Wednesday, June 24, 2009

USA 2, Spain 0

Two games ago, American fans were in total despair after a no show against Brazil and virtually certain elimination in the Confederations Cup. Even a result against an impressive Egyptian side seemed unlikely.

Now, after progressing over Italy on total goals scored, the second tiebreaker, the United States have shocked the football world by defeating the European champions 2-0. Spain had won 15 straight games and hadn't lost in 35, tying the record set by Brazil from 1993-1996.

Quick takes:

-More inventiveness from the United States going forward today. At times the play was still too direct (Altidore isn't likely to beat four defenders for the header, and even if he wins it has nowhere to go), but much better anticipation on through balls into space, both by the midfielders delivering the ball and by the attacking players making the runs. Even Onyewu got in on the act early playing a threatening through ball to Davies that Casillas had to come out and deal with.

-Just as important was the attitude going forward. While there were definitely times the Americans packed in it in order to survive wave after wave of Spanish attackers, the Americans were willing to push on counterattacks and often were threatening doing so. And there were times where the Americans actually possessed the ball convincingly, even if that was the minority of the game.

-Jozy. That first touch still needs a lot of work, and his game as a whole is still so unrefined. But the ability has always been obvious, and was on full display in his brilliant turn and strike that gave the United States the lead.

-Howard. Unbelievable game. Made the brilliant save on Villa to hold the lead. If United States goes level there they may never get the game back.

-The entire United States backline, as well as the midfield when they were in support, deserve as many words as I could devote for them. Time after time when the Spanish had possesssion in and around the box, there was a United States defender perfectly in position to block a shot or a cross. This happened so many times during the game I can't imagine trying to count. Since Onyewu has been praised virtually the whole tournament for his clearances in the air, let me point out the outstanding play today of his center back partner Jay DeMerit. Couldn't have asked for anything more. On the wings Spector and Bocanegra were exceptional as well. Bocanegra's return obviously made an enormous difference for the back line. World Cup starters: Bocanegra, Demerit, Onyewu, Spector? That's certainly the lineup I'd pick after today.

-Conversely, it must be said that the Spanish defending cost them dearly today. On the first goal Capdevila was on Altidore, and failed at any measure of containment by letting Altidore muscle past him and turn on goal. That shot also wrong-footed Casillas, who it must be said makes that save more often than not. On the second goal, a beautiful buildup gives Donovan a wonderful chance. Donovan then inexplicably tries to play Dempsey in instead of hitting the target, despite Pique standing directly in his way. The ball sneaks through Pique's legs to Sergio Ramos, who has to come back for it. Sergio Ramos chooses the worst of all possible options and simply leaves it for Dempsey, who hammers the gift into the back of the net. From Sergio Ramos' reaction he must have not known Dempsey was there, but that's simply not acceptable given that Dempsey had cut across him three seconds earlier. Some bad defending today from the Spanish.

-Finally, have to bring the party down a little by mentioning Bradley's red card. At first I thought he won the ball, but after watching it again I'm not so sure. It was the third red card for the US this tournament, and I'm not convinced any of them actually merited a straight red. Bradley's challenge was low and obviously directed at the ball, given that I'm still not sure if he touched it. That said, Bradley goes studs up with three minutes left to play and manages to get himself thrown off the pitch and excluded for the final. Bad call or not, Bradley simply can't put himself in that situation. He has a history of dumb challenges, and he's way too important to what the US does to put himself at risk. Obviously his presence against Brazil (or South Africa, I suppose nothing should be presumed after today) will be greatly missed.

But no reason to end this post on a downer. Beating Spain in a genuine Cup competition is one of the greatest victories in US Soccer history. Take a bow, Bob Bradley. We didn't think this team had it in them.

No comments:

Post a Comment