Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome back into the Happy Hour. Tuesday night was quite the performance from the USMNT. I am not quite sure exactly what Bob said to the boys in the locker room before the opening whistle, but it got the job done. After the absolute dismantling at the hands of the World Champions on Saturday, it was good to see the USMNT shake off the rust. While watching the game, a couple things jumped out at me.
First and foremost, I have said it before and I will say it again, Gooch is done. I even wrote an obituary for him a couple months back after he had not made the 18 for AC Milan in what seemed like an eternity. Don’t get me wrong, I love Gooch just as much as the next guy, but it has been time to face the cold harsh truth for a while now. Gooch is a 29 year old center back still trying to make his way back from a devastating knee injury. Anyone who has had one of these types of injuries will tell you that coming back to 100% from something like that takes years, not months. Yes, you may be physically able to play, but performing at your peak level is another question entirely. His movements suggest he is constantly concerned with the knee—even if he doesn’t suggest that out loud. He is timid, indecisive, and shaky on the ball. The last part is extremely concerning, given it has always been a weakness of the big man’s game. Even if Gooch gets back to his old self in the next couple months, he’ll be 33 by the time the 2014 World Cup rolls around, and a center back on the tail end of his international career is not a recipe for success in a FIFA tournament. The argument can also be made that the young talent coming up in the USMNT player pool needs to see some significant minutes during qualifying to gel before the 2014 World Cup. Anyone who watched the game Tuesday can’t argue that Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson don’t have the talent and athletic ability to anchor the center of defense. Let’s also not forget the LA Galaxy youngster and 2009 MLS rookie Omar Gonzalez. At only 22, he certainly will be playing a role for the USMNT going forward. While Gooch may be an asset in spots during qualifying, it’s time for us all to realize that the clock is winding down on his international career. It was a fine one—but nothing ruins a legacy more than not knowing when to say goodbye.
After breaking down one of the aging players on the squad, let’s move to the other end of the spectrum. Yes, Jozy Altidore played well, but let’s not all go freaking out about how he is “back”. In my opinion the assist on the second goal was a hopeful ball that my boy Deuce was able to slot home, and his goal was a complete joke. While the goal will go a long way to boast his confidence, it’s important to take it for what it was, a nice pass by Landon and a combination of completely inept goalkeeping and a terrible playing surface. Speaking of the surface, Ford Field (while a nice venue for football) was a complete joke for soccer. With the hundreds of stadiums in the US, CONCACAF decided that laying down sod on top of some concrete was a better idea than playing on an actual soccer pitch. Any lofted ball took one bounce and died, and any pass played along the carpet needed to be hit hard enough to move through US Open Rough or it was not going to find the target. The idea that you can lay down sod indoors and have a pitch ready for the standard of international play is a complete joke (I’m looking directly into your eyes, Qatar). FIFA should make the call to eliminate these types of surfaces for any international competition for two reasons. First, it takes away from the quality of play. The quality of the pitch may be different all over the world, but at least it is on real grass that has been grown in place. “You practice like you play”, is the sentiment I am looking for here. When you practice on real grass, all your muscle memory is set to play on that kind of surface. Suddenly you get stuck with a half assed pitch, and all 22 players are looking to find the game for the first 15 minutes. This leads to mistakes, much like the one that led to Jozy’s goal on Tuesday evening. On the other hand, playing on a field that has essentially been wallpapered leaves massive seams—and those are huge dangers to players. Getting a stud caught up in one of these breaks in the field is a ruptured knee or ankle ligament waiting to happen. With all the other options available, especially in the United States, there is no need to be playing at a half full Ford Field in what used to be a great city.
All that said, I am extremely excited that I have the opportunity to see the USMNT in person tomorrow against Panama. I fully expect the USMNT to dominate possession, and hopefully impose their will on a vastly less talented opponent. No one should be surprised if Coach Bob comes out with the exact same lineup as last Tuesday. Both TYAC editor and chief Neil and I will be in town for the match. While Neil has the responsibility of covering the festivities from the press box, yours truly will be among the people, rolling with the AO Tampa crew. If these guys are anything like me, and I am assuming they are, we will be cranking out beers the way Nigel de Jong and Jermaine Jones crank out yellow cards. Of course, this will lead to some questionable decisions, but there’s no place better than sleepy beach cities in Florida to make them in, and BD’s are par for the course when you support the USMNT.
If any loyal readers are in the Tampa area, make sure to hit me up on twitter at @PuckLovesPBR. I would love to pound some beers and talk a little footy with the TYAC faithful.
PUCK’S FREE ADVICE:
This has to be the best free advice to fall into the lap of an American soccer blog since…ever. The next time you fail a drug test for cheating… I mean… blood doping– the excuse, “I ate some bad chicken” does not work. That is just about as effective as, “I swear, the dog ate my homework!” Get over yourselves Mexico: excuses are like assholes, everyone has them, and they smell like shit.
Get ready to rage in Tampa people. Sorry for partying.
Puck is the Pop Culture Guy for The Yanks Are Coming. He can be reached at email@example.com and you can follow his rantings on beer, movies, Manchester City, the Yankees, the USMNT and Syracuse and University of Florida athletics on Twitter at @PuckLovesPBR.
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