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US 1 Ghana 2, 2010 World Cup

Bocanegra

I have been following the national team since 1994, as what I would consider a serious bordering obsessive fan since 1999.  I’m totally bummed about the result of today’s match.  Tonight, when the disappointment started setting in, I realized that I am most disappointed that I won’t have the pleasure of watching this team play again in this tournament.  As a fan, I can’t ask for much more than that.

US 1 Algeria 0, 2010 World Cup


Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal lifted the US to a fully deserved first-place finish in group C ahead of England, Slovenia, and France’s D team, Algeria, where dirty play, frosted hair, and hideous haircuts are all the rage.  After a nervy start in which Jay DeMerit and Steve Cherundolo whiffed on clearances, which resulted in good chances for the Algerians, the Americans took over and dominated the match until the final whistle.  Perhaps DeMerit was distracted by a gash in his tongue that required five stitches after the match.  Who would have guessed?  The US kept its doctors busy: Clint Dempsey’s lip required four stitches after being split open by a punch/forearm/elbow from Algerian defender Yahia.  The referees didn’t see the punch: if they did, Yahia would’ve been ejected earlier than he was and the US would have gotten a penalty.  The missed penalty, ejection, and a blown offside call that disallowed a perfectly valid US goal could have been major talking points if the match ended 0-0.  Fortunately for the US and its fans, on this day, Donovan made the petty details irrelevant by scoring a glorious goal.

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US 2 Slovenia 2, 2010 World Cup

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.

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US 1 England 1, 2010 World Cup

Most of the talk after the most anticipated game the US has played in recent memory was centered on the mistake England goalkeeper Robert Green made.  I read and heard casual fans and fanatics alike conclude that the draw was a lucky result for the US.  What that conclusion fails to understand, however, is that the context of the game dictates the approach the players’ take.  In other words, if Green stops Dempsey’s shot, the rest of the game would not unfold just as it did Saturday.  The US would push forward more, and I am convinced, would have scored.  You could just as easily say that England was lucky to draw because Green made a wonderful save on Jozy Altidore, knocking his low hard shot off the crossbar after Altidore burned the hack of a defender Jamie Carragher…or that England surely should have won if not for Timmy Howard’s tremendous save after Emile Heskey broke through.  If ifs and buts were candy and nuts, we’d all have a merry World Cup.

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USA 2 Costa Rica 2, 2010 World Cup Qualifier

Fan Tribute to Injured Charlie Davies

Photo from dcunited’s flickr stream: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dcunited/4014318316/

The US overcame a two-goal deficit, horrendous finishing, playing down a man, and playing with heavy hearts with their teammate  Charlie Davies in the hospital to tie a Costa Rica team desperate for the win that would qualify them for next summer’s World Cup.  Jonathan Bornstein’s header from a Robbie Rogers corner kick in the 95th minute leveled the score 2-2 and secured first place in CONCACAF for the US after a grueling 16-month tournament.  On the other side, it was heartbreak for Costa Rica; the tie pushed them into fourth place which means a two-game playoff with Uruguay, CONMEBOL’s fifth place team, will decide which nation will be the final team to qualify for South Africa.

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USA 3 Honduras 2, 2010 World Cup Qualifier

Conor Casey

Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Mission Accomplished. The US is going to South Africa after scoring three goals in the second half and surviving a few scares in the dying moments against a Honduras team that had won all eight of its prior home games in 2010 qualifying.  Conor Casey scored the first two goals and drew the foul that led to the third.  Donovan scored the third, expertly hitting a direct kick over a five-man wall and into the upper corner from 20 yards.  Honduras had scored in the first two minutes of the second half on a similar direct kick.  They were fortunate to be credited with a second goal after a missed offside call, but unfortunate to miss a penalty with five minutes remaining.  Having missed the first 30 minutes and only able to watch the remainder of the game on an Internet feed, it is difficult to judge individual performances.  What I will say is that qualification is not easy, no matter where you are in the world (ask fans of Portugal or Argentina or Nigeria), and the US is in for the sixth consecutive World Cup.  Kudos to Bob Bradley.  The US won all its home matches (with one remaining) and won in Trinidad & Tobago and Honduras.

Here are some good articles/posts from journalists who were either at the game or able to watch it on a decent feed.

Americans Qualify for World Cup Steven Goff, Washington Post

Where’s the Love for U.S.’ Casey? Greg Lalas, Sports Illustrated

USA 3, Honduras 2: The U.S. is in the 2010 World Cup Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated

USA 1 Trinidad and Tobago 0, 2010 World Cup Qualifier

Ricardo Clark celebrates scoring

(AFP/Bertrand de Peaza)

With two matchdays remaining, the United States is back on top of the CONCACAF table after it posted a rare away victory against Trinidad and Tobago.  In the 24 matches played in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying, the away team has only won three times (the US and Costa Rica at T&T, and Mexico at Costa Rica).  In the other two CONCACAF matches last night the home team won 1-0: Mexico over Honduras and El Salvador over the suddenly pedestrian Costa Rica.  The US also won 1-0 on the strength of a wonderstrike by midfielder Ricardo Clark, who particularly relished scoring while his Trinidadian father was in attendance in the Port of Spain.

