|Notes and Observations Week 15: Patriots Blow Out Dolphins 41-13; Clinch AFC East||Connelly’s Top Ten: Patriots Defense, Special Teams Carry Home Team||Fantasy Football Start ‘Em, Sit ‘Em: Week 15||Right Idea? Red Sox Bring in Rick Porcello, Wade Miley, Justin Masterson|
Sorry it’s taken so long to write this postmortem but since Saturday, I’ve been in a state of indescribable agony and basking in the wretched misery of mourning. The U.S. lost to Ghana in what might have been their worst performance of the tournament and probably since that thrashing they took from a young Czech team prior to the World Cup. Their biggest weaknesses were exploited like a bare-footed blister in a new pair of dress shoes. Absolutely atrocious finishing (maybe the worst in the tournament) and shoddy, at times lackluster, defense was the Americans’ Achilles heel, or heels as it were.
Two aspects of Saturdays game really foreshadowed a losing effort for me. First, make no mistake about it that first goal was 100% Tim Howard’s fault. Arguably the best, most important player on the team committed an uncharacteristic mistake and let in a weak shot short side. Its unheard of for a goalie at this level to let that type of shot in, let alone one of the better keepers in the English Premiership. Not a good sign.
The second sign of the apocalypse was the entrance of Herculez Gomez into the line-up in overtime. I know I’ve been beating a dead horse with this guy, but he stinks. Gomez was an opportunistic goal scorer that for some reason Bill Bradley thought could help the team. To be completely honest, I’d rather have a 75% Charlie Davies out there. At this point, I’m sure Bradley would too.
Throughout the first half, Ghana looked younger, more athletic and had more composure. The U.S. was seemingly happy to put their heads down and run as fast as they could up the middle of the field. To me, this was particularly surprising given the experience on the team. Who knows, maybe it was their nerves. However, this isn’t even the most depressing aspect. Despite the lack of form, the U.S. still had chances! Sadly, to get back to my first point, they couldn’t finish.
Let it be known that I’m not too big to perform an honest self-assessment. And with that consider this my formal mea culpa on Jozy Altidore. For those following along at home, I was quite high on this young lad prior to the tournament. I even went as far to say that he’d be a household name come the end of July, as I was anticipating his outstanding performance.
Well, it turns out he is a household name now but its not due to his sterling performance as much as his utter ineptitude. You can’t be a world class striker and so strongly lack any type of finishing ability. So I take it all back. Every word. Altidore is a phenomenal athlete: big, strong, fast. But, he lacks creativity taking on defenders, obviously has some serious issues striking the ball on target and most importantly, lacks a nose for goal.
Despite Saturday’s performance, I actually think Bob Bradley did a great job this tournament. He clearly motivated the players to play hard. The team ran out of gas against Ghana, but not surprisingly after that run they had. Bradley was always active trying to make tactical moves and had he had any finishing talent on his team, he’d probably still be competing. His only mistakes were including Gomez on the roster and not realizing he had to start Benny Feilhaber. Every time Feilhaber stepped on the field the Americans played their game and controlled the ball. If I saw that why didn’t Bradley? So will Bradley keep his job? For now, I think he will. That is until the U.S. Soccer Federation convince Jurgen Klinsmann to finally take the job. Make no mistake about it, Klinsmann will be the next coach of U.S. soccer before the next World Cup.
As for the rest of the U.S. ‘stars’…I’m sure Donovan will be around simply for name recognition, even at the ripe old age of 34. He had a good tournament. Good not great. You can’t be great if you disappear in games. World Cup games in particular. Clint Dempsey probably won’t be around next time however, even though I think he had a better tournament and is a more complete player.
In essence, the Americans did just enough to not be a complete failure. They had unreal conditioning and fitness, but soccer is a game of talent. If you don’t have the quality, it will eventually catch up with you. Draws don’t cut it in the knock out stage. On the bright side, however, I’ve never seen more support for soccer here in the states. I just hope people don’t sour because of the abysmal American performance that probably left a bad taste in most everyone’s mouth.