Wednesday, June 23, 2010


As the bad calls piled on the U.S. football team, they never gave up, never stopped believing in themselves, never stopped believing that the game isn’t over until the final whistle blows from the referee. The United States played its best game of the competition against a tough, defensively well organized Algerian team, that was content to counterpunch.

From the start, the United States pushed forward, putting the ball on the ground, opening up the game in the flanks, especially right flank with Cherundolo, playing possession ball and showing the tactical discipline necessary to break down the Algerian defense. The chances came, but the finishing touch kept eluding the players in a nerve-wracking game. The British announcer said redundantly that you could “feel the tension” and recalled a Rolling Stones song, “19th Nervous Breakdown.”

The U.S. team is progressing by leaps and bounds and should play even better in its first round of 16 match, possibly against Germany or Ghana, possibly Serbia or the Aussies. At this point the U.S. doesn’t care: bring ‘em on! Among the notable performances, the defense as a whole was solid. Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit are two outstanding central defenders who command their territory with physicality and confident touch. DeMerit is emerging as a real “sheriff” in the back line, owning the air game and winning his 50-50 challenges. In the match with England, DeMerit won the duel with British star Wayne Rooney, consolidating his starting role on the team.

Setting aside the obvious standouts -- playmaker Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey’s plucky opportunism -- Michael Bradley, the coach’s son, is team MVP. The team’s engine, Bradley is the midfield link from defense to offense, through which the U.S. transition game passes. His tireless work, running the length of the pitch and organizing the attack was key to the U.S.’s time of possession and ultimate victory. Up front, Jozy Altidore, the talented 20 year-old striker is the team’s post-up reference in the air and power speed on the ground, counterattacking with danger behind the back of the defense. Finally, Landon Donovan has grown into his role as the team’s go-to guy, its best player and playmaker. This could be his Cup to make a lasting imprint.

It didn’t come easy, but in the last analysis this was no fluke, no “miracle.” From the start the United States was clearly the superior team and unlike, e.g., the French and British, played through adversity and bad referee calls to be rewarded with a first place group finish for the first time since 1930. It just goes to show that hard work, the team’s belief in themselves, and a never-say-die attitude pays off in the end. That’s what separates the winners from losers in any sport.

This was the headline from Brasil’s newspaper, O Globo. Perfect.

1 comment:

okbushmans said...

AWESOME! I screamed so loud, I made my 10 mo. old start crying, and she didn't stop for quite a while. And after my initial scream, I kept watching intently to make sure they wouldn't call it back!