Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Lightning Strikes Twice

WTF? Did the two teams today switch kits while no one was looking? Certainly that wasn't Spain going down to the US Nats 2-0, couldn't have been. We're talking about a team that had gone 15-0-0 before this game. A team that hadn't been beaten for 35 straight. A team that features players that are possible considered worth more on the world market individually than the entire US roster put together... well, at least until today, that is.

Josimer Altidore, who's future for the US I'd always considered to be bright sense I first became aware of him, has served notice that his future starts now with 2 goal in the last two games. The way he plays it's hard to believe that he's still only 19 years old.

Sure, his goal today wasn't a thing of beauty, but he used his strength in holding his position, and then powered the ball in off of Iker Casillas' glove as the keeper was caught leaning the wrong way. Young Jozy then earned a yellow card taking his jersey off during his goal celebration, reveling nothing more than a plain white, long sleeved undershirt. It's a rather silly rule, if you ask me, but that's FIFA for you.

Clint Dempsey joined Altidore in the 2 for 2 run when, for the second game in a row, he was moved up to join Jozy up front in the second half and put the ball to the back of the net himself, stripping Gerard Pique of the ball before the Spanish defender could clear a deflected pass from Landon Donovan.

What was truly amazing is that both Donovan and Dempsey took their respective defensive responsibilities seriously today, and showed that they can actually handle that part of the job. Until today even announcer, and former US National Team, captain John Harkes had blasted them for their lack of effectiveness in the defensive end of the pitch.

The only real negative to come out of the game today was that Michael Bradley saw a direct red card late in the second half. Honestly, I don't think that it deserved more than a yellow, but young Bradley has earned a reputation for rough tackles, and as any Newell's fan can tell you, once you have that rep, the referees will tend to be that much quicker in booking you.

So now it's on to the final on Sunday, sans Bradley who will have to sit it out. Tomorrow we'll know who they play, though between Brazil and South Africa I'm fairly certain of the out come... but then this morning while I was breakfasting at a Coney I had a brief discussion with one of the cooks as to what we thought might happen today. Neither of us had any expectations beyond Spain making it past the US with ease.

Spain played with skill, the US with their heart, grit, and determination. Some times all the skill in the world amounts to nothing. Maybe, just maybe, the South Africans can pull off that kind of miracle against Brazil.

Until then, if I come across a pig I'm going to have to take some time to check it over to see if maybe, just maybe, there's signs of it growing wings.

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