Crashing Out Comment Count

Brian June 30th, 2009 at 12:02 PM

6/28/2009 – USA 2, Brazil 3 – Confederations Cup Runners Up

Note: yeah, this is Off Topic, but 1) this is also way more interesting than anything else going on at the moment, 2) I reserve the right to wander off the reservation in the hard offseason, and 3) I'm slightly tired of recruiting-recruiting-recruiting. Aren't you? Coming up tomorrow: Wednesday Recruitin'!


Here's Clint Dempsey holding the "bronze ball" bestowed on the FIFA-approved third-best player at the Confederations Cup. Here is a brief list of the folks Dempsey finished in front of:

  • That white guy on South Africa
  • Italy(!)
  • Spain(!!!)
  • Everyone on Brazil not named Kaka or Fabiano

That is an impressive array of players to beat out. And yet Dempsey looks like he's auditioning for The Hangover 2 or Fully, Completely Baked. This is because the United States has just found out that there is a way to lose to Brazil 3-2 and feel agonized, that, yes, there is such a thing as crashing out for you who thought yourself immune.

Sitting there in the aftermath of Brazil's comeback was one of the strangest feelings I've had as a sports fan. To demonstrate: I was going to put an adjective on "comeback" there and considered both "stunning" and "inevitable." Words literally fail. Maybe there's something in German for it. Schiessenkopffrauballsdammit: the feeling you have when the incredibly improbable thing you dreaded and feared comes to pass, just like you knew it would. (See: 2005 Ohio State game.)

That was the nature of this deeply bizarre tournament. Bludgeoned and discarded in the first games, the United States retroactively justified my friend's terror that the Honduras game would not end with a result and that this would surely put the Nats in an honest-to-god World Cup qualification dogfight—in CONCACAF! Late in the dire Brazil drubbing, another friend asked me what we should do and I succumbed to pure reactionary talk-radio blithering: "Fire Bradley," I muttered, and said no more.

From that moment on the US put together the most brilliant two-and-a-half game run in probably their entire history: 3-0 over Egypt, 2-0 over Spain, and 2-0 over Brazil. Yeah, they were on the back foot for about 60 minutes of the Spain game, but dos a cero is dos a cero. If only soccer finals were 45 minutes long. (While we're at it: if only soccer finals were 45 minutes long and banned people fluent in Portuguese.)

They are not, and we are left with our schiessenkopffrauballsdammit.


I don't have any other soccer team. The nearest MLS team are in Chicago and Columbus and Toronto, none of which I can root for on geographical principle. If I was to pick up one of the big four in the EPL I might as well just go the whole nine yards, buy a Yankees hat, USC jersey, Duke shorts, and Lakers shoes, and shoot myself. 

But what's the point of rooting for Fulham? Good job lads, you didn't get sent to purgatory… this year. European soccer is structured such that you can either pick the Yankees or the Toledo Mud Hens. The Mud Hens have as much of a chance at winning the World Series as Wigan has of winning the Premiership. But Wigan fans don't seem to mind. Win some games, lose some games, sing about Emile Heskey emerging from a radioactive lagoon during a terrible thunderstorm, end of story let's get a pint.

On the other hand, even the lowliest American franchise has aspirations to greatness. A few years ago the Penguins were awful enough to get like three consecutive top-three picks. The Patriots were a laughingstock for most of their existence. The Spurs were some random team in San Antonio before Tim Duncan arrived. The Cardinals won the World Series despite being like four games above .500. Everyone can strive. Even Clippers fans eagerly await the day Donald Sterling dies. "Look at the Blackhawks!" they say before returning to Bill Simmons' annual fantasy football draft-stravaganza. This is a blessing and a curse.

The curse section is provided Brian Phillips on the outstanding Run of Play:

I'm more interested in seeing the run through this tournament, and the Spain game above all, as something to celebrate for its own sake, without thinking about next year or whether it's safe to nudge up my expectations. I'm sure I'm not alone in that, but partly thanks to Bradley's understandable emphasis in his postgame remarks, so much of the coverage has skirted the "what does this mean?" question that I've spent most of the last 24 hours wanting to take an anchorperson by his lapels and scream "We #$*%ing BEAT SPAIN! Doesn't that matter more than abstract 'potential'?"

