“I think the team is capable of more.” – Sunil Gulati, U.S. Soccer Federation president, 6/28/2010
Nobody was expecting the United States to actually win the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Still, eliminated by Ghana? Again? This wasn’t 2006 Team USA. The American soccer team that landed in South Africa all those weeks ago was supposed to advance to the second round with ease, even win its group with a little bit of luck. When the group was won and the USA-Ghana 2006 World Cup rematch made official, soccer fans in this country and possibly even members of Team USA were already looking ahead to the semi-finals. What team had an easier road through the World Cup quarterfinals than Team USA?
The bitter loss to Ghana is one that is going to stick with American soccer players and fans for months, possibly years. All that can be done now is sit back, reflect and wonder one thing.
What happens to head coach Bob Bradley? Many American soccer fans want Bradley’s head after the coach decided to start Ricardo Clark against Ghana. My gripe with Bradley is that he didn’t have his team ready at the start of any of Team USA’s four World Cup matches. England, Slovenia and Ghana all netted goals against the United States before the 15-minute mark. Algeria would have also if not for the crossbar. The U.S. failed to come close to playing a solid 90 minutes in one of its World Cup matches.
I was unhappy with Bradley after watching a few of Team USA’s World Cup warm-up matches leading up to the World Cup. Along with fellow soccer fans, I was convinced just a couple of weeks ago that this team was not in any way ready for a competition such as the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We were right.
When do the statues of Landon Donovan and Tim Howard get erected, and where will they be located? A buddy of mine had a great idea; put them on the White House lawn so President Obama can rub both statues for luck before he starts his day. I have no problem with this. Tim Howard will be 35 and Landon Donovan 32 when the 2014 FIFA World Cup comes around. Barring any serious injuries, these two cornerstones should be given the opportunity to right the wrong of Team USA’s too-early elimination from this year’s World Cup. Donovan and Howard were far from perfect throughout the entire World Cup (more on that later) but the men are still two new American sports heroes.
The United States needs a striker. Boy does this team need a finisher. Are there any two Americans more eager for the next World Cup than Clint Dempsey and Jozy Altidore? Dempsey should have had three goals against Algeria alone. A World Cup-caliber player needs to bury at least half of those chances that left USA fans on their hands and knees screaming “How do you not bury that?!?” Altidore is a great athlete and a fine young talent, one that had a terrible, terrible World Cup. Altidore was constantly a step or two out of position and really only had one good touch on the ball against Ghana, a touch that was luck as much as it was skill. A guy I know calls Altidore “almost,” because Jozy’s almost there or almost scores once a game. Altidore and Dempsey two young players have quite a bit of work to do before 2014 in order for the United States to be a true semi-final or further threat.
In the end, the most upsetting thing about the 2010 World Cup is that history repeated itself again. This was probably the easiest draw the United States has ever had in a World Cup. What did the team do when the going got tough? The U.S. reverted to, well, USA soccer. A style of play that includes bunching, bad first touches, shaky goaltending (Howard was not strong against Ghana) and disappearing superstars. Landon Donovan’s shining moment from the Ghana match will be a penalty kick that ricocheted off the post and in. That’s simply not good enough.
In a way, it’s nice that just making it to the round of 16 is no longer “good enough” for USA Soccer. Taking that next step, however, is going to be much more difficult than many American fans realize. Sadly, there is nothing about this particular squad on July 1 2010 that screams 2014 World Cup champs.
Overall United States 2010 FIFA World Cup Grade: B-
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