Topic: US National Team
Before we talk about the ref, let’s talk about that awful first half, because the ref didn’t cause the US to come sleepwalking out of the gate. Shortly before the first goal, I said to my wife that the US must be playing a ropa-a-dope strategy, trying to draw Slovenia out and build their confidence. Shortly after I said that, Martin Tyler said it on TV. We were both searching for an explanation – there just HAD to be a reason why the US looked so, incredibly, incontrovertibly, unenthusiastic about this game.
Then, as is our tradition, we conceded an early goal. What is wrong with this team? Why can’t we ever start a game on the right foot? I don’t think that anyone has the answer. My theory is that we’re so concerned about conceding an early goal, we play with extreme caution, which then leads to an early goal. Or maybe there’s no reason. I don’t know. Nobody knows, or if they do they’re not telling us.
Slovenia played us off the field in the first half. We were horrible. We were absolute shit. We were the worst team on the planet. Donovan was the only player who was any good. I had been calling for Torres, and he laid an egg. Slovenia played well and deserved the two goal lead.
This exchange between Tyler and John Harkes summed it up:
Martin Tyler: The US are giving Slovenia a lot of space to play in midfield.
John Harkes: You could play in the midfiled with the amount of space the US are giving.
The whole game should have looked like the second half. We’re the better team, and we showed it. Slovenia had an opportunity here and there, but we were on the front foot. Much, much, much better. As much as you have to hate this teams inability to get the blood pumping at the start of a match, you have to love their commitment once they get rolling.
I had a series of small strokes in the second half. I love following the national team, but I’m not sure how much I enjoy actually watching the games. The stress is unbelievable. When Bradley scored the second, my reaction was more relief than happiness.
Which brings us to the ref. Why must we always talk about the referee? The refereeing during the first week was OUTSTANDING. The only horrible call in the first week was the red card to Cahill, and it’s pretty hard to argue that that altered the course of the game. Game after game, they were spot on on just about every call. And then…
The referee got a bit whistle-happy in the France-Mexico match last night. He was calling it badly both ways, but he was inserting himself into the match where he didn’t belong. I said to my wife: “this is the first poorly-refereed match in the tournament.” In retrospect, that was the first crack in the dam. Shortly after that, Hernandez was pretty clearly offside when he scored the first goal. And, with that, the universe had course-corrected: referees were back to making horrible decisions that decide matches.
The Mexico-France match was bad, but the result was still arguably a fair one. The Germany-Serbia match was a disgrace. The worst kind of referee is the kind that kind keep his cards in his pocket and the whistle out of his mouth. Neither foul on Klose should have been a card. Complete horse shit. I have no affection for Germany; I would love to see them eliminated. But the referee was determined to play an active role in the game, and he did. He handed the game to Serbia.
And then Koman Coulibaly went and topped him. Horrible – just horrible. Bizarre, bizarre decisions. The yellow card on Findley (which actually made me happy – now he HAS to be on the bench): what the fuck was he looking at? Findley’s hands were down at his side, so even if the ball hits his hands – which it didn’t – it cannot be an intentional hand ball. Just what the fuck was he looking at? I kind of understand it when a ref misses a call; that happens. But to think you saw something that clearly didn’t happen…I have no idea what causes that. In MLS we call it the Jair Murrufo.
And, of course, he did it again and robbed us of three points. Was Bradley offside? No. He was kept onside by the guy who was fucking tackling him with both arms. But let’s give the benefit of the doubt and say that Bradley was: 1) Not fouled for PK and 2) Offside. Well, even if BOTH of those things were true (and neither were), Bradley was not involved in the play. Did the referee confuse Bradley with Edu? Maybe, but then again: Bradley is white and Edu is black.
So, for it to be offside, you have to believe that 1) Bradley was not fouled, 2) The man not fouling Bradley did, in fact, not exist, and 3) Maurice Edu is white.
I don’t think offside was the call – I think the referee called a foul. On whom? I have no idea. Edu? Nope. Bocanegra? I think this was the call, but nope. Dempsey? Nope. Gooch? No, not really anyone near him. It was a bullshit call, and the non-American press know it. From The Guardian blog:
Quite why the referee's whistle had gone is not clear - there was no offside and the only fouls being perpetrated were by Slovenians holding on to assorted American jerseys. Mystifying decision.
Indeed, it looked to me like they should have won, since I saw nothing wrong with the goal that was ruled out.
