Today I’m Kanye. Nobody asked me but I’m getting up on stage and putting forward my opinion anyway. I’m really happy you’re watch soccer I’ll let you finish patting Tim Howard on the Back but the 2002 squad was one of the best teams of all time! And the US could have done better this tournament. That’s all I’m saying. 

This World Cup has been exciting because of the elevated level of play in the group stages and the fantastic series of upsets that see four countries in contention who haven’t previously won the cup. A new winner will be healthy for the sport. For a second I thought it could be the United States.

But to reach this stage some very good teams, and some awful teams got knocked out. Yesterday the United States joined the carrion and they deserved it. They’re not heroes if anything they’ve missed an opportunity. You can thank Jurgen Klinsmann and his modified catenaccio and then ask yourself was life so bad with Bruce? (It was worse with Bob no doubt.)

The narrative that is being spun is that Tim Howard made history with his 16 saves last night and deserves the praise of his nation. He does, but what about the performance of his teammates?  Jurgen Klinsmann played “defend defend defend” and set Howard up as the target in a shooting gallery.

Before the game he knew the Belgians to have attacking merits and pace. On their day they could cut many top sides to pieces. But it wasn’t their day and the US could have capitalized. Belgium went behind in their first game against Algeria and stumbled their way through the next two against Russia and South Korea. Each of their goals came deep in the second half with Belgium spending the first 45 minutes as an extended warm up.

The point being they were vulnerable to attack and being caught sleeping. The US caught Ghana napping why not Belgium? Klinsmann set up an attacking formation (4-3-3) only to deploy defensive orders. Such a stance elevated Tim Howard’s exposure and reduced every other man to a deputized sweeper.

The US managed a woeful nine shots on target in 120 minutes. The Belgians had 27! To be proud of that is to underestimate the potential of the US National team.

In 2002 players like Bobby Convey, Clint Mathis, Eddie Johnson, Demarcus Beasley (when he was a winger) and Landon Donovan made their names by playing fast and unafraid of the opposition.  That was the first World Cup side to have cut their teeth in the MLS and advertise the quality the league could produce. Older players like Brian McBride, Frankie Hedjuk, Eddie Lewis and Kacey Keller balanced the squad and offered experience. For some it was the terrible experience of 98’. The dark memory of coming in last in the competition.

Now they didn’t come in last this year but they didn’t do much else. One win, Two loses and a draw. They also lost me a bet. I was convinced based on the conviction of play in 2002 the US would be in the Semis or better by 2014. There was real defiance and commitment about that side. Does anyone remember Mathis’ goal? Jesus that was beautiful. They weren’t afraid and they didn’t spend undue time in their own half. They were fun to watch, not agonizing and dull.

It cost them at times (Poland, Germany) but the plan was never to see what the other team was going to do. I’m glad so many Americans picked up soccer for this World Cup I just don’t want them to think that this was best the US was capable of.

Good Luck to remaining sides but I hope the World avoids another capitulation to Brazil or Germany.


Breathe Fire...

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