alternate headline: man does job
The Blame Game
6/22/2006 - USA 1-2 Ghana - EO World Cup
I'm pissed. I'm pissed off about the penalty kick and I'm pissed at Bocanegra for not booting the ball out of bounds like every kid from six on up is taught to and I'm pissed at Claudio Reyna for giving away a goal and generally being useless and I'm pissed at just about everyone aside from Onyewu and Dempsey. But mostly I'm pissed about Bruce Arena.
This makes no sense, really. I still believe I've seen a dozen tackles in this very World Cup equivalent-or-worse to Mastroeni's fateful mistake that have been yellows or even no booking at all. Pope's first yellow was a joke -- the man he was marking pulled Pope on top of him -- and the incompetent Uruguayan had no idea Pope was carrying yellow when he booked him a second time. You can't really blame Arena for Claudio Reyna's horrendous gaffe or Marcus Merck's gift PK. And you can't blame him drawing into what turned out to be the tournament's real Group of Death. I still believe that this was a knockout-stage team hamstrung by things beyond its control. One less horrible PK and one slightly more accurate header from McBride or Onyewu and the USA emerges from its group and nobly falls to Brazil. Arena remains a genius. Tacos for everyone.
That did not happen, however, and thus we must confront harsh reality: Bruce Arena's tactical decisions were worthy of Isiah Thomas. Not once in this tournament did Arena deign to start a second striker next to Brian McBride, who is wonderful in the air but lacking service and support did very little with his time. At some point it the question morphed from "Did Eddie Johnson nail Arena's wife?" to "How many times did Eddie Johnson tie Arena up and force him to watch the Grown-Ass Man nail Arena's wife?" At a later date, the answer was revealed: eighty-five. Entering a game the US had to win to advance, Johnson was passed over in favor of yet another 4-5-1, this one featuring Demarcus Beasley even further out of position as a sort of holding midfielder. When Claudio Reyna -- no doubt suffering from acute soccer-pansyitis after gifting Ghana its first goal -- gimped his way off USMNT fields forever in the 40th minute, Ben Olsen came on with the US down a goal. Ben Olsen. This is a man eloquently described by commenter Andrew as a "combination of Ryan Mundy's tendency to be out of position and Jeremy LeSeur's tendency toward dumb penalties." He is a defensive midfielder. He looks and plays like a crazed third liner in hockey. He does not help you score goals. Johnson did not come on until minute sixty, by which point it was far too late.
Is it any wonder that the US managed just four shots on goal the entire tournament? Arena coached like he was planning on tying his way to the second round; not a bad idea with the particular strength of the US: counter-attacking. But that went out the window when Robocop blasted a ball past Keller in the fifth minute and Arena seemed utterly clueless when forced to adapt. Maybe the fault lies more at Donovan and Reyna and Beasley's feet than in Arena's head, but at this point I just want a Dutchman. Or Klinsmann. Or just anyone who doesn't remind me very strongly of Lloyd Carr with a two-touchdown lead.
No tacos. No tacos for anyone. Just mail.
Update: Sweet Fancy Moses:
Here's one to get the rumor mill working overtime. I was at WDR, German state television early this morning talking to Boris Inanici, their ace reporter who has in the past has been embedded with the national team. He told me that Jurgen Klinsmann, the German national team coach will quit after the World Cup regardless of whether the 'Mannschaft' wins the whole thing or not.
He then told me that Klinsmann has already been seen with the top brass of the US Soccer Federation and that there is a very good chance that he will take over the national program when Bruce Arena steps down, which Arena has said he will do.