World Cup 2010

A Gallant Defeat is Still A Defeat… and Brazil Next.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!…..

And I will give you a second chance, a way out of a dire situation in your home country… and you will give me….

A boot in the face. That’s about how I feel about Teaneck, New Jersey native Giuseppe Rossi’s brace which crushed the inner soul of many American supporters and quieted at least one living room Monday afternoon in the US’s 3-1 defeat to Pablo Pozo… oops… the Azzurri. The Americans had played brilliantly for 55 minutes, and for 30, had at least a stalemate in the run of play, and quite honestly, had the better chances. Here’s the trouble….

We’ve heard this story before. It was an eerie replay, without the one point. A Red card to Ricardo Clark, which even the Bulldog Gatusso himself conceded was “a dangerous challenge”, but a harsh interpretation– put the Americans in the same spot they were in at Kaiserlautern in 2006: playing the Italians down a man. The red card was more than dubious– it was certainly the wrong call. The challenge was a certain yellow, but nowhere near a red, not even if the match had been played at the Old Lady training ground outside of Turin and one of Gianni Agnelli’s kin was referee. No chance.

The counter argument seemingly made at the time is “referee interpretation”– but if that sort of harsh choice was to be the order of the day– then the failure to send off Grosso for an elbow to Donovan’s face about five minutes later makes no sense at all, and the failure to card Giorgio Chiellini for the eight iron boot to the knee of Jozy Altidore that set up the Yanks goal is even more mystifying. All in all, a poor day for the Chilean, and a sad day for an American team that seemed poised for better.

The problem, of course, is that the U.S. finds itself playing down, or playing valiantly against great teams all too often. Many American fans are beginning to tire of it, and many just want a positive result occasionally. The loss stings more because of at least two immense performances. Landon Donovan was very active, drilled his penalty and twice made tremendous link up play with teammates only to be let down by poor shooting and puzzling decisions on the part of his teammates (Altidore, who had no business passing with only Gigi to beat, and Michael Bradley, who shanked a left footed shot in the 26th minute).

Jon Spector continued to establish his claim on a starting right back position, as he punished Fabio Grosso repeatedly on Grosso’s runs and deflected several crosses with ease. His clearances were sharp, and aside from looking lost on one set piece which almost resulted in a goal by Nicolla Legrottaglie, he locked his side of the field down, leaving the Azzurri helpless in attack outside of Mauro Camoranesi in the first 45. The addition of Rossi changed the game, and in a way, defined what is missing in a tragic irony from the American side. Despite the great industry, emotion and tenacity with which the Yanks defend, they remain a team without magic and the American starlet Rossi provided Italy with it. Somewhere, in a far, dark corner of Los Angeles, one wonders what Bruce Arena was thinking.

Enough about that fiasco, however, for tomorrow– the U.S. get their fifth game against a top six FIFA team since 2007. Let’s hope this is finally the win– as the Americans must secure at least a point to have any chance of advancing into next week. As the Yanks prepare– there is good news and bad news. In honor of Father’s Day– I’ll do what Dad does and give you the piss poor news first:

Uhm. It’s Brazil. They’ve found offense suddenly, scoring four goals in an obliteration of Uruguay nearly a fortnight ago and blitzing a game Egypt side for four more Monday morning. Kaka appears to be putting a tough year at AC Milan behind him with more than just a 92 million transfer fee– he’s scored four times in Brazil’s past three matches and delivered the winning PK against the Pharaohs Monday after a tragic handball (one that ultimately put the Yanks in this spot).

Then again– there is the Megan Fox news.

The Kings of Leon news. The Queensryche is recording a new rock opera news.

This isn’t your father’s Brazil…

Dunga, the captain of the 94 side that won the World Cup in the States– has been heavily criticized at home until late. He claimed the Confederations Cup was a dress rehearsal then failed to bring Ronaldinho along for the dinner. He seems hesitant to embrace the free-flowing style that makes the Selecao what they are. His defensive orientation is a break from history, and many have claimed, a questionable effort to blend European discipline with its traditional flair and skill. To achieve this, Dunga has made selections that even the President of Brazil has criticized– bringing in workmanlike journeymen-level players (by Brazilian standards) and eschewing the likes of Sao Paulo’s Hernanes in favor of the pedestrian talents of players like Mineiro and Kleber,and hinging his offense on the dynamic ability of Kaka and Robinho to slice apart defenses. It isn’t exactly like trying to win with Sage Rosenfels and Mewelde Moore, or Scott Mitchell and Bernie Parmalee– but it has been an interesting year for Dunga.

Those expecting to tune in tomorrow and see Brazil play its notable sweeping brand of attacking, dynamic football haven’t been paying attention, and for all the glory of four goal games against Egypt– the U.S. will be the most formidable defense Selecao have played in several months, especially if the Captain Carlos Bocanegra can return from injury to shore the middle.

All this said– it is still an immense challenge for the Americans, who still seem to have no clue at left back, (and how could you with three direly poor choices in Jon “I promise to call my daddy Mauro Camoranesi when I get back to the U.S., just to tell him I’m okay” Bornstein, DeMarcus “Thank God someone is interested because Glasgow is cold” Beasley and Heath “Second tier Bundesliga subs need no nickname” Pearce to choose from) and desperately miss Brian Ching. I don’t envy Bob Bradley in that regard.

To paraphrase the great Wahoo Warrior Super Fan from Major League II:

“What are ya gonna do now Bob? You’re old Mother Hubbard, and only Coner Casey and Heath Pearce are in the cubbard.”

Yikes. The Yanks will need more than gallantry to stop Selecao– they’ll need character, discipline
, and they’ll need to stop hoping Landon Donovan does everything in attack. It’s time for Duece, in particular, to step up. But if they play smart and compact– they’ll have more than a puncher’s chance. More tomorrow.

Daniel Seco