Yes, because it probably doesn't mean much in the scheme of things. Spain and Brazil showed their quality, and while it's great the US beat one and took the other to the limit, what that says is that the US can scrap with teams better than they are. The World Cup group is going to have between one and three teams better than the Nats, and there will be scrapping.

This is foreign to the national state of mind. The United States does not scrap except maybe in rhythmic gymnastics and kayaking and other things dreamed up by commies trying to get up to par in gold medals. When the US decided to get super-serious about soccer, they dreamed up "Project 2010," which was supposed to "ensure the US Men's National team was a legitimate threat to win the World Cup by 2010," emphasis mine because WTF? Win? We are Americans, and it doesn't matter if we have the resources of the Kansas City Royals. We have Yankee dreams.

So what the Brazil game was was a chance. A stupid, improbable chance built on equal parts grit, skill, and astounding luck; a chance to slay two giants back-to-back and scramble up to the pinnacle of world football for somewhere between sixty seconds and a day before the ground gave way and it was back to Grenada and Haiti. So I appreciate *#$&ing beating Spain but also feel like Dempsey above, holding a trophy he had no right to expect and thinking of what might have been.


  • So a major reason this post exists was the large influx of soccer emails into the inbox. Aaron Rennie's contribution: "The first half was like the best blowjob you've had in your life; the second was discovering you got it from a dude." Funny, but it's not like I started questioning which team I was rooting for later. I have my cool group of local friends because a couple people knew I liked soccer and needed someone to watch it with and joined up with us; I feel I owe Arriaga II, God of Soccer, a tribute.
  • You know, I had bought into Harkes' gratuitously negative take on Dempsey in the Egypt match—when I deigned to tweet about the 3-0 win, I mentioned Dempsey had been "terrible" or "awful" or something like that—but then I re-watched the first half a couple days ago and saw him set up the US's two best scoring opportunities of the first half with incisive passes. There really needs to be a Nats UFR.
  • …which might fall to me, actually. I'm seriously considering starting up a USMNT blog with a couple friends (so that the burden on me is not extensive enough to hamper MGoActivities, of course). Name suggestions welcome.
  • I wasn't thrilled with Bocanegra at left back but that might have something to do with the fact he was coming off injury and playing against Spain and Brazil; he was clearly less overmatched than Bornstein. Bocanegra-Demerit-Onyewu-Spector/Cherundolo should be the backline going forward, with Hedjuk around to come on as a lead-protecting substitute and all around insane hairy guy.
  • Bornstein, meanwhile, might see his spot yoinked by Edgar Castillo, the Texican left back who appears frozen out of Los Douchebags' plans. That would make the USA 2/2 on grabbing newly-eligible defectors.
  • Argh Rossi.
  • Actually read some insane Big Soccer criticisms in the wake of the first couple matches directed at Howard because "the book" on him had become clear: shoot miraculous 30-yarders. When that's all they can say about you…
  • What happens when Ching is available? Davies ran around and did some stuff and scored an Eckstein goal and had that gorgeous assist to Donovan. But Jozy's not much of a holding or linkup forward right now. He is a beast who is fast and huge and could conceivably function as a Charlie Davies who ate a steroid-laced power mushroom. Ching and Jozy worked very well together before Ching's injury, and then you get to bring Davies' pace off the bench.
  • Similarly, once Edu and Jermaine Jones start pushing for central midfield slots the competition will be as brutal as it gets on the US National Team. Clark might get pushed to the bench even after turning in a very strong Confederations Cup; he's not likely to go without a fight.
  • Side benefit:  you've seen the last of Kljestan against teams outside of CONCACAF. (Or I'll die.)
  • Jozy watch: Villareal just sold Nihat. He was injury-plagued and not a consistent starter, but maybe that opens up space for Altidore to be a consistent substitute?
  • While we're at it, Dan Levy has an excellent article at TSB on ESPN's impact on the Future we're trying so hard not to consider at the moment.


