Dependable Erection

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Seriously?

Congratulations to the US MNT for a great performance in the 2010 World Cup, and a thrilling round of 16 match against the Ghana Black Stars, which they actually could have won, despite being outplayed for large stretches of the game (ie - first half, and all of extra time.)

But what the hell does this mean?
When they had a chance to move into soccer's elite, against a Ghana team they should have handled easily, the Americans came out looking flat and uninspired.

No slight intended, but Asamoah Gyan eats Jozy Altidore's lunch as a striker, and Ghana's back four was superior to the US's in almost every facet of the game. Probably the best thing you can say about today's game was that losing to Ghana spared us the ignominy of going down to Uruguay 4-0 next week.

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23 Comments:

  • I'm still a little baffled by your underrating this US squad. Going into the knockout round, the US was the highest ranked team in its region, one above Uruguay and a dozen over Ghana. Yes, Gyan is a better striker than Altidore (mostly because Altidore is still very, very raw), and yes Ghana's back line allowed nothing in the way of playable balls in the air to enter the area, but I don't see a creative midfielder on either Donovan or Dempsey's level on their squad. I think the US also showed more cleverness than Ghana throughout the game, particularly in the second half, when Ghana's speed had stopped surprising them.

    The US lost this game because of a really stupid play by Ricardo Clark and a couple of ridiculously courageous plays. Yes, the notion that the US should have "easily" handled Ghana is ridiculous, but the fact that Uruguay is positively on fire right now doesn't mean that they're that much better a squad.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 11:04 PM  

  • Oh, and for my money, this is a far more level-headed analysis.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 11:07 PM  

  • "That said, the United State has made strides, and they ARE pretty much on level with Ghana, and Ghana’s next opponent Uruguay."

    I don't think so.

    Uruguay is one of the 4 or 5 best teams playing in the tournament right now (Argentina, Brazil, Spain & Netherlands are the others. Don't know how to rank them exactly just yet. I picked Argentina to beat Brazil in the final.)

    The US has a couple of world class players (Howard, Donovan) and Bradley i think will get there eventually. Dempsey as a creative playmaker? Did we watch the same game? He had moments of brilliance for Fulham this year, but he certainly didn't show that today. Boateng's backheel pass to K. Asamoah at the end of the first half was far and away the most creative play of the game, don't you think? Should have been 2-nil at the break if he hadn't shot 20 feet over the goal.

    Uruguay's attack is leagues better than Ghana, and their defense is a cut above as well. 3-1 Uruguay.

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:42 PM  

  • OK, after that 2nd half, may need to add Germany to the list.

    On the other hand, they were playing England . . .

    By Blogger Barry, at 12:15 PM  

  • BTW - if you want to take a look at my bracket, click here.

    I'm not doing that badly.

    By Blogger Barry, at 12:30 PM  

  • Uruguay is hot right now, no question. But they didn't show any of this in qualifying, getting smacked around by the usual suspects in South America. A hot team isn't the same thing as a great team.

    Yes, Boateng's little deception play was neat-o, even though the shot it set up wasn't terribly open. What I saw was Dempsey in particular playing balls from one corner of the area to the far wing, a lot of touch passing around the middle, and a lot of creative attempts to crack Ghana's obvious advantage in speed.

    Have you freakin' forgotten that mostly the same team of players beat Spain and took a 2-0 lead on Brazil just six months ago? By the same measure, do four lousy games mean Wayne Rooney is garbage? You're like one of those fans who watches a team have a bad game in the NCAA basketball tournament and declares them a failure. If soccer is nothing but how you do in the World Cup, and play in other leagues doesn't matter, I need to quit watching, because it's dumb.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 4:37 PM  

  • Confederations Cup serves one purpose - warm-up for the WC. It's a dry run for the host country, and a chance to see how your team plays under those conditions. I think there's only 8 teams in the whole tournament, right? One of them the defending champs, one the host, and the 6 confederations champions. Don't forget, CONCACAF is probably the second weakest of the football confederations, behind only Oceania. Qualifying from South America, even in a playoff, is significantly harder than qualifying from North America and the Caribbean.

