Thursday, June 22, 2006

USA out, Ghana in

Well that was a train wreck of a soccer game.  The USA falls flat on it’s face and misses an opportunity to slip into the second round this morning, losing 2-1, and Italy completed the Czech misery tour at the World Cup with a 2-0 victory.

Now let’s get one thing out of the way.  Yes the refereeing was horrible.  The German, Merk, is supposed to be one of the better refs in the world right now, but he threw a lot of bad calls in this game.  Something needs to be done about the calling this year, but I imagine it won’t happen until after the Cup is done.  To be honest, there were many bad calls going against either team.  No one was out to get the US here or anything.  However, only one of those whistles from Merk really mattered, and that was the horrible should-have-been-a-no-call flop in the box.  Please admit it: Pompong took a dive and got rewarded for it.  Even if their had been contact, it would have been pretty minor and not worth the extreme measure of a penalty kick. 

But getting beyond that, without the bad penalty kick call, the game would have still ended in a tie.  Which is not what the USA needed here.  In truth, all the other stuff is out the window and the only thing that matters is that the USA played pretty dreadful soccer for most of this game.  Actually: most of these games.

They are certainly the best team coming out of CONCACAF these days (you say Mexico’s in the second round?  Please, that was a wing and a prayer in a much softer group), however you can get away with that sling the ball up the field and out run and out muscle the opposing defense thing in North America.

Getting away with it on a World stage is not going to serve American soccer in the long run.

The only true moment of brilliance was Beasley’s perfect pass over to Dempsey for the goal.  But that wasn’t a play created by good ball movement from the midfield.  Beasley was in the right place at the right time to steal a errant pass.

The US has been described as a workman’s soccer team, and that’s only going to get you so far without a lot of luck.  We got lucky in 2002.  We didn’t this time.  If the USA wants to consistently make it out of the first round every four years, they are going to have to improve monumentally on a skill and tactical level.  Just watch the Argentina game vs. Serbia, and then watch this game the USA played against Ghana and you’ll see what I mean.  There’s ball control, and then there’s this game the USA insists on playing.

This is not to say that the USA isn’t good at all.  While they don’t deserve their no. 5 world ranking on the FIFA site, they are certainly talented enough to give any team trouble on any given day.  And you can’t get too wrapped up in their not getting out of Group E, which, I’m sorry bitter commenter from a couple of weeks ago, really turned out to be the group of death in this tournament.  The US kept it interesting, the Czechs, for all their talent, couldn’t overcome, and Ghana is the only African team to advance into the second round.

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