Um WOW. Landon – fucking – Donovan.
If there was going to be someone to score that goal and rescue US Soccer, it is very appropriate for it to be Mr. Donovan. The public face of US Soccer, all the positives and negatives, for the past 8 years has now scored two of the biggest goals in US Soccer’s modern era. His impact on the sport in this country will not be fully known for years.
You could argue that this was the biggest based purely on the fact that the pressure was on the US to advance, it was expected. They had to score and after countless close calls, it was only fitting that it fell to Landon Donovan to finish. The 2002 Round of 16 was basically being played with house money, there was little pressure. Here he had to perform and did, bravo.
Rather than continuing my self serving hyperbole, here he is to do it proper justice….
Offensively, this team is his. He disappeared for long pieces of this game, providing a few moments of quality when he did get the ball. It can be very difficult for someone like him who relies on speed to find space and make an impact when facing a team like Algeria which was so content to sit back and absorb attack after attack. Kudos to him for not getting impatient, and keeping his cool when the chance did fall to him.
I have said this team will live and die with him; today it lived.
Moving onto some other players….in order of performance….
Michael Bradley continues to play well beyond what you expect from a normal 22 year old. He is constantly looking up with the ball at his feet, making quality passes, strong tackles, and is quite aware of all that is going on around him. Made some excellent passes around the area, including an excellent through ball to Altidore which led to Dempsey’s effort off the post. At times did seem to get a little impatient with a few passes but this is excusable; he is nothing if not emotional and seemed to get a little lost in the moment, trying to force the issue (nitpicking though). Did very well to keep his free kick effort on goal, but why was no one crashing the net?
Steve Cherundolo was kind of a forgotten presence for the US heading into this tournament; injury troubles over the past few years have kept him out of National Team duty. He has been an offensive force down the right hand side though. Combining very well with Landon Donovan and providing excellent service into the box. As a RB, it is even more impressive that all of this has not come at the expense of any of his defensive duties.
Tim Howard was only called into action a few times and should obviously be thankful for his post. When he was called though, he did very well. His positioning on the header in the 91′ minute was excellent and he turned it into a beautiful long throw to Donovan. A lot of the credit on that goal has to be given to him as exploiting the minimal players that Algeria had in the back is what allowed Donovan to end up with that sitter.
Carlos Bocanegra’s move to the middle was great and I am going to mention him alongside Jay Demerit, who has been very consistent in the middle through the 3 games. Bocanegra is obviously more comfortable in the middle and was very good back there this morning. Demerit did flub the cross that led to Algeria’s early chance, but after that he did very well to clean up everything that came his way.
The insertion of Benny Feilhaber in the 2nd was an excellent move by Bradley. He was energetic and creative throughout the 45 minutes. Did very well to pressure the ball and win possession back. His passing was also expectedly crisp and accurate.
I doubted the instertion of Jonathan Bornstein this AM; he is athletic but can be a liability defensively. However, he showed he was up for the task. Making some positive runs and defending patiently and solidly. His service could use a little work but this will come with time.
I loved the insertion of Maurice Edu in the middle, it is a very thankless position on this team. He forced a few long balls but his technical ability on the ball is much better than Ricard Clark’s. He does seem to get a little lazy tracking back at times, whereas Clark relishes his defensive duties. It will be interesting to see which way BB goes on Saturday but it is a positive sign that he is willing to consider both.
Clint Dempsey was uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal today and would have dreamed about his chance in the 57′ for years to come. Luckily his boy bailed him out.
Herculez Gomez did well to find space in front of the goal in the first half but was wasteful as well. Considering his trademark is finishing ability, it was disapointing to see to him miss a few times. He did keep his shots on target which is a positive but BB’s decision to remove him was good. The team needed goals and mixing it up was the right thing to do.
Edson Buddle had some good touches after he got in the flow and calmed down. Held the ball well but didn’t have a huge impact on the game.
UPDATE: Somehow I forgot Jozy Altidore; he had a good game holding the ball and distributing very well. Missed a good chance in the first half but made up for it with his involvement in the winner. Defenders continue to want nothing to do with him, evidenced by the continued hacking he gets. It must be frustrating from his point of view, but kudos for keeping his cool and playing his game, causing all sorts of problems.
I was so close to having to react in a negative way to this game and tournament. Let’s all be thankful it turned out how it did, we get to keep following this team, and we get spared the endless complaining about referees. Yes, some decisions went against them but these are the breaks of the games, as a friend of mine says, sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you get fucked but in the end the universe unfolds as it should*.
This team is quality and their ceiling has a lot to do with their faith in themselves. UPDATE: We now know the will play Ghana, a quality opponent, but one who has limped into the second round. Beatable but also a team which will have the entire African continent behind them.
Americans have responded amazingly well to this tournament. Personally, the amount of talk overheard on the street and random jerseys and overall excitement is awesome. Soccer has made it’s way into the mainstream consciousness of this nation, obviously amplified by the World Cup, but the momentum is undeniable.
US v Slovenia was the 3rd best rated soccer game ever in this country, following the Germany/Italy 2006 semi-final and the US v Germany 1/4 final from 2002. This game probably outrated that one and I would bet everything I own that Saturday’s US v Ghana matchup outrates all of them, possibly even 2x (aka 10MM+ people). During the 2006 World Cup, the US was the 8th ranked nation in viewership, you can bet this year will see it in the top 5, possibly even 3 if the US can keep this run going.
If you are still reading this, thank you. There is going to be a massive amount written about this game and what it means and how soccer is the next big thing, but you chose to read this babbling mess of a blog post, all the way through. Thank you.
My apologies if this was disjointed, it has been done mostly via ifone. Stay tuned for revisions and a collection of others later tn.
*I am not really friends with Harold and Kumar but it would be fun if I was
Apparently condom sales in S Korea went crazy after they advanced to the round of 16. Not much else to say other than, it was either being drunk and eating fried chicken or having sex.
Tomorrow is an interesting day as Italy will look to continue the new European trend of winning when they must. France obviously discounted b/c that is just a hilarious mess. Good report on that if you are into schadenfreude.
The morning presents a battle between Japan and Denmark to see who will advance to the round of 16.
That is all