The performance of the US is not something to remember: looking tired and unmotivated, it was only the woodwork that kept Cornell Glen and T&T off the scoreboard in the first half.  The US was unable to possess the ball or close down T&T quickly which can often lead to exciting open matches.  On this night, however, it led to sloppy play that just left me scratching my head.  Is this the team that beat Spain 2-0?  Excuses abound: you play down to the level of your opponent; eight plus hours of travel from Salt Lake City to Port of Spain, just seven miles off the coast of Venezuela, took its toll; it was hot; the pitch was bumpy; T&T was playing without pressure; the stadium lacked atmosphere as the stands were only half-full.  As a family friend used to say, “Excuses are like b-holes; everyone has one.”  So it was good to see an improved performance in the second half and a grind-it-out victory that teams with greater histories are known for.

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USA 2 El Salvador 1, 2010 World Cup Qualifying

Clint Dempsey

(AFP/File/Pierre-Philippe Marcou)

In a press conference leading up to last night’s World Cup Qualifying match against El Salvador in Utah a reporter asked manager Bob Bradley when it becomes about style rather than just points; Bradley said, “It’s always about points.”  Though I agree it sure would have been nice to see a neater performance from a makeshift US side that needed the full three points to remain in one of the three top spots in the table that guarantee a spot in South Africa next year.

Similar to the Honduras match, the US went down 1-0 in the first half.  El Salvador’s two best players on the night, Zelaya and Castillo, combined to beat five US players with a cutback, cross and an innocuous header that Tim Howard badly misplayed.  Zelaya collected a “clearance” from Jonathan Bornstein that landed at the top of the 18.  Ridiculous.  Bornstein had the worst game of the US players, defending with panic and consistently turning the ball over when trying to possess.  Too often with the ball and without an idea, Bornstein would simply lump it forward. His chance for continued playing time took a severe blow when it was announced that Mexican-American Edgar Castillo is now eligible to play for the US, after FIFA accepted his transfer request from Mexico.  Last night I was hoping to see Jonathan Spector on the left side of defense with Steve Cherundolo on the right, something we’ll likely see Wednesday against Trinidad & Tobago.  Spector was beat on the goal, but put enough pressure on Castillo to force a weak, savable header.  The rest of the night he was solid defending and composed in possession.  He delivered a wonderful cross to Clint Dempsey, but Dempsey bungled it.  It is hard to imagine a fully healthy US side without Spector.

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USA 1 Mexico 2, 2010 World Cup Qualifier


REUTERS/Henry Romero (MEXICO SPORT SOCCER)

Rivalry games are rarely pretty.  Yesterday was no exception: the US defended for the better part of 90 minutes and ended up paying for it when it surrendered the go-ahead goal in the 83rd minute after a defensive breakdown and a lucky bounce.  I hoped for better after such a bright start.  A quick passing sequence, from Michael Bradley to Landon Donovan to Charlie Davies, led to a goal inside 10 minutes.  Unfortunately we were only able to hold the lead for 10 minutes.  Besides Panamanian referee Roberto Moreno, the most disappointing performances on the day came from Carlos Bocanegra and Clint Dempsey, the occupants of the left side of the US defense where both goals came from.

The first goal for Mexico was a spectacular 25 yard shot.  The ball flew over Tim Howard and then dipped under the crossbar.  For me, the play started when Moreno didn’t call a clear foul on Mexico which allowed Mexico to unbalance the Americans.   If you don’t believe me, go to the video (the foul is at 1:20).   Israel Castro clearly grabs Donovan as Donovan dribbles past him.  Then Donovan is possibly fouled a second time on the tackle though that is not clear from the video.  Central midfielders Ricardo Clark and Michael Bradley got caught on the right side covering for Donovan when Cuauhtémoc Blanco broke the pressure with a cutting move and then toe poke to the cheater Castro.  Castro hit the shot of his life.  I’m still not sure how Howard didn’t get a finger on it.

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US Gold Cup 2009 Group Stage (2-0-1)

US 4 Grenada 0 / US 2 Honduras 0 / US 2 Haiti 2

Photo by ISI Photos

The US, fielding a roster of mostly second and third choice players, won its group and qualified for the Gold Cup quarterfinals on the strength of two wins and a tie.  Manager Bob Bradley has chosen to use the tournament to give fringe players a chance to impress.  For those who have not seen the matches, you have not missed much.  Unfortunately everything about the tournament has been second-rate: the opponents were weak; two of the three games were on artificial turf; and the games are only available on Fox Soccer Channel and Telefutura.

A handful of first-team players have made appearances.  Benny Feilhaber and Charlie Davies appeared as substitutes in the game against Honduras and both were clearly a step above everyone else on the field.  Almost from the moment they entered the game it was clear why they are first-team players and players like Freddy Adu, Logan Pause and Brad Evans are not.  Before returning to their club teams this week Heath Pearce and Steve Cherundolo patrolled the fullback positions.  Both were excellent as you would expect players with their experience to be in less challenging circumstances.

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