Sunday, June 27, 2010

USA World Cup Dreams Denied By Ghana... Again

The 2006 World Cup in Germany the USA couldn't even get out of the group stage, so I suppose that making it to the second round, winning their group over England via goals scored should be considered an improvement. In truth, during the group stage, they were a much better team than they were four years ago... well, at least in the second half.

At this very moment ESPN Classic is repeating the USA's 2-1, overtime loss to Ghana in the second round. Yes, I could have, perhaps should have written about this yesterday, but I've been working a lot of overtime of late, and as much as I'd like to post daily reports on what has happened at the Cup I just haven't had the energy.

Ghana should have been beatable. They dumped the US out in 2006, so the US had every reason to go out and play with conviction to win. Instead, their old weaknesses come back to haunt them, along with their new weakness of giving up goals early. Yes, if the USA could play a full 90 the way they have played every 2nd half they've played in South Africa they could well have gone a lot further than the 2nd round, despite still making too many passes directly to the feet of their intended target (who stands there waiting for the ball, flatfooted,) a lack of a solid finisher up front (Charlie Davies surely was missed, but even he isn't exactly what I'd call a goal poacher,) two players playing wide in midfield who don't have the kind of speed that is needed there.

Yes, Landon Donovan is the USA's best player, but, in my opinion, he'd be better off playing as a central attacking midfielder with the freedom to roam the width of the pitch. Even then, he appears to have developed a fear of physical contact. Every time he had the ball against on a dribble and was confronted by an opposing defender, he'd turn away from the challenge rather than try and dribble past his man. With a bit more backbone Landon could have gotten past the defender, or possibly drawn a foul.

Clint Dempsey would serve the team better as a striker. Just look at his track record, just about every time he's been moved up to the front line he's found the back of the net. He is, again, this is my opinion, the only US player with a true understanding of the game. The game isn't just being sound tactically and technically, it isn't the physical conditioning. Yes, all these things are needed, but what Dempsey has that the rest of the USA's attacking forces lack is a bit of flare, the instinct to try something a little different, something unexpected. It was this trait that earned the US a draw against first round opponents England, and it was a Dempsey run into the box that earned the USA a penalty.

Personally, I think Dempsey should have been given the nod to take the spot kick, but Donovan converted to level the score, so I can't complain too much.

Looking forward, there is reason to be optimistic if your a fan of the US team. The team has only a few players over thirty, and so the core of the team should still be around for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Problems that need to be addressed is an aging defense that is perhaps the weakest part of the team, developing at least one of their young forwards into a true goal scorer, and finding some speed on the wings.

Meanwhile, it's Ghana pushing on into the quarterfinals to play yesterday's other 2nd round winners Uruguay.

Now it's almost time for Germany vs England, which should be an interesting match up. Later on it's Argentina vs Mexico. Can I possibly hope for another magical goal from Maxi Rodriguez?

And I promise to try to post something on both of these matches after they have concluded. (Crossing my fingers, already feeling the need for a nap.)

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