There are many lingering questions after yesterday’s riveting 2-2 tie.
- Is Malian referee Koman Coulibaly incompetent, corrupt, or both?
I think he’s simply incompetent. If he was paid off or had a vendetta against the US, he certainly would’ve sent off Clint Dempsey in the first minute of the game when Dempsey provided the opportunity by elbowing a Slovene. Coulibaly made many, many mind-baffling calls, but none more influential than the phantom foul he called against nobody-knows-who in the dying moments of the game, just before second-half substitute Maurice Edu slammed a Landon Donovan free kick into the back of the goal to seemingly give the US a 3-2 lead. Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Coulibaly’s World Cup is likely over as FIFA is expediting his performance review. I’d like to put him on an island with Hugh Dallas (2002 missed handball against Germany), Jorge Lorrianda (2009- ejected Bradley for an innocuous challenge in Confederations Cup semifinal then reported him for verbal abuse which got Bradley a three game suspension, 2006- ejected Mastroeni and Eddie Pope in group match against Italy) , Wolfgang Starg (2008- ejected Michael Orozco for a soft elbow in the 3rd minute in the final group match against Nigeria) and Peter Prendergrast (2001- called a phantom penalty for Costa Rica in stoppage time for a handball when in fact the ball clearly hit Greg Berhalter in the head) and see how these egomaniacs interrelate. The America-hating NYT has come to Coulibaly’s defense, at least regarding the goal disallowing call, with a well-reasoned argument. The problem with the argument, however, is that good judgment and the ability to understand the context of the game are the most important attributes of officials, and to make that call reveals that Coulibaly possesses neither.
- Is Oguchi Onyewu the best option in one of the two center back slots?
Probably not. He was at fault for both goals yesterday due to slow reactions, and a healthy Gooch would’ve scored on the set piece delivery Donovan sent to the far post. Why was he playing five yards deeper than the other three defenders on the second goal? Perhaps Gooch was not trusting enough of his ability to recover if a ball was played into space behind him. On the first goal, he needed to step hard to the ball and stay big. Physically, Gooch may be ready. To be match fit, especially at this level, you must be mentally sharp as well as physically fit; reactions must be instinctual and without delay. Gooch is not there. My answer is “probably not” instead of a simple “no” because I don’t know if Clarence Goodson or Jonathan Spector are better options (don’t even mention Jonathan Bornstein). If Bob Bradley keeps the faith with Gooch, I hope he improves on yesterday’s performance. Cohesion and communication are so important on defense that I’d likely stick with the same back four, but strongly consider playing Spector on the left and slide Carlos Bocanegra into the middle.
- Will Jose Torres ever play more than a half of a game he starts?
Other than one bad giveaway in the defensive half, I thought Torres played well. The Edu and Benny Feilhaber double switch worked, obviously, but I was hoping Torres would still be on the field when the second half started. Torres is a threat on set pieces; he can control games with his quick, incisive passing. He was not a defensive liability. There were four or five defenders playing against two Slovenes on each goal. The World Cup is not a time for a team to figure out how to best use a player so we may not see Torres in a starting role again, which is disappointing.
- Can you believe the Slovene goalkeeper ducked to avoid being decapitated by Donovan’s goal?
Ha! That was awesome.
- If I have a son and name him Michael Landon, will you think of Little House on the Prairie or US soccer?
- Which two teams are going to qualify?
All four teams have it all to play for next Wednesday. I can’t wait to watch.