With the return of a good number of players from the 2002 World Cup squad, expecatations were sky high for the 2006 US Men’s National Team in Germany. Unfortunately, due to some issues of their own making and some issues of FIFA’s making, those expectations were not realized.
I do not want this post to be a rant about the low quality of refereeing we have seen this Cup. Nor do I want it to be about our initial seeding. It will mostly be about my observations regarding the perfomance of team USA.
I believe my expectations of this team were similar to many people. We had a core of veteren players returning in names such as Keller, Reyna, Pope, and McBride. We also had our up and comers who impacted the last World Cup in Beasley, Donovan, and Convey. We knew we had a tough group, however, we thought we had a chance of getting a point against either ChezchRepublic or Italy and then a result vs. Ghana.
Unfortunately, our “rising stars” did nothing to live up to their expectations. Donovan was virtually unseen throughout the entire tournament. He consistantly misplayed balls. One instance in the game vs. Ghana he blew a wide open one touch ball by blasting it no where near the net. He also passed up on a opportunity to take an open left footed shot in the box. It does not appear that he has a killer instinct and a desire to prove himself. I am now very suspicous of his move back to MLS from Germany.
Beasley was ineffective throughout the tourney as well. His bright spot was his assist on Dempsey’s goal vs. Ghana. Even when he subbed in vs. Italy with fresh legs, it did not appear that he made much of a difference. I do not know how much his injury is affecting him. But it appears that he was not the same reckless speedster that we saw in 2002. This year he seemed more content to slow down the attack and even turn the ball back vs. attacking the goal as in 2002.
I have never understood the infatuation with Convey. He seems to be a solid player, never anything outstanding. However, I think that he made only a few quality crosses this WC. Most of them were short and easily defended.
McBride played his heart out as usual. Yet again he suffered an injury to the face, only to continue on without writhing in pain on the ground like an Italian player. Unfortunately, Brian’s game relies upon receiving quality crosses and the USA was very short of those this go around.
Reyna was solid per usual. However, he made a key mistake in the game vs. Ghana allowing them to score. Unfortunately, he also received an injury, thus pulling him out of the game. This is probably the last time we will see Reyna play for the national team. It is unfortunate that his career essentially ends on that play.
Pope could have played a lot smarter. That is all I have to say about him.
Keller was solid, yet not living up to his billing. While none of the goals were his fault, a keeper who is billed as one of the best in the world has to give you that extra little bit to save the game. I don’t think that we got anything spectacular from him.
From a management standpoint, I am very confused by a lot of Arena’s movements. I don’t understand why you would bring O’brien when you know his fitness is not up to task and waste a spot on the roster. I do not understand why you play a 4-5-1 when you are in a great need of offense. I do not understand why you leave a sub on bench when you are down to 9 vs 10 and your guys are all out of steam. We were still taking Italy to task. We probably could have put Eddie Johnson in and just played boot ball at the end of the match and beaten their back line.
I respect Arena quite a bit and think he is the best manager the US has had. However, after this year’s showing, I think that it may be time for him to move on. After the WC, I think that USSoccer needs to go after a big name coach who has experience winning large games. I do not know if there are any American coaches that would fit that bill. We need someone who will take the team to the next level and pray we don’t end up with another Sampson.
One of the bright points was Dempsey. He showed the fearlessness that Beasley showed in 2002. He was not afraid to take on defenders and attack. He had a beautiful one touch blast in the Ghana game resulting in the only goal for the US.
Eddie Johnson provided a spark in the CR game coming in as a sub. However, he was largely ineffective in the Ghana game.
I was really proud of the team the way that they stuck through with the Italy game. It would have been extremely easy to fold after going down to 9 men. However, they played their hearts out that game. Unfortunately, we could not walk away with a result.
A couple of things to point out from an overall perspective. Only a few countries have actually won the WC. The US has shown that it has a long way to go to repeatedly challenge the world powers. I think that most people would be happy to see that positive movement.
Even CR, which was ranked number 2 in the world, did not advance with two losses in group play. The WC is a funny tournament.
A few questions for the US fans:
If you had to replace Arena, who would you replace him with?
Who are the up and coming players (besides Adu) for the US? Is there a Owen or a Henry or maybe even a Ronaldhino out there?
Why did the US look so bad fundamentally? I saw numerous missed traps, passes, and crosses. Is it talent or is basic instruction missing?