A locus for eccentrics (hopefully)

Thursday, June 22, 2006


First of all, if you haven't seen the game, hopefully you aren't reading this. Neill.

Now, on to the game. What an atrocious POS game. I mean, it was brutal. Maybe the worst match of the tournament, though I can think of a just a couple others I'd rather watch less. There was no style on display, even from the victorious Ghanains. In my opinion, the two mistake goals cancel each other out in terms of "luck," though Reyna may have been fouled, it's still a horrible mistake on his part and I'm not going to sit here crying about the foul on Reyna.

Then the Onyewu play. In my estimation, that is atrocious refing right there--a clear dive. I wouldn't have given a yellow for the diving performance but I can't see that play being a foul, even if we aren't talking about the box but instead the center of the midfield. That was a shocking play. I really do not understand the penalization of guys in the back like Onyewu who happen to be 200+ and really tall. And that tendency has not just been to Onyewu but any big guy back there for any team. Bad refing all around--like the idiotic yellow card to Essien (Good luck against Brazil without Essien Ghana!). Nevertheless, I'm still not one of these people who is convinced the ref "stole" the game. Because realistically, are we going to score after the half? Yeah, maybe we have a slim chance, but with the way the guys were playing except for a brief spurt in the second half there was no offense to be had. None. Not even a prayer. With only two goals in the tournament, one an own goal and the other a horrible defensive mistake, it's time to think about the US team and not the reffing. I think the ref did take away any chance to win the game but that chance wasn't as large as a lot of people are saying. I think that odds are that the game ends 1-1 without the foul in the box, with us flailing away with long balls all second half, like we did anyway.

Beyond that though there was a failure on two counts in the US--coaching and creativity. The coaching up first. Arena needs to go after this World Cup. We need to send a message that not playing to win isn't ok. I like Bruce Arena, and he brought our team from god awful to very respectable. But his lineup choices were puzzling at best, given the team. Eddie Johnson needed to start--he certainly needed to come on after their goal in the 25th minute or so. Johnson clearly has something that no one else on the team has: a willingness to create, be selfish and even (gasp) shoot from distance. But more on that in a minute. Coachingwise I think we very well could have won the Italy game (which we had the momentum in) with better subs and more attacking play. I don't think it ends with the subs or starting team though--it has something to do with the tactics. We weren't just playing a 4-5-1 with off form players (fucking Beasley), we were also playing a predictable and boring 4-5-1 that the other teams seemed to be able to anticipate and see through easily. I think now that Arena has laid the groundwork we may need a dutch coach or some other international coach who expects the team to work in the midfield, stringing passes together and play a creative game of football, not just scrape by ugly style and pray for a tie or win like some of the Oceania and Asia teams. I think the fact that Arena and the other players haven't commented on some strategic and tactical problems, but instead are standing behind a "we almost had them except for that foul!" attitude says quite a bit about the mindset in place right now. We got fucking smoked this tourney except for the good game against Italy--but much of that was with less than 11 men and at that point throw those carefully planned tactics out the window.

Second, creativity. We don't have creative players at the international level. We desperately want Donovan or Beasley to be that guy and they just aren't right now and may never be. I can think of the number of times on one hand that we had guys confident with the ball come in and challenge a defender this world cup. To be fair though, I think that a lot of European teams are missing this creativity as well. Which is why on all the big Euro club teams you seem to see it supplied by South American or African imports. I'm not sure what to do about this but just keep encouraging creative passing and combination play with the feet of our players and try to get better players. Get some new South American American citizens? Having such a flexible citizenship requirement may be an advantage here!

I think the most telling problem in relation to our players and creativity is shooting. Simply put, we have no one who can shoot, really. That extends to shitty free kicks supplied by Donovan and others this whole cup but even more than that no one who will challenge the keeper from outside the box. And if you watched the games this world cup you saw over and over the good (and bad!) teams challenging the keeper with long shots and quite often scoring on those shots. We have *no one* who can do that. I don't think I saw a shot from outside the box area all week from the USA. We need it badly. Because all the other teams know we won't shoot outside that box they can just pack it in, triple mark our front runners and prevent any dangerous headers off crosses. And stop any cutting through balls we want to put out. Once again, I don't know how to solve this but it was so obvious that there was no respect that we would do anything dangerous or creative as long as we were outside that box.

I'm sort of spent, but I'm actually not angry right now--I'd be angry if I felt we were robbed. I'm mainly just really disappointed with the shitty way our team played and was coached. I think we can do a lot better. South Africa here we come, I guess.


Blogger neill said...

No, I didn't see it; David inadvertently spoiled the result when I got back from work. I think it's for the best, since I would have had a coronary watching that kind of display.

I think it's 90% Bruce Arena's fault, and 10% Donovan's fault for bailing out of the Bundesliga. This is bandwagoning, but I can't disagree that his development as a player has been stunted in MLS. He could have been, without hyperbole, the best player in US history. Which isn't saying that much, but still. Arena stuck with a losing game plan for all 3 games, failing to make any adjustments to what the other teams did to them. We're not good enough to be stubborn.

I think that Wynalda should coach the team. (Hell, if Klinsman can do it...). Thoughts?

6:39 AM

Blogger steve said...

I like Wynalda. I've heard he's a personality that clashes with people (When he played for the stars and stripes) but I think he'd bring a better perspective. It's actually not a bad idea, I hadn't thought of that.

Another option is, actually, Klinsman. Now, if Germany does really well he probably gets rehired. But if they get beat here in the first round he might be available and I think that would be a great hire. He loves the US, he's very involved in MLS and he loves the way that US sports prepare their players (non-soccer). Beyond that I don't know who to go to. I know the US soccer federation is going to want to go with an American, I understand that, but I'm not sure that's what the USA needs right now, as it would probably be an MLS coach with their unenviable style at the international level.

As for Donovan... I think he's commited to the MLS and won't be leaving. But I wish he'd go to the premier league, maybe a lower level premier league team. I think that would be perfect for him and I think he's good enough to start in the midfield premier league at a lower tier team, which is really the most important part, starting. In the Bundesliga he definitely wasn't given much of a shot and he wasn't willing to wait it out either, which I sort of understand. I hear coaches in the Bundesliga can be really imperial and ridiculous.

9:19 AM

Blogger neill said...

Yeah, optimally it'd be an American "name" that has experience in the international game, which narrows down the field pretty quickly. I'd think the problem with a Euro coach would be them ignoring the MLS altogether, which would be even more disasterous (ie, 1998).

The team is going to look very, very different next time, which means there's an opportunity to really shape what "American soccer" looks like. I do like that Klinsman's tried to give Germany a bit more creativity, which is definitely the direction we need to go.

Anyway. Go Australia, I guess. I'd root harder for England but they're coached almost as badly as we are.

9:58 AM

Blogger steve said...

There's definitely a huge opportunity to change US soccer in the 4 years, moreso than at any time in the past. There are going to be a lot of (currently) unfamiliar faces in the lineup in 4 years, that is for sure.

10:43 AM


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