    I don't think Spain, outside of bruised egos, was terribly concerned about the final score of the game last year.

    What i saw from Dempsey is that he's learned how to hit the ground when he's tackled. Looking at the Guardian's MBM from yesterday's game, his name comes up twice; a pass to Findley in the 34th minute that the striker failed to get a good shot off, and the move that led to the penalty. No one on Ghana argued the penalty, but at least one replay showed Jonathan getting a touch on the ball before taking Dempsey down. They're right about one thing, though. If it was a penalty, it should have been a red card for last man.

    Seriously, Michael, the US is not that good, last year's Confederations Cup notwithstanding. Forlan and Suarez would carve up the back four had the US somehow won yesterday's game with some late heroics. Don't know why it's such a big deal for you not to accept that.

    At least, though, we're not England.

    By Blogger Barry, at 5:05 PM  

  • Let me tiptoe around the margins of this argument and offer one point about the relative merits of Ghana and the United States.

    Ghana is playing this World Cup without their best player, Michael Essien. Imagine the U.S. without Dempsey or Donovan, and you get the magnitude of the loss. But Ghana's squad strength is such that they're able to get results without him—although I suspect they will miss him in the next round.

    By Blogger David, at 10:15 AM  

  • Okay, you know what? I don't watch that much soccer. I'm going by the games I've seen and what I've read in the US and international (anglophone, of course) press.

    My sense is, though, that with a few egregious errors, this list is a decent synopsis of teams over the last four years. Obviously France, Italy, and England weren't as good as advertised, but they've obviosly been strong in the recent past.

    They list the US at 15, which strikes me as a notch or three too high, but other than that, not far off. (And I repeat, I'm talking about the general quality of the programs, not the performance in this specific World Cup.) Ghana is underrated because they just dumped a bunch of young stars from their under-20 team onto their national team, with pretty remarkable results, but that hasn't been reflected over four years of work.

    Somewhere between 12-20 strikes me as about right for the US, Ghana, and Uruguay. I may be misreading you, but your tone and words make it sound like either the US belongs somewhere in the 25-35 range, or that Uruguay belongs in the top 10. Neither one of those makes any sense to me. So, where are the FIFA rankings egregiously wrong? (other than having Ghana too low, which is quite apparently for the reasons discussed above).

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 2:49 PM  

  • Not sure exactly of the formula, but because the international soccer schedule is so extended, the way that rankings are calculated is more of what economists would call a lagging indicator than a leading indicator.

    See here for a review of the calculations.

    Probably the Confederations Cup that we discussed prior accounted for a lot of the US position, but i get the impression the teams treat that more like the Club World Cup (ie - chance to take a holiday and play a little football) than a major competition that has to be won.

    I believe that each conference gets a co-efficient based on how its teams performed in international competition over the previous 3 World Cups, which is a pretty long period of time.

    Just from watching the relatively few qualifying matches that ESPN carried, the US didn't look that strong to me. Univision and FSC had a few qualifying matches from CONMEBOL and UEFA, and those, along with watching all of the opening round of matches is what i'm basing my admittedly subjective opinions. That plus Diego Forlan had a great season at Athletico Madrid, and i had a hunch he would be able to carry that through to the WC. Gyan at Ghana also had a pretty decent season in France for a Rennes team that punched above their weight, too. Jozy Altidore, meanwhile, warmed the bench at Hull while they got relegated. Dempsey played well at Fulham when he wasn't injured, and Donovan was a revelation at Everton for three months during his loan spell. Howard is one of the best keepers in the world, but soccer isn't hockey, and a keeper on a hot streak isn't going to make enough spectacular saves to win games for you at this stage of the World Cup. That's pretty much the extent of US world class players.

    After this World Cup, with at least 3 South American teams (out of 5) in the quarters (Argentina, Uruguay and either Brazil or Chile) and possibly 4 if Paraguay beat Japan, the next co-efficient should have CONMEBOL ahead of UEFA, and Asia possibly ahead of North America if Japan wins that game.

    That would have the effect of dropping the US down a couple of notches, and raising some of the "second tier" South American teams.

    South America should get a guaranteed 5th team in the WC for 2014 also, imo. Europe started with 13 teams, and will only have 3 in the quarter finals, so i'd guess they would lose one entry in 2014.

