It was coming all along...

A good friend of mine says that a 2 0 lead is the most dangerous lead in hockey. Yesterday it also proved to be disastrous for the the US National Team. At halftime, their fortune was an exact 180 from the prior Sunday's final group game against Egypt. They went from a match that seemed to be a formality to being up 2-0 in a final with only 45 minutes to play against one of the top 3 teams in the world.

Unfortunately, that 2-0 lead was turned into 2-1 lead within the first 40 seconds of the second half. A turning point so obvious that in the midst of the Yankees sweep last night, Joe Morgan himself (oblivious to even his own career) shared with us that he thought the goal just after the half was when their fortunes changed.

From that point on the US was under constant attack from Brazil and the 2nd and 3rd goals really only seemed to be a formality. Some overall thoughts from the game and the tournament...


BB did a great job of instilling a never say die attitude in his team after 2 disastrous group stage games. He prepared them impeccably for the Spain game, in which they outplayed and outmatched the undisputed #1 team in the world to that point. He had them believing in themselves for the first half against Brazil when they did a good job of sticking to their guns, accepting they would have less possession but being responsible when they did get the ball.

My issues surround the subsitutions he made in the 75th min, Bornstein and Sacha (I belong here) Kljestan for Feilhaber and Altidore. Both were probably too tired to be 100% effective but they had an idea for the flow of the game and what Brazil was bringing, while Kljestan especially has never been in a game of this importance and looked entirely out of his element.

This could relate to BB's questionable squad choices all along. Why are you carrying only 1 true defensive midfielder, especially if you planned on going all 'pack the back' when getting a lead. Why carry so many defenders and not include a hard nosed guy like Pablo Mastroeni who you could slot in if Clark got a Red Card or you needed to go more defensive.

He also seemed content in just clearing the ball and conceding possession for the whole 2nd half instead of making any effort at forming an attack or even just holding some possession.

This all being said, I think (qualification pending) BB has earned himself the right to coach the US in their return trip to South Africa next summer. He's got a good core of like 13 guys who deserve to start or be a first choice sub; let's hope he adds to that with some experience and insurance for those key defensive/midfielder roles.

His Gold Cup selections are also a little experimental but the first choice guys definitely deserve a break after most played long European Seasons and a full slate of Confed Cup games. More on that in the leadup to the opener on July 4th.

On the field...

Landon Donovan is clearly the winner of my highly anticipated (he told me played extra hard for this accolade alone) AotT Award (American of the Tournament). He played hard, never stopped running, was integral to the build up and provided a great finish to that 2nd goal, and basically led by example through the entire tournament. This is a major step for him and it comes with greater weight being added to his shoulders going into the WC. His reaction to the loss is also what I like to see...

“What is respect? Respect doesn’t mean anything. If we lose our next two qualifiers, nobody cares about respect. We need to get to the point where we’re winning in these kind of tournaments.”

Pedro Martinez-esque.

Hopefully he can parlay this success into another attempt with a European team in the buildup to next summer.

Tim Howard made a late run with a brilliant game yesterday but nevertheless, they lost, he let in 3 goals and the sense that he was slightly off earlier in the tournament prevented this. 9 saves on 31 shots is excellent but his response to the game was a little too, "o well" for my liking. Overall, the US should be pumped to have him back there for the foreseeable future...when he's good, he is as good as any GK in the world.

Feilhaber does well with the ball but I think he does better playing a more forward position than just slotting in for Bradley who is relied on for a more Box to Box role.

Charlie Davies necessary maturation has seemingly already begun. His final ball to Donovan on the 2nd goal yesterday was perfect and I couldn't help but worry when it came to him that he was going to try to go 1 on 1 and lose the ball. Field vision is key if you are going to be part of a striker pairing and he seems to be developing it.

When he is front of goal with the opportunity to score it seems like Clint Dempsey just plays with more passion. He continued to get too fancy when relegated to the RM/RAM role yesterday and was eliminated from the game after the first half.

As mentioned earlier, Sacha (I am a hipster) Kljestan, is not ready for the National Team yet. He had a good year up to this point and the potential is there but he needs to improve vastly before contributing on the international stage. Also, I doubt him purely for the fact that he seems to be a hipster and from experience I know they can't play this sport.

Michael Bradley was sorely missed. There is no one else in the US pool right now that has his ability to be a true CM. Offensive ability, aggressive on D, vision with the ball and a desire to have it at his feet.

Confed Cup Lookback

Dear Disney/ABC/ESPN...

Please please please do not employ JP Dellacamera and John Harkes any longer. John Harkes sounds senile and bitter from the booth, often reflecting and longing for his own playing days and providing only the most inane insights into life on the team. He does make occasional good points about the flow of the game but for the most part is just a bore. Dellacamera is intermittent in his commentating and his lack of knowledge of the game is at best, hidden behind Harkes.

Overall it was a great showing from the US team. Two early/demoralizing defeats, followed by a great W and some necessary luck, followed by a brilliant showing against the top team in the world and a hallmark win for US Soccer, and closed with a great run at another huge upset. The experience of even playing in the final will be incredibly valuable for the core of this team moving forward. A win would probably have set the bar too high for next summer and resulted dissapointment, so it's important for the entire US Soccer establishment to learn from this and utilize it as they continue to try and make that leap to Soccer powerhouse.

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