You have to bring your best game against a team like Italy. They’re the reigning world champs, after all. The best game doesn’t include a crap red-card, lack of tactical adjustment, and anything less than total defensive commitment once you have the lead. Thus, 3-1 Italy and the U.S. is in the hole with Thursday’s match against Brazil looming.
You did see some guts by guys like Onyewu, Donovan, Bradley, and Spector. Jozy Altidore was tough to handle and Jonathan Bornstein looked strong on the left. That said, just too many mistakes. Five points to the pentagram…
- Red Card? Really? By now I’ve read and heard it argued both ways, so I went back and watched Ricardo Clark’s challenge on Gattuso again on the DVR. And I still agree with Alexi Lalas – no way that’s a straight red. Yes, it was a clumsy and ill-advised challenge, but it was neither particulary violent nor from a bad angle. That, my friends, was the worst kind of homer call. We’ve all seen it: the call the big conference school gets against the mid-major, the call Kobe gets against some journeyman defender. Let’s put it this way – you think if the renowned Gattuso comes in like that on Rico Clark he gets a straight red? Hell, no. It’s a yellow or a stern rebuke from the ref. Shades of World Cup 06 and Pablo right there. And it completely changed the game. Did the U.S. have enough to challenge the Italians yesterday? They were looking strong in the attack and confident in defense, but thanks to that shit red card and the ref’s inability to look past the shirt, we’ll never know. And by the way, that second foul on Donovan in the box towards the end – that was a penalty too.
- Benny giveth, Benny taketh away. After his strong half against Honduras, everyone was clamoring for mucho Benny Feilhaber. The hue and cry has been, no other midfielders have his skill, vision, and poise (cough-cough, Freddy Adu, Jose Torres). And Benny did look good for stretches. It was his beauty long ball that sprang Jozy Altidore for the PK, after all. But then he half-assed it on a sloppy pass from Dempsey, which led directly to that Rossi goal. And at that point he was done. Benny continues to show promise and continues to exhibit a lack of fitness and commitment. Seems like Bob will continue to give him chances, so let’s all hope he figures it out soon.
- No adjustment from Coach Stoneface. What was the plan after halftime? Was it to hoof out long balls? Hold possession and build for a corner or free kick? You tell me, because it seemed like the U.S. players were confused as well. That should’ve been an El Salvador-style 8-man bunker in the second half, and yet Dempsey, and Feilhaber were floating foward not tracking back. Once the Italians scored, we looked even more confused. And, as usual, Bob was slow on the trigger with the subs. The big difference is Italian Skipper Lippi can pull the strings and adjust; Bradley has never really shown he can do that.
- Rossi, blah-blah-blah. I was already sick of hearing it when Reece Davis blathered on in the studio. Yeah, we all know he was born in New Jersey. Plays striker. U.S. has few options at striker. We get it. Short of some horrific knee injuries, we’ll be hearing it for years. Yhe kid made his choice – he wanted to play for Italy. It’s his choice but eff him all the same. I’m done with it; won’t bring it up again.
- No more d-mids – what? What the hell is Stoneface gonna do against Brazil? We’re fresh out of defensive midfielders! Sure, Michael Bradley tackles well and can play there, but how the hell can we play the empty bucket now? Who are we going to play in the middle. Someone with some offensive skill… What? Attack, you say? The Brazilians looked suspect on defense against Egypt, you claim? Could it be time to allow guys like Adu, Torres, Feilhaber, Klejstan on the field at the same time? Why the hell not. It’s not like we have a lot of other options. It will be interesting to see who plays on Thursday, because some of the guys won’t be able to play again so soon what with lack of PT and fitness issues. There’s something you thought you’d never hear about a U.S. Team – fitness issues. I say play your best athletes on D, you’re best attacker in the midfield, and hope like hell Kaka isn’t on his game.