    By Blogger Barry, at 3:24 PM  

  • I realize the Confederations Cup is effectively the equivalent of the Prseason NIT in American college basketball, but I'd guess that the competition is a tad higher and taken more seriously than the friendlies, and maybe on the level of the qualifiers.

    In all of those matches, Spain lost exactly *once* in the last 40+ games before the World Cup (and now once to the Swiss). Now, am I saying I'd put money of the US if they played that game again, Confed. Cup or no? Absolutely not. My point is simply that despite lots of other games where Spain was presumably resting its starters, trying weird shapes, testing third keepers, in a lot of those games, and yet they didn't happen to lose any of them, except against a US squad. You don't do that unless you're at least half-way decent.

    Why can't I let this go? Okay, let's get into the psychology of this. Going back to the Confederations Cup, I got invested in this US team. I got convinced that it wasn't the usual crop of prep school products bumbling about as they did in 2006, and that they actually had the ability to surprise some people. I didn't expect to win the thing, I hoped for the quarterfinals, expected the second round, and thought of how cool it would be to reach the semis. In watching the games, I found the team competitive, engaging, creative, and hard working, all in all an extremely enjoyable, though not excellent, workman team. My rabbiting on here is as much defending the fun of that experience, and the fun I had watching that team. The story I'm telling myself is that this was the best side the US has ever put forward, and that while they're not ready, they're light years beyond the 1994 squad, and while not top tier or even second tier, they're capable of making noise and playing most teams tough.

    Now, why do you feel the need to down this? Well, I honestly don't know, but I'll tell you what it feels like when reading this stuff, which is an impression going back to when you picked a plucky but pedestrian Slovenia team over the US (which yes, you were nearly right about, but only because of two egregiously disallowed goals). It feels like international soccer snobbery, the kind that prevents people in the US from actually enjoying the game. You get behind a team, get into the game, start to have fun, and then all of the sudden some wanna-be eurotrash in a jersey from a club no one's ever heard of in a city that douchebag's never been to comes up and tells you that you know nothing about "futbol," and tells you that "soccer" is just something dumb americans say. So, there may be some truth in what you're saying -- I'm trying to get at it because I'm actually trying to learn about the game some. However, if you're just trying to be the cosmopolitan killjoy in the room, I'll point out that there's nothing remotely more in the spirit of the international World Cup experience than blind faith and a lot of silly nationalism.

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 4:17 PM  

  • Hey - i was out in public drinking and cheering for the US for 3 of the 4 games they played.

    I was surprised they got out of the group, but happy too.

    I just don't think that we have a truly competitive team at this level, despite the ESPN hype. Part of that is the level of competition in CONCACAF is just not that great. Mexico is perennially decent, Jamaica had the reggae boyz a few years ago, and Honduras and Costa Rica punched above their weight the last qualifying campaign. That's really it in our conference.

    Check out the South American qualifying campaign. Even Bolivia managed to beat Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina during the campaign.

    We won 13 of our 18 games during qualifying; Brazil qualified first in South America and only won 9 of their 18 games. That should give an indication of how much more difficult South American qualifying is than CONCACAF.

    What i don't understand is this. I took issue with a jingoistic claim that the US "should have handled Ghana easily." That was, of course, never a given, as Ghana finished 2nd in what was arguably a much tougher group than ours, and was the lowest ranked team in their group to boot. The game bore out those results. I'm not sure i understand the point you're trying to make. That the US really is a top 10 team, and we just didn't show up on Saturday and Ghana took advantage of that?

    I thought we played to our abilities, and with a few breaks might even have won. Other pundits than me have pointed out that coach Bradley started the wrong XI (Clark, Findley) and we might have had a better chance with a different team. I don't know enough to make that claim. I just didn't think that beating Spain in the Confederations Cup last year was a herald that we had made this magical leap in quality. I think the outcomes of the games indicate that opinion had some validity.

    By Blogger Barry, at 4:58 PM  

  • Michael, I'm truly impressed by how thoroughly you've immersed yourself in this sport after only a year.

