Last Sunday, Team USA was a champion. How quickly things can change. Argentina and the United States played a very even first half, but the best team eventually came out on top. And they did it in a big way, scoring 3 beautiful goals to put away the United States 4-1.
It was the first loss under Coach Bob Bradley, but he had to have seen this one coming right? Clearly in the second half the American team was overmatched by Argentina. I don’t want to hear about any moral victories here, or how this was a great learning experience for the younger players. Simply put, you don’t need to go all the way to Venezuela to take Butt Kicking 101. We passed that course with flying colors back in 2006.
Losing is losing and it affects everyone associated with US Soccer, so its not as if players don’t know how to deal with this kind of adversity. Obviously USSF thinks they don’t know how to handle it, otherwise they wouldn’t have set the players up for this loss. And lets face it. You can have all the pregame talks and optimism in the world. But you cannot convince me that all 11 of those players went out onto the pitch last night and thought that they could steal a win from Argentina. I understand that Bradley couldn’t bring his best players to this tournament. But if that was the case, and they knew that would be the case, why did they accept an invitation to a tournament they were destined to be embarrassed in?
Argentina came to this game with the best starting XI it could offer, with Carlos Tevez even starting the game on the bench. Argentina’s players are some of the best in the world, while the United States had a few European based players, and a few of the best from MLS. That’s just not good enough, no matter what Alexi Lalas says.
Argentina showed just how this game is supposed to be played. Their second half was what football is all about, with crisp passing and imaginative finishing. It was almost as if a new team had taken the field for them. Their players get it, their management gets it, and their fans get it. It all comes down to winning, and one has to question whether the United States intended on winning this tournament when they decided to enter it.
To steal a quote from Herm Edwards, you play to win the game. Before anything changes on the field, this is a hard lesson that has to be learned. If you’re going to win in this game, everything has to be taken seriously. If you want to take anything from this game other than a loss, consider a few things.
1. The United States has no real scoring threats at the forward position, at least on the senior squad. Brian Ching is decent, but Taylor Twellman and Eddie Johnson are absolute jokes at this spot, and this should be their last tournaments in the USA shirt. If we are going to compete, we need to find a goal scorer. Imagine how much better Landon Donovan, Clint Dempsey, and DaMarcus Beasley would be if they had a go to forward to work with as well. Hopefully the U20 forwards can provide this spark in the future.
2. Kasey Keller should retire from international football after this tournament. He really has no place on this team anymore, and his skills have diminished. The U20 keeper Chris Seitz is a star in the making, and there is no reason for him to not get any games because Keller isn’t ready to hang it up.
3. The Gold Cup squad might have stolen a win in this game, had they all played. In the second half, there was no scoring threat, and I’m sure that would not have been the case if Twellman and Johnson were switched with Donovan and Dempsey.
In the end, if you’re looking for someone to blame, blame USSF and Bob Bradley. They’re the ones who put this team in this situation, so the egg is on their faces when it comes to this loss. In the future, if something like this comes up again, USSF needs to make a sound decision that will give this team a chance to win, or they shouldn’t enter tournaments like this. Everyone else comes to win in this game, and its time US soccer took that approach on all fronts, not just on its home soil.