London Not Calling

This one hurts.  This is the soccer equivalent of getting beat on a half-court shot by a much lower seed.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.

El Salvador’s final push in the waning seconds of stoppage time, after the US had already come back from being a goal down to take a 3-2 lead and ensure passage to the semi-finals, should not have happened.  One of the players could have booted the ball into the stands to deny them possession.  That final build-up by El Salvador could have been squashed if the rest of the team only hustled back and defended a final time.  Why didn’t someone close out the guy with ball?  Why even give him a shot?  And Sean Johnson – a fine young keeper for the Chicago Fire – certainly should have punched that ball away to avoid spilling the save.  He did not.

El Sal 3, USA 3, and we’re out of contention for the Olympics.

I’ll admit it – I bought into the hype of this team.  Lauded as our first truly professional Olympic aged team, these guys boast a number of players who’ve been capped on the full National Team.  Players for European leagues, Mexico, and mostly MLS.  Caleb Porter, renowned coach at Akron, who’s won multiple NCAA titles and put numerous players through his system into the pros.  Attackers to spare.  The heirs to Tim Howards goal-keeping mantle…

I literally bought into it, purchasing tickets to this weekends semi-final round in Kansas City – the game that’s supposed to punch the ticket to London.  Not only that, I talked some of my friends into signing up for the trip.

Instead we saw a flawed offensive system, a 4-3-3 that left the midfield exposed, and not enough flexibility to vary based on what was available.  A reluctance or inability to cycle through midfielders when playing a brutal three games in five days.  We saw fairly week defending, especially at left back, and we saw Bill Hamid and Sean Johnson – a pair of keepers everyone’s been raving about – let in a series of pretty soft goals.

Hopefully they can rebound from it.  They say keepers need to have selective amnesia.  But Coach Caleb Porter will wear this like dead weight around his neck for years, and that’s a fact.  In about 10 seconds he went from the hottest young American Coach to the guy who couldn’t get out of the group stage.

Other players will go back to their club teams feeling hollow.  Now we won’t get to see these young guys develop and mature for the full team this summer.  Some of the hyphen Americans (those with dual citizenship) like Mix Diskeruud (Norway), Joe Corona (Mexico) and Terrance Boyd (Germany) may think twice about national team affiliation.  It’s not a ringing endorsement of the once-proud US youth development system which has now missed out on consecutive major tournaments (we also failed to qualify for the last U20 World Cup).

In Beemsville, we always try to remember what Chuck D. and Flava Flav used to say about believing the hype.  Next time…

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