After talking myself down off the ledge that is the only word that I can find to adequately describe the US performance against the Czech Republic on Monday. The US team conceded 3 goals against a very good Czech team and scored none. A lot of credit has to be given to the Czechs because the team played superbly and capitalized on nearly all of its opportunities. On the other hand, the US never gave itself a chance by playing passive soccer and never attacking. Ultimately, the Czechs have most likely stomped, as the Czech player on the right seems to be doing, on the US heart and chances in the Cup.
Nobody on the team showed up to play except for second half substitute Eddie Johnson, who showed considerable spirit in getting a number of quality shots off. In particular, those missing in action were Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley, and Brian McBride. Although, McBride’s performance can partially be blamed on Donovan and Beasley’s disappearing act because he did not get any good playable balls from the midfield. In fact, I don’t believe Petr Cech was seriously tested by the US in the entire game.
To be sure, there is plenty of blame to go around. The players came out dispirited and flat in the game and only to get worse after giving up the early goal to Jan Koller. After that goal, the team had no drive and looked lost. Coach Bruce Arena deserves a considerable amount of blame as well. It appears he and his team bought into the hype surrounding the team coming into the World Cup and caused them to lose their hunger. Ultimately it is the players’ responsibility to be ready but the coach has to get them there, and then after the game he sold his players out. Arena laid plenty of blame on Beasley and the midfield, but did not accept any fault for himself.
Arena surely had to share in the blame because of his managerial decisions. He played Beasley out of position on the right side and it was clear he was not comfortable on that side. (Interestingly, I heard on ESPN this morning that Beasley and Arena are having a significant dispute about Beasley’s role.) Arena also came out with a line-up that was obviously going to slow the tempo down and judging by the play this is what he coached the team to do. In the end, this was exactly the opposite of what he should have done because it played right into what the Czechs wanted to do—slow down, hold the midfield and counterattack—and once they scored the US didn’t adjust until it was too late.
In the end, this was the worst possible outcome for the US. It was not surprising that the Czech Republic won, but the manner in which it did has destroyed a lot of the advances US soccer had made home and abroad in the last 4 years. If the US fails to respond in its next game, this could be a disaster just like in ’98.
In Other Games
Australia 3 - Japan 1—The Soccerroos, led by Tim Cahill, scored three times in the final 15 minutes to come back and defeat Japan. It was quite remarkable.
Italy 2 – Ghana 0—Italy looked very good against a spirited Ghana squad. Chelsea player Michael Essien was superb for Ghana although he could not his team over the hump. Italy will be very tough for the US to score against. If Ghana had just a little more technical ability this game could have easily been a win for them.
South Korea 2 – Togo 1—Korea had two exquisite goals, one from a set piece, to come back from a one goal deficit, only the second time that has happened this Cup. This comeback came after a Togo player was sent off early in the second half for a tackle from behind that stopped a goal scoring chance.