Disappointing performance by the US team
Sure, some calls went against the side, but when you consider that we still have no strikers who can score goals, Team USA was lucky to win its group. Unfortunately, Landon Donovan can’t have a career game every single time, and even if he did, this would not be enough to win against better opponents.
The sobering truth is that the last time a forward landed a goal for our side in a World Cup was in 2002, when Brian McBride scored against Mexico.
Choice of personnel was puzzling, as well, especially in the final game against Ghana. Starting Ricardo Clark was clearly a mistake, and coach Bob Bradley brought in Maurice Edu around 10 minutes after Ghana scored its first goal.
Furthermore, even though Jozy Altidore was the leading scorer for the USA in the World Cup qualifiers, he was terribly ineffective in the tournament. Inexplicably, he was kept in for the entire Ghana match, when Edson Buddle—with much to prove, and certainly no worse a tournament record—was on the bench.
However, problems with the USA program go beyond this single tournament.
It is quite inconceivable that in a country with more than 300 million people—to say nothing of our “diversity”—we can’t field a stronger team. I can only speculate here, since I have no inside knowledge, that the fault lies in the recruiting.
The USA side is comprised mostly of men who have played for European teams, and a few stars from Major League Soccer. For the most part, these players came up through the ranks of organized youth soccer, and then played in high school and college. Great, but does Team USA look beyond the obvious sources?
In every city you can see organized teams featuring mostly Hispanics, with an occasional superb player. Is Team USA too lazy to check these out? On the other hand, there are programs underway to promote soccer to inner city youth, that should pay off in the future.
As to the sport gaining in popularity in this country, I think the situation is positive. More and more viewers are eschewing the absurd time commitment and the sting of endless commercials that is now NFL football. For every three hour telecast, there might actually be 15 minutes of action—and even this seldom persists for more than 20 seconds.
Perhaps the greatest advantage of soccer is that normal size people, with athletic ability of course, are able to play and even become stars.
We’ve come a long way from earlier World Cup broadcasts that were only available on special pay-per-view.
The worst thing about FIFA officiating is that is not subject to replay review, or review of any kind. Thus, a crooked ref can easily change the outcome of a game, with the only punishment being banishment from the rest of the tournament.
I would suggest the following changes:
- Replay on goals
- Severe penalties for diving, with more red cards given. Replays could be used here.
- More severe consequences for poor officiating, with investigations occurring in egregious cases
One interesting aspect of this year’s World Cup is the non-performance of several highly-paid stars, including Wayne Rooney, Lionel Messi, and Christiano Ronaldo. Beyond pure arrogance and massive ego, the only explanation I can proffer is that within club play, opponents and refs defer to the stars, supposedly for the “good of the game.”
Whatever the reason, the poor showing by the above three may well affect their reputations in the next club season.
There has been some discussion regarding the intentional handball by Luis Suarez of Uruguay (in the game against Ghana). There are those who argue—unctuously—about “fair play,” as if fouls for inappropriate tackles never occur. More importantly, such arguments seem to assume that a supernaturally perfect system of discerning between inadvertent and intentional fouls actually exists.
Suarez did what he had to do. Absent his action, the game was lost. Knowing that his handball would result in a red card and a penalty kick, Suarez counted on the nerves inherent in a big time penalty kick in the World Cup, and he was right. It was a clever play.
Ghana can complain all they want, but nothing Suarez did could have caused them to miss the otherwise routine PK.