$ start stream of consciousness
So the U.S. is now out of the tournament after last night's game. It felt worse than a loss because they played far below their potential. I don't really blame the coach for this one, although some US soccer commentators do.
Prior to the tournament, the goal Jurgen Klinsmann had was to reach the Semi-finals, which they did. Along the way, they had to get out of a pretty decent group (by CONCACAF standards), and they won an elimination game in the tournament. So in some sense, they did achieve that, but to put it in perspective, the narrative, has always been that "soccer is growing in this country", the team used to be amateurs and college players, now we also have professionals with our own domestic soccer league that is growing in skill-level and popularity. That has been the case since 1994 supposedly (or 1972 if you believe the Men in Blazers).
The semi-final in Copa America, really isn't that deep when compared to FIFA World Cups, where you have: Group stage, Round of 16, then Quarterfinals, Semi-finals and the Final championship.
- So we made the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002
- We went just as deep in the 1995 Copa America, making the semi-finals that year, losing to then world champion's, Brazil, 1-0 (we also managed to beat Argentina that year 3-0, I literally have no conscious memory of any of this).
- Loss to Colombia 2-0.
- Wins against Costa Rica, Paraguay and Ecuador
- Then being blown out, in front of home crowd by Argentina 4-0.
So anyway, that is my perspective, I guess the disappointment is higher since it seemed like there had been some incremental progress leading up to this game. But historically I think we are just getting lucky here or there and still staying a fairly mediocre national team. It doesn't seem like as a nation we have taken the game as seriously as other countries, we have not gotten better in 20 years after the sport supposedly "broke through" and we got our domestic league off the ground. It can be even argued, that our best players are squandering opportunities to play in more competitive European leagues, than for lucrative MLS contracts in the ol' US of A.
About the game itself.Argentina played well overall. Messi had an amazing goal. They just had more talent, it is obvious. But the US played absolutely terrible soccer. Some people say Klinsmann lineup was too conservative with all the players suspended (Wood, Bedoya, Jones). But I can't really blame him, for putting some more veteran and defensive players in, it's not like you would expect us to try to outgun Argentina with our offense. That said, the players themselves did them no service, so it looked worse than the decision was.
First goal at the start of the game, total defensive mistake, questionable goalkeeping. Totally changed the pace of the game, as Argentina could sit back and US had to force to try to get the ball at all.
On the Offense:
- I like Clint Dempsey, and he was having a good tournament, until last night. I am not sure how much is to blame for him. Mostly no one was able to complete a pass through midfield, so that's not really his fault. He is not a super fast striker, so he doesn't threaten so much, reminds me of World Cup vs Belgium.
- Gyasi Zardes , is supposed to be a young, fast talent. Yet, throughout the entire tournament, whenever he got the ball at his feet, it seemed to magically bounce off and land in front of an opponent. The guy has no ball handling/dribbling skills. His goal was tapping in to a wide open net. He missed tons of other chances, and I did not seem him even shoot the ball impressively once in all the games I saw. His passing was poor too.
- Kyle Beckerman, the supposedly strong, defensive midfielder, he seemed lost against Argentina defensively. But worse, whenever he had the ball, he would either a) Pass backwards b) opt for a long ball pass with no accuracy and little or no success all night. I hated watching him last world cup too (he stinks), he always passes backwards.
- Michael Bradley, sweet, sweet, Michael Bradley, dear God. He is supposed to be really smart, tactical "European-experienced" player, the hope for this team. But he doesn't do that, he was terrible last night, and had plenty of missed passes. There were jokes about him completing more passes to the Argentinian team. This is not about being pressured, or Argentina being SOO much better, he just flat out made dumb decisions and poorly executed passes. Also guilty of the pass backwards phenomena. One of Bradley's bad passes led directly to the ball going to Messi who passed it to wide open Higuain for the 4th goal. In retrospect, it might be more apparent how much Bradley was benefited by having Jermaine Jones by his side for most of the early games, since despite his own flaws, has at least some composure with the ball under pressure.
The US got 0 shots on goal. their top 6 forward players all play for MLS, coincidence?
The most entertainment I got that evening was watching the post-game livestream on Vice Sports by the Men in Blazers, as they downed glasses of scotch and complained bitterly. Best line of the night is captured in this tweet quoting Rog: