United States vs Peru
United States vs Brazil
Most Americans, who take issue with soccer, can’t watch because it’s “too boring.” I understand this. I can sympathize. I have far too many friends like this. Yet, this is the same crowd that loves golf. Not just playing golf, but golf on TV. I can’t understand how this gets more TV time than soccer, the much too repeated “world’s game” which revolves around possession play, which can have low scoring games, which can be boring…but it’s not “golf” boring. There’s constant action, in possession. It’s like a football lateral that can go any direction and never ends. Ever. You just keep lateraling the ball, basically forever…that’s fun, right? Not to Mike Wilbon, one of the most trusted voices in sports today. Asked on Pardon the Interruption who he thought would win between the US and Brazil he replied, “I’m not watching. It’s September baseball.” Baseball, the first cousin of golf, competing for the title of “most exciting sport on earth.” Within a baseball game it is acceptable for ten minute breaks in the action, for sixty-year-old men, wearing a uniform, to stand around contemplating which reliever to bring in, yet soccer's the boring sport. At least soccer coaches don't wear the uniform, how much flack would that get? There are approximately 5,000 games in one baseball season, I think he can take interest in a handful of important soccer games for the men's soccer schedule. At least TiVo it; that's his job. Don't get me wrong - I appreciate baseball, however, it's boring. Once the majority of US fans truly appreciate possession, the USMNT will – hopefully – ride on a different level of confidence, yielding better results, challenging Brazil for soccer supremacy. (The game really isn’t about scoring goals. It’s about the possession, which, if done right, with style, will yield more goals.)
On the road to “Destination Mexico” (the 10-10-15 one-game-take-all-showdown with our southern arch-rival at the Rose Bowl for a place to represent CONCACAF in the 2017 Confederations Cup in Russia), the USMNT played Peru and Brazil in friendlies, which as it turns out, was not the best idea. Play Brazil after a big game, not directly before one.
Peru was a good team, recently placing third in the Copa America. Despite this moderate success they haven’t reached the World Cup since 1982, lost in the South American shuffle of qualifications. They completely outplayed the US, dominating possession with feints, stutter steps, tantalizing pauses, looking more like Brazil than Peru. After a lucky deflection, that arced over the reach of Guzan, they were in command until the second half when a serendipitous penalty kick was awarded to Jozy Altidore who went on to score on the rebound, later scoring the go-ahead goal on a fortunate deflection that landed in front of him with the goalie out of position. The true danger in the attack was coming from Zardes and Yedlin. For a large portion of the game there was no creative structure in possession whatsoever, with passes going astray. A lot of this had to do with the odd lineup, placing Bedoya – usually a wide player – in center midfield; this is like replacing Pirlo with Zambrotta. If the lineup is puzzling to the common fan, there should be no alarm. There are others who share your confusion. Plenty of others. Numerous announcers pointed out multiple times that eight to nine defenders have been circulating through, yet the defenders that are proposed are players that will hasten to advance the team right where we started twenty years ago. If you’re going to embrace the idea of playing Shea and Yedlin at outside back, which, wisely, has been done in the recent past, then, if you plan on trying new guys in those spots make sure they are the same type of player. The replacements look like the outside backs Maradona threw forward in the 2010 World Cup: large, good defenders, but poor attackers.
Brazil waltzed their way to victory. Who said Brazil fell off the horse? Well, they did, actually. Big time. Who said they wouldn’t storm back, as the team to look to? Did they put the smack down on the US, in the US, like a WWF weekend rumble from the 80s, with an exclamation point in Brazilian font. It was as if Sho'nuff with his poncy posse came through asking, "Who's the master of Harlem and Boston!?" "Sho'nuff!" "Who?" "Sho'nuff!" Leroy Green - USMNT - needs to regroup, get his bearings, grow from the experience, clean up the pizza parlor and become better as a result.* Other than a late blast from outside of the box, the 4-1 defeat could have been more like 8-1. Possession was the key to the game. The US had none. Brazil had it all. The Boston crowd lost their edge six minutes in as the US floundered to the five-time world champs, eager to show anyone within shouting distance their 7-1 loss to Germany was an irregularity.
Awaiting the huge Mexico game in California should be no problem for the US. They should transcend their anger and embarrassment from Brazil to the Rose Bowl. Any game with Mexico will be too intense, with the potential for strategy to be a side topic, which might be exactly what the team needs at this particular moment.
*Sho'nuff was a villain that walked the streets of Harlem in search of Leroy Green, the only Kung Fu artist that could possibly stand in his way of the ultimate title: Kung Fu master.