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The US need to learn the lessons taught by Argentina, fast

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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.

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Comments (9)

  1. I think you’re being a bit harsh on the US – they saw this as a tournament they could not win and therefore chose to blood youngsters in it.

    It might be butt-kicking 101 and an embarrassment, but a) it’s better losing with kids than with your best team and b) the kids will learn.

  2. Agree with Ahmed. As much as it hurts to lose, the experience the younger players will take away is vital. In order to improve, we need games like this every bit as much as we need games like Sunday vs. Mexico. That is the point of having “B” teams – see what you have beneath the surface of your main players.

  3. I saw the game live, & although i didn’t expect the USA to win i did see flashes of brilliance throughout their play. They had a few good chances that might have gone their way if they were a bit better on their finishing. Some of the other times though, it seemed that they were a bit scared of pushing the Argentine defence, especially in one-on-ones, & preferred shots from outside the box.

    I agree with you about their choice of strikers. Johnson looked pretty out of it but i’m not sure if any change would have been much better against that kind of defensive strength. If anything i think they were pretty bad in their man-marking. They could have easily prevented 2 goals if they had been a bit more alert in that department. Put it down to lack of experience i guess.

    I think that if you are in such a tournament you have to be serious about winning. Blooding youngsters is all well & good but you can also take calculated risks & do it the right way to set yourself up for a win. Sometimes if younger players are exposed to too much ‘losing’ they might lose confidence altogether. A good coach would know how to balance experience with youthful talent & still mount a serious challenge.

    P.S. COULD NOT recognize Crespo for the first 20 mins. Why on earth did he cut his hair? And Cambiasso has gone completely bald i couldn’t tell him from Veron. Even the commentator had problems.

  4. Follow up:

    An example of a decent side to play your ‘B’ team against would be Columbia. Save the best players for teams like Argentina & Brazil. What’s the problem with that?

  5. The main problem is availability of players. Given the current schedule of our domestic league, the USSF had limited choices: use the “A” squad for Copa America and use the “B” squad for the Gold Cup, practically guaranteeing that we would miss out on the Confederations Cup in 2009. Or, go with their current plan, which is to use the “A” squad for the Gold Cup and qualify for the Confed Cup, with a “B” squad for the Copa America. Otherwise, they would just have to skip the Copa altogther (which they’ve done in years past).

    I consider the Confederations Cup more important than the Copa America, if anything because it takes place much closer to the World Cup, and more of the senior squad will be sorted out by then. Keep in mind that WC qualifying hasn’t even started yet, and you’ll see that this approach probably makes the most sense, even if we run the risk of getting shat on by Argentina (who will probably do more of the same to many more teams in this tourney).

  6. Fair point about the domestic league & the scheduling conflicts. Makes for a good case to get more Americans into the European leagues (from an American point of view). I was wondering how willing the clubs in America are to let their players go off for national call-ups during the season? Is the dynamic different to the European clubs?

  7. MLS has to switch the league to a summer to spring schedule so their players can participate without clubs and the league getting pissed they are losing money because their stars have been pulled for internatioanl duty.

    But, that will never happen, ebcause MLS does not want to play at the same time as everybody else because they would get lost in the shuffle.

  8. They are fairly open to it, probably more so than the average European squad, as having players on international duty is good for marketing (MLS needs all it can get, really). This is a bizarre case though; the Gold Cup and Copa America are being played back-to-back, smack in the middle of the season, and some teams are getting hit harder by having players away.

    Furthermore, as the USA is an invited guest to Copa America, there is no regulation forcing clubs to release their players for this tournament. So while the USSF and MLS generally work pretty cohesively on getting players released, it was a bit tricky this time around.

  9. It’s all fine and dandy to bloody players, but why is an attitude of ‘Hey! Let’s just show up and not care about winning!’ suddenly acceptable? We’ve displayed that we’re among the class of the CONCACAF, but that’s the equivalent of being the most intelligent in a classroom of autistic kids. We need to win over better competition to grow.

    I know we’re all excited about Beckham-mania, but a victory over Argentina would have provided more a boost.