Something Great

Arsene Wenger cobbled together starting lineups with spit and duct tape and Denilson and somehow the team dragged its ass over the finish line in third or fourth.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

USA vs. Brasil Game Notes

A few things before the game begins. It must be awkward to be a top 20 team scheduled to play the United States. Awkward for several reasons. The first is that Fifa has the United States ranked 14th in the world which at first glance seems at least 5 places too high. Though, if you look at the rankings:

10, France
11, Portugal
12, Turkey
13, Paraguay
14, USA
15, Czech Republic
16, Switzerland
17, Greece
17, Uruguay
19, Ukraine
20, Serbia

perhaps the US doesn't seem that highly ranked after all. In my personal opinion numbers 15, 16, 17 and depending on the outcome today, other 17 should be ahead of them but I will avoid splitting hairs. What is quite clear, however, is that the USA has no business being ahead of Paraguay, Turkey, Portugal, or France. In that sense they are adequately ranked but the tier of competition falls off so dramatically at 13 that the ranking of "14" seems to indicate one place-value below "13," when in reality its more like BCS vs. Football Bowl Subdivision. The rankings are not perfect, i.e. Egypt, winners of the African Nations Cup months ago, are ranked 40th, ahead of Costa Rica at 41, who smoked the United States. Not to mention England, who didn't qualify for the Euro's and hasn't beaten a real team in years, is currently sitting 5th. Wow. I digress.

So it must be awkward because the US is clearly on a lower level than top 13 teams but they should be so much better than they are, yet aren't, so yeah, it's just awkward to play a team like that. If you win, great, everyone legit beats them, but if you lose, you got beat by a crappy team that the world seemingly hasn't aknowledged as crappy yet. Are they underperforming, overperforming, I don't know. Whatever.

The second thing I wanted to mention before the ra, er, match begins is that Kaka has not seemed himself lately. The decline I mention hasn't shown up in the stats, in fact, the stat sheet shows him in top form. He seems to have lost a step - Caceres ran him down more than once in the open field, something I have never witnessed. And he also seems to lose possession more often than I remember. I know it seems like this is a complaint that Kobe is dunking with his left hand more often than his stronger right, but still, the club world seems to have coronated him as the 2nd best player ever and to me he seems like he's falling from soccer-god to extremely talented mortal. Just throwing it out there.

Alright, here we go 5 minutes to kick...

Brasil has thrown out a diplomatically appopriate line-up. No Juan, Elano and Daniel Alves. Hmmm, I wonder if this has anything to do with the fact that the United States is Brasil's largest purchaser of exports by a wide margin. 18% vs the next highest (Argentina) at 8%.

The US however, trying to trump Brasil's subdued line-up has thrown out at least one turd in DeMarcus Beasley. What a joke. So far off to a bad start. Not to mention Bradley is leaving out Adu and a TLOCA favorite in Benny Feilhaber. If Adu continues to ride the pine I'm going to assume that Domenech has taken over our team and Adu must be a capricorn. There is no other reason. None.

1' - Announcer Del Carmen (or dellacamera or harkes, I forget) thinks that Bornstein has done a "good job" at full-back so far. True story, I wrote in the last entry that Bornstein was horrible but then Demerit stole the show so I deleted it because I didn't want to hate too much.

5' - The US hasn't gotten out of there own half but no threats of even half-chances yet so it's all good. We have fouled 3 times already and are on pace for 75.

6' - Whaddaya know. That foul apparently leads to an uncontested header from, hmm, 3 feet inside the six. I wonder when the United States is going to stop "zone" marking on free-kicks. Half our defenders zone mark, half man-mark and usually it ends with the defensive strategy of "not marking anyone." Brasil 1, USA 0

8' - We're already talking about how losing today won't necessarily eliminate us from the competition. Nice.

