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domingo, junio 12, 2011

Can't Anybody Here Play This Game

Landon Donovan Loses The Ball. Quelle Surprise!

Last night the United States Men’s National Team was humiliated in the Gold Cup. The score: Panama 2 – 1 United States. It sounds closer than it was. Panama was ranked 67th in the world; the US, 22nd. The US Team’s play for the first 60 minutes was apathetic, flat, uninspiring. And if there was a plan for the game, it was not evident. The US finally got started after an hour, but by then it wasn’t enough.

Panama’s Gabriel Gomez scored in the 19th minute. How did that happen? The United States defense was more porous than Swiss cheese. The defensive backs were watching the ball. The defensive midfield was flat footed. Nobody was between Gomez and the keeper. He lifted the ball over Tim Howard for an easy score. Then, as if this lack of coverage and intensity weren’t enough, as if it weren’t enough to alert the US that it was time to get their heads into the game, an unnecessary foul by Tim Ream in the box led to a penalty kick and a 2-0 score in the 36th minute. In other words, the US’s disastrous play in the first half gave Panama a 2-goal lead that the US would be hard pressed to catch up.

Ream, who plays in the MLS for the New York Red Bulls, is inexperienced. Granted. But the foul he committed is one you might expect in under-16’s play. He didn’t have to clear the ball from the box to the far, other end of the field. No real power was required. All he had to do was make a challenge or get between the ball and the keeper, and then poke the ball into the abundant, nearby open space. Did he do that? Of course, not. The resulting foul, committed in the box in a panic, was just bad soccer.

It would be easy to blame this loss on the US defense, which was truly awful. It was awful in the same way that the US lost to Mexico, 5-0. It was awful in the same way that the US played in the World Cup, constantly giving away early leads. It was awful in a way that is now familiar: the US doesn’t begin to play defense until it is down. Way down. Maybe even too far down.

But some of the blame for yesterday’s game has to go also to a lackluster US offense. And in particular to Landon Donovan. For the first 60 minutes Donovan was absent, and when he touched the ball his passing was dreadful. My informal count: his first 5 passes lost possession of the ball. I saw him walking, not running. I saw him watching. And, of course, you didn’t even hear his name until the second half. Yes, he did a good job on set pieces in the second half. But that was far too late, and the US was not going to come back. The US finally scored in the 68th minute, and had a close miss in the 80th minute, but it was too little too late.

How to explain this disaster? Donovan told the,

“Sometimes you just come out flat for whatever reason. At this level, and against a good team, you can’t do that,’’ said Landon Donovan.

That is just pathetic. And it’s not an explanation for anything. If the US were any other country, there would be calls today for the firing of the coach and the benching of Donovan. Instead, we’re treated to this weak tea:

Despite the loss, the US team can clinch a spot in the quarterfinals by beating Guadeloupe in its final Group C stage match Tuesday in Kansas City.

The US deserves better. This team is an embarrassment.What Casey Stengel said about the early Mets fits this team perfectly.

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