Yanks Down

Surely you know by now. Despite years of building and anticipation, the United States showed up on the pitch yesterday against the Czech Republic and promptly took a dump at midfield. It was ugly.
Actually, before I go into what went wrong, and there was plenty, I should point out the good stuff. The US did control possession for most of the game. They held the ball for nearly twice as long as the Czechs in the first half (and maybe for the game – I didn’t see a late update on that). They didn’t produce a ton of good scoring chances out of that possession, but Claudio Reyna sent a shot that was only a few inches away from tying the game at 1-1. Had that ball gone in, who knows how the rest of the game would have gone. Maybe that would have woken the Americans from their inexplicable torpor.
On the bad side, well, there was plenty. The US didn’t match the Czechs’ energy. The US forwards were largely invisible (did Brian McBride even touch the ball once?) as the US’ service all day was horrendous. The US wings, DaMarcus Beasley in particular, were tentative and completely ineffective. Beasley showed all the touch of a rec-league fullback. Kasey Keller, among the best keepers in the world, continously kicked the ball to where we weren’t; it was his ill-timed punt over the heads of his teammates that led to the first goal. Our defense was disorganized and seemed willing to let Pavel Nedved run all over the field, completely dominating play.
In a word, we sucked. We sucked outloud. We should be better than that. We are better than that. And now we get to – we have to – prove it. Italy beat Ghana 2-0 yesterday, giving the US no real choice but to beat the Italians on Saturday. Do that and there is still a very real chance of advancement. Tie and things look very dim. Lose and it’s over.
Given how we looked and how the Azzurri looked against Ghana, it’s pretty clear that we’ll be severe underdogs. There was no comparison between the levels of passion of our boys and theirs. But that change. You’d hope that confidence would lead to aggression, but in lieu of that, maybe anger and embarassment can do it.
Surely, The Bruce (who was NOT happy after the game) will change things up. Look for at least five different starters on Saturday. I’d guess that he’s going to go for a bit more youth and speed. It might be a risk from a technical perspective, but this team needs fire, athleticism and threats. Until Eddie Johnson stepped on the field, the team we fielded yesterday had very little of any of those.
Two games left. No room for error. I’m still hopeful.

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