10' - Brasil starts dancing. Another foul. This time it was a dive though. This leads to Fabiano in on goal from a Beasley give-away who crosses to Robinho. The Chester City man scuffs it and misses an "easy 2nd." No bias here, those weren't my words.

14' - Kaka breaks through and leads to a corner. Del Carmen sarcastically describes the play, "well he's the most expensive player in the world ha ha." He's really bitter.

18' - I don't care how good the coach's son is, you still lose accountability to the fans and in the lockerroom. It's impossible to objectively analyze your son or criticize him in the lockerroom.

19' - Well so much for my Kaka has lost a step point earlier. He dribbled 60 yards and Bradley showed no signs of catching him.

20' - Um. Wow. Hahahahaha. A Beasley give-away from a botched corner kick in Brasil's half leads to a ridiculous run-out in which Michael Bradley is asked to run down 2 "flying" Brasilians. 2 on 1, Robinho finishes with ease. He then goes to talk to a microphone behind the goal.
Brasil 2, USA 0

21' - The replay shows that Beasley runs close to Donovan for a set short-corner play. Donovan passes him the ball, it rolls under Beasley foot, and causes the debacle. Technical difficulties, cue the Confederations Cup logo.

?' - Alexei Lalas back at the studio not so calmy explains that we need to "mark your men, its as simple as that." Not much analysis to be made I suppose.

26' - annnnnd we're back. We have absolutely no midfield marking whatsoever and Ramires, who is looking to pass, ends up slow dribbling 30 yards upfield, plays through to Fabiano running free and Howard clears. This diary is likely to end at half. My goodness.

33' - We have a corner and it doesn't lead to a goal by Brasil so we've fixed that snafu from before. The resulting crosses are cleared away. Oneywu takes a yellow to prevent another break. That's fine.

37' - The mexican wave has begun. Also, while I was trying to kill a gnat that somehow entered my apartment I look up and Fabiano is in alone. He kind of shoots but doesn't even care. That bastard always tries against Uruguay.

38' - Donovan makes that run he always makes which is really fun to watch. It leads to nothing because he passed to someone not named Jozy Altidore. You know the run, streaking up the field, flies by a few dudes. It happens once a half typically.

40' - Gilberto Silva misses a sort-of contested header over the bar. I remember that all too well. On a positive not we're sort of guarding people now!

42' - Robinho is being obnoxious and Oneywu barely touches him. Another weak call. This leads to a hilarious free-kick in which 2 Brasilians back post were so open they didn't really know what to do or how to comunicate who should do the scoring in such situation. It bounces, they kind of look at eachother, and then one of them shanks it over the goal and shrugs. I shrug as well.


50' - Best 5 minutes the US has played yet. It's obvious we're trying now.

57' - Another red card! What is going on here. Kleijstan (sp) cleated some dude in the ankle pretty flagrantly but my goodness, are there no warnings any more.

58' - Gilberto Silva heads over the bar again. Sorry, I feel obligated to mention every time he doesn't score when he probably should.

60' - Spector is our best player out there. Besides Donovan of course. Nah, just Spector actually. Bradley throws in the towel again by taking out Jozy. At least he put in Feilhaber.

62' - Let's go Egypt! Brasil 3, USA 0 Maicon completes a beautiful give and go and give and score utilizing 4 players in a staggered run. This will also end the game notes unless there is something worth noting.

We need Egypt to win. If Egypt draws against Italy then we'd have to beat Egypt by four (as of right now) plus whatever Italy beats Brasil by should they also win. So let's hope they beat Italy and then we can control our own fate.

Monday, June 15, 2009

USA vs Italy - Confederations Cup

It's official, ESPN has begun advertising for the World Cup 2010. The ad shows Lahm's first goal (a neat far-post upper 90) and then Grosso's no-no-no-I-can't-believe head shake and then I don't remember anything after that because I get goosebumps and have to close my eyes. This is the voice in my head when I see it. That clip makes me want to guffaw, cry and throw-up all at the same time and I don't even care about Italy.

