Thursday, June 24, 2010

USA Advancing to the Round of 16

First, before some videos, I have a few thoughts to put out there, aside from the obvious of how amazing it felt when Donovan scored that goal.

I had no real reason to dislike Algeria before.  I didn't particularly know much about the country.  As far as I was concerned, they were famous for being the birthplace of a pair of immigrants to France who produced the greatest footballer of his generation, as well as that great goalkeeper-football fan-philosopher-Nobel laureate Albert Camus (therefore also being the setting for his great books).

Now however, I can throw this onto my list of countries to dislike.  (OK, not seriously but you get the idea, in sporting terms).  They were so intent on playing out political biases that they were actively trying to play defensively for a draw so as to eliminate the US rather than playing for the win they needed to give themselves a chance of advancing.

Well, for that, you Algeria join Costa Rica and others as countries that tempted the football gods with your negativity, or the Costa Rican's horribly blatant time wasting, only to be cruelly and justly felled by that great cliche, the American spirit.

Cliche though that fighting spirit may be, how awesome is this team's heart?  You really couldn't have it any other way.  People always deride the US for lacking a style, the way the Brazilians have (or used to at least) joga bonita, the Italians the catenaccio, Germans the machine-like precision, etc.  But the US has a swagger and belief, without being cocky, that suggests you'll never outwork them and they'll never give up, and I love it, not the least because it's easy to rally around (check out the crowd videos below) and of course the late drama is amazing (if particularly heart attack/ulcer inducing).

Check out this list of comebacks:

-USA 1 - Algeria 0: Donovan scoring in the 91st minute.
-USA 2 - Slovenia 2: Two down, tying the game in the 82nd minute, winning it in the 85th.
-USA 2 - El Salvador 1: OK, a B team friendly, but Kljestan scored in the 92nd minute for the win.
-USA 2 - Costa Rica 2: Bornstein's 95th minute goal wins CONCACAF qualifying, on a night being played with recently injured Charlie Davies on everyone's mind.
-USA 2 - Panama 1: In the Gold Cup, a B/C team playing, US wins in overtime (105th minute).
-USA 2 - Haiti 2: Again in the Gold Cup, probably a C team playing (because otherwise a tie against Haiti is beyond embarrassing, and even still...), Stuart Holden ties it in the 92nd minute.
-USA 2 - El Salvador 2: In El Salvador for qualifying, two down, Jozy scores in the 77th minute followed by Hejduk equalizing in the 88th minute.

Those are merely the matches the US either tied or won on a goal after the 80th minute in 2010 and 2009. It doesn't count matches the US tied or won with earlier goals coming back from deficits, like against England or at Honduras in qualifying, or scoring 3 goals against Egypt to complete the five goal swing on the day needed to advance in the Confederations Cup.

Though I don't need to go over the particular performances by US players because we've all seen it, a few demand praise:

-Donovan has truly become a leader and star, if he wasn't already.  He keeps this up, he'll be like Wayne Rooney in that Nike ad with all the baby names, and I'd even consider it.
-Michael Bradley is impressing everyone, not just the US faithful.  It's not just his tackling and fabulous late runs into the box, which I guess not everyone has seen since he played at Heerenveen and now at Borussia Mönchengladbach, but also the clever footwork and passing -- see his play that set Donovan up leading to the goalbox scrum in which Jozy blasted over.
-Stuart Holden -- he's playing the Mark Madsen role of bench cheerleader and team celebrator perfectly.  Maybe it's because he's so noticeable with his blond hair, but he's certainly managed to get to both Bradley and Donovan fast enough to start the big pile-ons.  Kudos Mr. Holden, kudos.  
-Altidore is playing great in all areas except goal scoring, which should be sort of important because he's a striker, but he's now teamed with Donovan to be responsible for assisting on both late goals against Slovenia and Algeria.  We wouldn't be here without him.  And he also pancaked the entire US team celebratory mob on top of Donovan.  He's a big man to be doing that.  Not to be outdone of course, I must mention Jay DeMerit, late arriving from the back, somersaulting over the pile and nearly taking the head off one of the team's staff.  Great stuff.
-Steve Cherundolo is pretty good. I'd forgotten how good he was, I mean he's the captain of a Bundesliga team!  To think Jonathan Spector started pushing him for a starting spot.

Lastly, gotta give props to Bob Bradley.  I, as many have over his reign, have railed against him for his tactics and team selection.  Well, he's gotten every decision spot on this World Cup.  I have new respect for the man.

Lots of videos going 'round, here are some of my favorites that I've seen to keep giving you goosebumps:

And the scene at one of my faves, Lucky Bar in downtown DC:

In Seattle:

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