Tuesday, June 24, 2014

USA-Portugal - Post Match Thoughts

Things we thought we would see:

4-2-3-1 with Zusi and Bedoya - check
USA attacking down the flanks to try to get Ronaldo to defend - check
Ronaldo be Ronaldo - unfortunately, check
Two goals from the US - check
A shutout from the US - absolutely not.
A win - SO CLOSE!

Things we did not expect:

A wonder-goal
Strike that, a wonder-goal from Jermain Jones no less!
Portugal to sit back so much - or for the US to be able to attack so well for so long
Yedlin at right middie

Some overall thoughts.

The late goal hurts, no doubt. But let's not let that make us forget a few things.

First, we gave up an AWFUL goal that Portugal did not deserve at a terrible time in the match, and it did not matter. We did what Ghana couldn't do to us - shake it off to take the lead.

That comeback was impressive. If you still have it, go back and listen to Steve McManaman, RVN, etc., and how they marveled at the way the US attacked - not just with passion and determination, which has been a US soccer hallmark for years now, but with skill and tactical awareness. McManaman specifically seemed significantly more impressed with the USA than his beloved England, and you know that wasn't something easy for him to share.

And Ruud Van Nistelrooy going on and on about the US attack? That guy knows a few things about attacking football, y'all.

And goodness gracious, great balls of fire, that goal from Jones. That GOAL from Jones. Man.

If Messi had hit that, they would be calling it an all time great.

And then you MLSers out there - Seattle to Toronto to Kansas City to Seattle (2nd) for the second goal. The goal that should have beaten the No. 4 team in the world.

Remember, this is the Group of Death. It is named that for a reason. Portugal was not going to go quietly without a fight, and all they needed was a moment's hesitation to score. And also remember, that Christian Ronaldo guy is kinda good. Frankly, listening to the non-soccer or new-to-soccer people marvel at that cross tells me that it really is sinking in how beautiful this game can be - and how cruel.

But also remember this - the USA has bossed its two first games, and it took a miracle from the best player in the world for it not to be a second consecutive win for the Norteamericanos. No, that isn't revisionist history - if you listen to the tactical discussions, you will hear that the Ghana game played out they was the team wanted, to a large extent. Maybe it was a bit more slanted than they wanted, but they were up a goal, so that is going to happen. But allowing Ghana to try to own possession, not be in their usual counterattack mode, and forcing them to try to break down our central defense was the plan and it worked to a very large extent.

No no no - the US not only belongs in the Group of Death, we are at worst the second best team in it, and we find out on Thursday if we are the best or not. Yes, to be fair, there is real danger that Ghana beats Portugal and in a wide open game with Germany, a loss is certainly possible. The Manaus Effect is also a concern, as is a day's less rest. But this isn't the 1998 US team that is just hoping to hold on. You have a number of quality players who have shown they can play this game - well - and are hungry to again do it against the best in the world.

Breaking things down, that is for another article. Thanks as always for reading.

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