There's always time for nostalgia but I have more important things to get to, namely, Giuseppe Rossi effectively ending his citizenship in the United States. Traitor.

Italy vs. USA
Landon Donovan has 10 goals in 24 international appearances. That's not too shabby when you consider that many knowing soccer fans contend that Donovan is the USA's best player. If you would agree with such an assessment then I have a very, very worrying caveat to that statistic. 8 of those goals are from penalty kicks. 1 is from a free-kick and the other is from "free play." Yikes. I like that he is efficient from the spot but my goodness, 1 goal in 24 appearances from flowing soccer? That's reveals something. More on this later.

To the game:
The US looks really frisky! Italy seems a little slow out of the gates and we could make this happen. I watch Michael Bradley scuff the ball and blow a free shot on Buffon just outside the six and I think, hmmm, that reveals something. Then a few minutes later, Jozy Altidore (America's soccer equivalent of Barack Obama) also mishits a shot bearing down on Buffon. Hmmm.
What's that Ricardo Clark, you're an idiot? Yes you are. It may be a bad call but he sees red and we're down to 10 men. Ricardo has no explanation for kicking Gattuso in the upper-knee 3 seconds after the ball had vacated the area so does it really matter it was a harsh card? The answer is, "Ricardo Clarke is an idiot." Landon converts a PK - of course - but if you didn't know, the sun is setting on this game. Sorry Alexei Lalas but it's true.

By the way, allow me to take this space to illustrate Alexei Lalas' career for the red white and blue. Lalas led the United States in 1994 to a 3rd place group finish and a -1 goal differential overall losing in the first round of the knock-out stages. In 1998 Lalas led the United States to a -4 goal differential and last place finish in the group stages. But he did have a weird hair-do!

If I had to liken him to one other US player I'd go with Brandi Chastain. So yeah, Alexei Lalas.

Halftime. Back to the studio where we're joined by Alexei Lalas! What a coincidence. Anyway, Alex, sporting a subdued haircut, rants about the horrible call on Ricardo Clarke. He then, let the record show, claims that Jozy embellished the PK but, "hey, that's what you have to do." Very interesting. I personally don't think that Jozy embellished the foul and even if he did I do agree, that's what you have to do. So at least Lalas and I agree on that.

The 2nd half starts and wouldn't you know it, that son of a bitch Jersey trash traitor subs on. I speak of course of Giuseppe Rossi. Then a few moments later, on his first touch, he steals the ball, takes a few strides and absolutely launches past Tim Howard. 1-1. Just like that.

Does anyone else think that Tim Howard is becoming overrated a shocking pace? I digress.

Italy is the one that looks frisky now and our only hope, Jozy, gets subbed off in the 66th minute. Chances of the US holding on for 1 point fall like BearStearn's stock. 5 minutes later Daniele De Rossi, no relation to Giuseppe, rolls a shot past Tim Howard for number 2. It bounces perhaps tre times, passes by tre players (who all have enough time to react to it) and does not hit the side netting from 35 out. Announcers blame Iguchi for screening Timothy. That's interesting - usually a shot from 35 out is well seen. I'm no goal-keeper though, just someone who can count how many times a ball bounces before it rolls into the back of the net.

1 minute later (72nd) we officially throw in the towel. Do you know how I know - Demarcus Beasley subs onto the pitch. I stay tuned because hey, there are always set pieces for the US to score on. Luca Toni misses three easy chances - apparently he hasn't quite shaken that National Team slump he's in. This immediately changes my mindset from, hey let's steal one back, to, hey lets just not get embarrassed. Nope. Giuseppe smashes home a volley after Pirlo walks, read that correctly, walks by Jay Demerit. 3-1.

I hope Cash Cab is on. This reminds me I need to call my friend Jon and ask him if he ever rode in the Cash Cab when he lived in New York. Jon was always trying to hail that cash cab.