, have been saying how proud they are of this USMNT and how amazing it was that, despite the evil regime that FIFA is, stacking us in the Group of Death, our boys rallied and surprised many futbol “experts” (aside from Wayniac Nation who predicted it, of course). I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it that way.
Going into this World Cup, all the talk was about Jurgen Klinsmann’s surprising decisions and comments. Leaving off Landon Donovan, the man who is highly responsible for putting US Soccer on the map, off the roster drew some criticism. Many futbol fans, however, realized that this was a move to prepare for the future as some fresh, young soccer players could get their chance on the world’s biggest stage. Klinsmann then angered many US fans when he said that this team wasn’t ready to compete for a World Cup. No matter how truthful he was in his statement, no one wanted to hear our own head coach basically say: Hey, I know you guys waited four years for this, but you’re going to have to wait four more.
Here’s the thing: we could have been ready. The defending champs were out before it really started. There was no England or Italy in the Knockout Round. Argentina, one of the favorites and who Wayniac Nation predicted to be the victor, is down one of the best players in the world. Uruguay lost its man-eating superstar. A win against Belgium really could have propelled the USMNT maybe as far as the final four. But we weren’t prepared for it.
I am not an apologist and I certainly don’t accept excuses. That being said, I think this USMNT was great and they did make huge strides, but that isn’t enough for me. We are AMERICA people. We don’t lose. And here’s the bottom line that no one wants to admit: we were lucky to advance. So while the nation is hanging their hats on their US pride that we made it farther than expected, I want to tell you why you should be pissed off at this USMNT.
3. We needed Landon Donovan. Say whatever you want. When Jozy Altidore went down, Donovan could have been huge to pick up this offense. Even in his elder state, he is a leader this team seemed to be lacking. The US got dominated in time of possession and, aside from the Portugal game, were seemingly always on their heels defending the opponents’ attack. Does anyone remember how we got to the World Cup? Let me remind you: needing to defeat Mexico to clinch a World Cup bid, Donovan put the team on his shoulders, setting up the first goal with a corner kick and scoring the second goal to lock up victory. Shortly thereafter, Klinsmann told ol’ #10 he wouldn’t be needing his services.
2. Michael Bradley stunk up the pitch. He was out of position once Altidore went down trying to do too much. Thats the view of Bradley apologists. So what? Michael Bradley was one of the most important pieces on this USMNT, especially with the absence of Donovan, and in between his three great plays, he totally underperformed. The US has a one striker attack, and it was Bradley’s primary responsibility to get our Captain Clint Dempsey the ball. Dempsey was practically invisible in the Belgium game. Bradley was gassed because he took too much on himself. The turning point of the whole World Cup was in the final seconds of the Portugal game. What could have been the US’s defining moment turned into a downward spiral. Who was out of position when that happened?
1. Tim Howard gets one free kidney punch on everyone who was on that field. Statistically speaking, Howard’s performance was historical and one of the single greatest games in World Cup history… and he lost. The US played uninspired futbol until they were down 2-0 in the final 15 minutes of extra time. Meanwhile, for the first 110 minutes, Howard literally bled red, white, and blue all over the field leaving Brazil officials irate because they had to push back games to clean it off. Chris Wondolowski ‘s wide open miss at the end of regulation was a devastating gut punch to every American. When Belgium’s keeper slid in and took away Dempsey’s prime opportunity to tie the game, the entire nation went silent. When you look back at it, despite the US playing absolutely awful, this was still their game and they lost it. It was the same as the Ghana game. In between those two goals right at the beginning and John Brook’s miracle at the end, the US was outplayed.
So you can be happy with this performance. You can be enthralled with the performances of John Brooks and Julian Green. You can be elated that we survived the Group of Death. Or, you can approach the reality of the US’s time in Brazil. We SHOULD have won that Portugal game, and in turn SHOULD have won the group. The USMNT SHOULD have beaten Belgium. The reasons they lost had nothing to do with talent, but complete and total mental lapses, silly mistakes, and sloppy play. If the USMNT had come to Brazil and played all three teams to a tie and had not advanced after giving everything they had to give, then we say we are proud of this team. But, in my opinion, this USMNT had the talent and ability to still be playing this coming week, and that’s what leaves the bitter taste in my mouth.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad this team made it as far as they did. I think Klinsmann, in the grand scheme of things, may be the best thing to ever happen to US Men’s soccer. But if you remove yourself from the pride and joy of being an American, if you break from the thought that the USMNT advanced from a group they shouldn’t have, you may come to the same realization. America went into this World Cup with lower expectations because of what seemed like an impossible group to escape. Simply because we did, does not mean this team performed to their best. When I screamed I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN throughout the Cup, I really meant it. Like I said, this is America, baby. We don’t lose.
I know you will find hundreds of reasons to disagree, so sound off and tell me why I’m wrong. Until then, I will be continuing my adventure through the Wayniac Nation. Happy Fourth everyone!