    Your complaint about American eurosnobs is a very common one, and it carries some validity. (I try not to be one myself!) The problem is that if you're going to follow the game between World Cups and you want to watch the best product, you're going to get invested in the European game. MLS boosters decry this phenomenon, but if I'm going to watch soccer on TV, I'm going to choose Liverpool-Manchester United (or Aston Villa-Sunderland) over Real Salt Lake-Kansas City Wizards every time.

    Rather than follow a random MLS team on television, I reserve my interest in our domestic leagues to the second division, where we have a local team, the Carolina RailHawks. I'd love to go to a game with you sometime—do you know how to reach me directly?

    By Blogger David, at 10:52 AM  

  • Thanks, David, but I do have to point out that it's not like soccer is terribly foreign to most Americans. I played YMCA soccer for 8 years as a kid (never very well, natch), so it's not like I was trying to learn it from scratch, and I have followed previous World Cup teams, but never as closely as this one.

    I'd love to go to a Railhawks game. I have no idea when I'll have time, but I figure I can find you at the Indy one way or another, right? Feel free to get in touch with me directly too (do you need my contact info?)

    By Blogger Michael Bacon, at 1:27 PM  

  • Ahem... Count me in for any futbol expeditions. Heck, it's even worth the drive to Cary.

    -- Kevin Davis

    By Blogger Kevin, at 8:17 PM  

  • OK, let's do a Bull City blogger excursion to a RailHawks game. They've backloaded their home schedule so they don't have many home games in the next month. However, there will be plenty of opportunities between July 27 and early September.

    You can find me on Facebook. Or right here in the Dependable Erection comments section.

    By Blogger David, at 11:12 AM  

  • David - are the Canadian teams still eligible to compete in the CONCACAF Champions League out of the NASL?

    If so, how about either Saturday July 31 against Vancouver, or Saturday August 7 against Montreal?

    By Blogger Barry, at 11:43 AM  

  • Yes, the 2nd division Canadian teams are eligible, but this year, Toronto of MLS won the Canadian slot.

    2010 CONCACAF Champions League

    Unfortunately for American D-2 and D-3 teams, the only way into this competition is to win the US Open Cup—a difficult but not impossible feat. In third-round games last night, for instance, D-3 Charleston defeated the Chicago Fire, and D-3 Harrisburg defeated the New York Red Bulls.

    If we see Vancouver, we might see their academy product Marcus Haber, who was transferred to West Bromwich Albion of the English Premier League (but is spending the summer here on loan).

    Vancouver will be joining the MLS next year, by the way.

    I go to pretty much all of the games when I'm in town, so virtually any date works for me. Let's check back in on this in two or three weeks.

    By Blogger David, at 2:40 PM  

  • What i was thinking is that the Canadian teams might have a little more to play for if a Champions League slot for next year is available.

    Where can you find a Cup schedule? I saw on the NASL site that a couple of teams lost to MLS opponents recently as well, but didn't see if/when the Railhawks were playing.

    By Blogger Barry, at 2:52 PM  

  • The Canadians play a tournament among themselves to determine the Canadian representative to the CONCACAF Champions League.

    The performance of Vancouver and Montreal in NASL/USL league play has no bearing on their CONCACAF aspirations.

    The Carolina RailHawks have already crashed out of the US Open Cup: They lost in the second round to Charleston, who went on to beat Chicago last night.

    Unfortunately, the US Soccer Federation seems to have little interest in promoting or developing the competition (which is now nearly a century old). This is why it's so hard to find basic information about it.

    By Blogger David, at 3:05 PM  

  • Ah, thanks. I thought it had something to do with their position in the league.

    Given that, let's pick a night that figures to be not too hot, not too crowded, and maybe even has cheap beer.

    By Blogger Barry, at 3:12 PM  

  • Unless a Mexican or Central American team is in town, we won't have to worry about the crowds.

    We'll find a cool-ish night with cheap beer.

    I think it's crazy to play in the summer down here; one thing the NASL breakaway faction has made some noise about is moving to a fall-spring schedule.

    By Blogger David, at 3:19 PM  

  • Interesting article on South America's success at the WC from an English perspective.

    By Blogger Barry, at 1:16 PM  

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