What the hell was that?
U.S. Soccer, are you kidding me?
Wednesday night’s World Cup Qualifier against Costa Rica was an absolute disgrace. As former U.S. captain and current broadcaster John Harkes said mid-telecast, “I’m angry.”
Damn right. And he should be.
The Americans got absolutely buzzsawed 3-1 by the Ticos (a consolation late penalty only saved further embarrassment).
Granted we knew coming in that the U.S. had never won at Saprissa Stadium, an asphalt painted green. We knew traveling to near-third world countries can be a bit daunting. We knew all this coming in. Our expectations had already been minimized. Most pundits thought a draw would be a satisfactory result.
And then we go and get absolutely ran off the pitch. And it was apparent after just 79 seconds. It was the worst I had ever seen the U.S.A. play. And that includes the 1998 World Cup in France when the Stars and Stripes finished with three losses in three games and 24th out of 24. It includes the 2006 World Cup opener when the Czech Republic kindly lowered their shorts and put it on our chin right from the jump.
Wednesday night, was unequivocally the worst.
I gathered with four friends to watch the game. We’ve been die-hard soccer fans all the way. I’ve driven thousands of miles in the name of U.S. Soccer. I’ve had beer thrown on me for U.S. Soccer. And I feel let down. We all do. And like Harkes, we’re angry.
Regardless the result, the U.S. won’t be in jeopardy of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. But the game matters because soccer has to fight every tooth and nail to gain a foothold in the American sports landscape. Clowns like Jim Rome would rather legitimize mixed martial arts and homeless guys fighting for cash than sit through five minutes of the beautiful game.
But the networks can’t ignore there is a strong, passionate and loyal fanbase that will tune in. And so ESPN advertised the game all weeklong. And if we know anything about ESPN advertising, that shit sticks in your fucking head. (ex. Shamwow! hooker-biting ass clown.)
And when you get a chance to show the nation they’re wrong about the game, you do this?
Most of the blame should fall on the players. They flat out didn’t show up. But the always uninspiring Bob Bradley certainly deserves his share of the blame. He couldn’t motivate a dog to play fetch. He’s cerebral, a good guy and knows his soccer. He wins too. But he should win. The U.S. should be the big boy in the region. We’ve established that credibility for almost 15 years now. (Sorry, Mexico. We own you, and not in the old Texas way.)
In games like this, you need someone to step up and inspire. The other day, I wrote how Pep Guardiola used Russell Crowe and “Gladiator” to motivate Barcelona before its Champions League triumph.
I’d rather my coaches not resort to Hollywood, but Bradley, a Princeton man, probably would have shown clips of Crowe in “A Beautiful Mind.”
I don’t dislike Bradley, though I’ve disagreed with his tactics and player pool decisions. He kept Jozy Altidore on the sidelines far too many times in the past. But everyone watching knows Freddy Adu should play more than he does. And I don’t want this, “he barely plays for his club team” bullshit. There are so many politics in European soccer and Adu’s brashness might not endear him to some. Plus, he’s a midget and can’t play defense, right?
Well, he’s one of the only players we have that has any offensive creativity and can actually pull it off (see Dempsey, Clint). Bradley’s son, Michael, is a stud and bulldog in the midfield. Like I said, dad knows soccer, and he’s ingrained that knowledge into the U.S.’s best midfielder.
Pair Adu with Bradley and you’re set for years. Bring in multipurpose Maurice Edu when he’s healthy and the midfield has creativity, spark and grit. It’s not rocket science. Yet, Bradley continues to send out retreads like Pablo Mastroeni out there time and time again. Pablo was good in his day and a fine servant for U.S. Soccer. But it was obviously apparent he was more than a step too slow Wednesday night. Yet Bradley stubbornly stuck with Mastroeni for 62 painstaking minutes.
Harkes even noted, “Pablo looks exhausted.” It was the 55th minute. He had just had a 30-minute halftime break. It’s not exhausted Harkesy, it’s old. And if these guys aren’t going to be playing for us in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Adu and the likes are the future, why not play them in these high profile, high pressure affairs before the outcome is already decided.
The Americans have another qualifier on Saturday (and yeah, it’s on ESPN) against Honduras. It’s in Chicago, and we all fully expect to see an American win. So I’ll feel better in a few days time, hopefully. But that still freaking sucked, guys. That frigging sucked. And I thought you should know.
We’re filing this under the “Rants” section.