Ugh. The 1998 flashbacks are in full effect. Defensive breakdowns and huge gaping periods of time spent pursuing no discernible offensive strategy did the United States in today in a match that was less a soccer game than a full-tilt existential dilemma. The big question is: had Reyna been able to buy himself an extra inch on his shot to the sidebar, would it have been a different game? The answer's pretty clear: it would have been 3-1.
Two of the three goals were absolutely preventable. I don't know who was over on the far side of the field, not covering Zdenek Grygera, but I'm afraid this is basic soccer defense: you don't allow an opponent to stand there with the ball as he decides what he's going to do with it. You have to act and make him change his play. Grygera got to stand there, unchallenged, and wait for Koller to move into position. The smart play would have been to force Grygera to the end line or at least make him take a steeper cross. The Czechs stepped to balls all game long--in that moment, we'd have been smart to follow their example. The third goal came on a bad clearance, very reminiscent of the one that did in Iran in their game against Mexico.
That second goal, Tomas Rosicky--nothing could have been done about that. That's one of those situations where you just give the guy the tip of the hat.
The Czechs blanketed Donovan and kept him from meaningfully affecting the game. DaMarcus Beasley stunk up the pitch. He was fucking awful, and far too many balls went through him. There came a point that whenever Donovan passed the ball to Beasley, touching off yet another tragic misadventure, the announcer mentioned something to the effect of: "Donovan passes to his close friend, DaMarcus Beasley..." It was like someone needed to vouch for him.
Beasley's vaunted speed is useless if his mental game is so slow. He made uniformly bad decisions with the ball. There was one sequence where Beasley has possession down near the corner of Czech's goal box where, if the telegraph hadn't been invented, you would have watched Beasley and thought, "Eureka! I think I've come up with a way to send communications with a series of dots and dashes!"
Of all the players on the American side, only Bobby Convey played with the poise and flair needed to win at this level. Many of our better scoring opportunities came from him, and he's got to be more involved against Italy. If the team's first instinct is to play through, Beasley...well, that's all the more reason he should be benched.
I'm not sure we're going to see Beasley and his black hole of bad soccer start again this tournament. I think we're going to see Donovan back in the midfield against Italy as well. He's got to have the opportunity to make plays, and if that's going to have to come out of the midfield then so be it. And more balls need to go through Convey. But beyond all that, the U.S. is going to have to put forth a substantially better effort. If there's any good news, it's that the task now becomes incredibly simple--no more talk about ekeing out the right number of ties--you have to beat Italy and beat Ghana. The good news is that Italy's a lot more beatable than the Czechs. The bad news is that they're still Italy.
Other notes from the past few days:
- I straight up denounce anyone who calls the goal that won England the game an "own goal." It really wasn't anything of the sort.
- What a difference a group makes. England plays terrible but looks to be through to the next round. Rooney gets two more games off, easily.
- The effing Swedes. It's not easy being a fan of Sweden. It's always something with them. Either they squander a lead or tie someone they should beat or they complain that nobody told them there'd be all the sunlight.
- That said, Chaka Hislop, the goalie for TnT, was flat out awesome. AWESOME. And the whole story has film treatment written all over it.
- The ABC in-studio team of Brent Musberger, Alexei Asshat and Julie Foudy has been execrable, mainly because of Musberger's indefatigable inanity. Paul and I watched them hold forth last Saturday.
MUSBERGER: Now, the goalies for each team...these are some important players for both these teams, right?
DCEIVER: Now, you get one point if the ball goes in the net. But what if it goes near the net?
PAUL: Alexei...players sure don't seem to use their hands very much out there, do
- Additionally, someone doing color commentary--not soccer-goth hero Marcello Balboa--fancies himself to be the World Cup's version of Dick Vitale. Whenever there is a particularly exciting play he gets all excited and starts peppering his patois with a lot of "Baby!" this and that and he sounds fucking stupid. I don't know who it is, but it needs to stop right now.
- Serbia and Montenegro is a compelling side because this may be the very last thing they do as a country together, as Montenegro recently voted to secede. There is talk of that not happening now, but I imagine that the vote will likely stand. Some people just need to be alone to work out their issues, and most of those people are Serbs. So, I predict that they have the World Cup, some scorching break-up sex, and go their seperate ways.
- Paul points out that there are really only two Montenegrins on the team, so the team should be called Serbia with Bob and David.
- Yahoo ran an item on France's Frank Ribery entitled "Ribery is a secret weapon for France." But they ran it in the upper newslink list, not a World Cup branded list. That means that many people outside the Cup watching base spent a few minutes of their lives last week worried that France had a secret weapon. They don't.
- Who do you think Michelle Malkin rooted for in the Iran-Mexico game? Or do you think she just shoved a Coke bottle in her twat and spent ninety minutes imagining her dark lord raining brimstone on the pitch? That's a trick question, of course. Malkin doesn't have a twat.
- I root for the United States, but wherever else, I support the nations where my family came from, and nothing forces me to confront my overall WASPiness as much as the World Cup. Generally, I don't get hung up about it--after all, I've never been to Westport, Connecticut and I don't own a pair of spats. But Sweden, Germany and effing England...well, there's not a nation among the three that hasn't at one point tried to oppress the world with fascism or mercantilism or their poncey clothes or Allen wrench based furnishings. If you are a long lost cousin from Togo or something, please, step forward and feel free to crash at my place whenever.
In the end, not even a generous sponsorship from the Pepsi Cola Company was enough to keep Serbia and Montenegro together.
TODAY: France and Brazil get things started in their groups. If the United States and the Netherlands play in this World Cup's groups of Death, then France and Brazil definitely play in the Groups of Soft Pillowy Opponents of Fragile Gossamer. Also: Togo-a-gogo!