From The Guardian online:
Bob Bradley's team will feel that they should have had all three points after a late winner was ruled out.
And it looked like they had grabbed the winner when Maurice Edu smashed home Donovan's free-kick four minutes from time — only for the Malian referee, Koman Coulibaly, to rule it out, apparently [my emphasis] for an infringement in the box.
Should have been an historic 3-2 comeback. We were robbed. Then again, if we had played better, then we wouldn’t have put ourselves in a position to be robbed.
Howard: 5.5. Not really too much for him to do. Certainly can’t blame him for either goal, and didn’t have any non-routine saves to make. He did well in the air, which is the weakest part of his game.
By the way: why can’t a US opponent ever seem to waste a chance early in the game? We give them way too many opportunities, but our opponents have an uncanny record of turning those opportunities into goals.
Cherundolo: 5.5. Good effort, but didn’t play his best game. His service from the wing was poor. Defended well, though, and got into the attack like he always does.
Demerit: 6. Kept his position well and tackled well. Didn’t have trouble reading the ball flight, as he had in previous matches. The center backs don’t seem to pass the ball too well with the central midfielders, but I can’t really tell whose fault that is.
Onyewu: 3. Worst game I have ever seen him play. Was at fault on both goals. I don’t think there’s a reason for it; I think he just stunk today.
Bocanegra: 5. Mediocre day. Didn’t do too much, good or bad. He’s a real threat on set pieces, though; there were a couple of times when I thought he might get on the end of one. Writing these reviews for the back four, I’m realizing that the US didn’t really have too much defensive work to do in this game. Even when Slovenia was bossing the game in the first half, they didn’t have too many opportunities outside of the two goals and a couple dangerous crosses.
Donovan: 7.5. He’s really matured – he’s stepping up his game when we need him most. He’s just quality; he always does something useful with the ball. Took his goal beautifully; cutting it back would have probably led to a corner kick.
Bradley: 5.5. Very good second half, but gave Slovenia way too much space on the ball in the first half. That’s weird; passivity usually isn’t his problem. Near the end of the game, I said to my wife that I was impressed by Bradley’s ability to keep his temper better than he’s shown previously; he didn’t make any stupid tackles, and he hasn’t picked up any cards. Then, he goes and yells at the ref after the game, which he did during the Confederations Cup and received a three match ban. I worry about him; he’s intense.
Outstanding finish on the goal.
Torres: 3.5. All of America agreed: Torres should start this game. Bob Bradley agreed. And Torres started, and he was bad. Didn’t position himself well defensively and didn’t do too much with the ball. He also took a few risky touches that (thankfully) weren’t punished. I wonder if we’ll see him again.
Dempsey: 5.5. Didn’t have his moment of brilliance, but played a solid game. Made good decisions; he passed the ball when he should have this game. I was stunned that he rolled that one across the goal for Donovan in the first half; I’m still not sure whether or not that was the right decision. He almost lost his mind when he got his elbows up going for a header on the first play of the game. Geez, Clint: you know that’s not a card, I know that’s not a card, but didn’t you watch the Germany-Serbia match? Be carful?
A horrible decision that has gone un-commented on in light of the referee’s other horrible decisions: Clint was fouled on Jozy’s shot off the free kick in the second half. Should have been a PK.
Findley: 4. I’m tired of writing the same stuff about Findley; he’s fast, he’s just not that good. Thankfully, he’s picked up two yellows, so we’ll be spared his poor first and second touches against Algeria.
Altidore: 6.5. He was dangerous just about every time he got the ball. The more he uses his size, the better; defenders just can’t hang with him when he’s on his game. He also won a few of those Brian McBride-type long ball headers, which is an improvement.
Edu: 3.5. Man, maybe Ricardo Clark isn’t that bad after all. Edu looked scared; lots of bad touches, lots of unsure tackling. Now I’m not sure who our second best central midfielder is. Feilhaber? How’s Jermain Jones’ leg?
Feilhaber: 6. Played well, but also played the attacking midfield role in which he excels. He’s good in attack; not so much in defense. He’s also great at playing great passes, but mediocre at playing mediocre passes. At any rate, I thought he was good, and he put himself in the conversation in central midfield.
Gomez: 5.5. The ball didn’t ever fall for him, but he worked hard and made himself a nuisance. After seeing him do a couple interviews, you really have to root for the guy: he’s very humble, and he’s really had to earn absolutely everything that he has.