Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Beautiful Game ...

... played, unfortunately, in the ugliest way possible by Americans.  Jürgen Klinsmann was right:  We're not going to win the World Cup.

The last fifteen of the 120 minutes played versus Belgium were scintillating.  A pleasure to watch. But rose-colored glasses shouldn't be allowed to tart up the reality of the public embarrassment that was the first 105.  Or our consideration of the general USA performance.  Which, frankly, was ugly.  Were it not for the stunning play of Tim Howard, you could have turned the match off at halftime.  Done -- let's find a bar.

Yes we made it to the Round of 16.  And that's something, for sure.  But of the 64 teams comprising the World Cup field, we, as of just prior to the Belgium game, ranked 63rd in possession time.  63rd!  Dude!  It's hard to believe that, at this point in the development of US soccer, we could field a team with such miserable technical skills.

Part of why they call soccer the Beautiful Game is that it's not obvious.  It's a game full of subtlety.  A backwards pass can be as important as a forward one.  One pass sets up a second, which sets up a third, which sets up a shot, etc.  A magical geometry of triangles.  Flow flow flow.  Blah blah blah.  I'm babbling, but I suppose the point is that one can go on and on.

Anyway, there are no magical triangles in the American game.  In fact, one rarely saw them piece together three passes period, much less three with any degree of cogency; with any sense of a larger strategic purpose.  Leading the way, in my book at least, was Michael Bradley.  Which is sad -- maybe he was hurt or something -- because he's a better player than what he showed.  But he stunk up the joint almost from start to finish.  And I say this with the full knowledge that it was his supremely sweet pass that led to our only score in the Belgium match.  And I also acknowledge that he probably runs longer distances and generally hustles more than anybody on the US side.

And I don't care how much sunscreen he puts on, how does his head stay so white?

Maybe it's like a thing.
Maybe.

There's a school of thought that suggests Bradley was asked to play too forward a game, that his strength lies in orchestrating from more of a defensive position.  Maybe so.  Hey, you do what the coach tells you to do.  So maybe that's Klinsmann's bad.  But if I have to choose between Bradley and my boy, Klinsmann, I'm going with Jürgen all the way.

At least when he was playing he knew to pass the ball to the Germans.

Wait ... I take that back.  Bradley was also excellent at passing to the Germans.

Let the Tour de France begin.


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