Yinka Double Dare

June 30th, 2009 at 12:21 PM ^

If anything, the fact that Clark showed so well is very important in that our depth is just awful. With Bradley unavailable and Torres either silently injured or completely in Bob's doghouse, the only midfield option left was Feilhaber. With him starting we had exactly zero reasonable midfield options left on the bench (Beasley was beyond useless, and Sacha has been crap every time for quite some time now). Since Feilhaber isn't in 90-minute form, the Bradley BS red card was a double whammy -- we lost one of our most consistent players in the starting lineup, and we lost our most consistently perfect substitution. Feilhaber-for-striker with Dempsey moving forward around the 65th or 70th minute had worked beautifully.

Basically, when we needed subs we brought in Bornstein and Kjlestan. Brazil brought in freaking Dani Alves. That's a monstrous advantage.

And in the final I think we finally saw Jozy's lack of playing time catch up with him. He just wasn't on the level of fitness needed to play all these games. He needs regular playing time, not just as a sub, but as a starter in order for him to be what we need for 2010.

Yinka Double Dare

June 30th, 2009 at 12:26 PM ^

I might also add that having numerous central midfield options is important because both Bradley and Clark are card machines. If Bradley is starting along side Jones, we'll need quality options on the bench for the likely scenario where Bradley gets suspended for yellow accumulation or a red, while still having a real bench option for that game as well.


June 30th, 2009 at 12:30 PM ^

I feel exactly the same about this as I did about UVA's CWS run. Even being there was a bonus and I was fully prepared for the eventual flame-out, but not for the way it happened (UVA lost in 12 after blowing a two-run lead to an Arkansas team we'd probably beat three out of four times.) As a fan I'd rather get blown out in games like this than lose a close one, especially one in which we had a lead, because you can go back to every little point in the game and go "if only" and that's no fun. But I think it's a much better motivator for the team than a blowout is. I'm just bummed the Gold Cup is between now and August 12 because I really wish the last actual-game memory we had before going into Mexico City was this one.

los barcos

June 30th, 2009 at 12:32 PM ^

start your blog --- there is a growing popularity for the US mens soccer, despite what epsn will tell you (anyone who went on facebook sunday afternoon will say the same thing). especially with the world cup coming up, id love to be able to read up on the team without sifting through a bunch of garbage.

im really at a loss for words. taking brazil to the brink is nothing to be ashamed about, but godamn, 2-0 in the first half? the M.O with this team has been inconsistency, and i would love if they could actually build off this, like they were all saying postgame.

dempsey crying after the game was an interesting moment. the US was sooo close to winning a big time tournament and lost it - im hoping this lights the fire under their ass for next year.


June 30th, 2009 at 2:48 PM ^

that the self-proclaimed "world-wide leader" in sports coverage will marginalize sports which are not in the set
[ American Football, Basketball, Baseball ].

Part of what I enjoy about hockey right now is the focus on the games themselves; no ESPN 4 talking heads arguing all sides of every question, making predictions and inane comparisons between players, teams and coaches. Just show me the games, and talk between periods. Thanks.


June 30th, 2009 at 12:43 PM ^

Great post Brian, and yea i think most of us can agree that you should start that blog and maybe for the european soccer lovers like myself include some epl, liga, and serie a as well. As for the game, I agree, we got considerably worse when we brought on our subs. we just don't have the depth of great teams like brazil and spain, granted we didn't have our best player michael bradley (in my opinion). I just hope our players can have consistent playing time this upcoming season for their respective teams (ahem, Jozy, freddy) because it's clear that in order to achieve our potential our players need to play and improve.

and one more thing....ARRGG ROSSI!


June 30th, 2009 at 12:46 PM ^

Keep up the good work on the soccer posts. A USMNT blog would also be sweet.

Overall, the tournament was a success for the US team. However, let's not get too hyped up - they still had a 2-3 record.
I'd like to see more of the guys get over to Europe. Once we have an entire team consisting of english or european STARTERS, we will have a shot on the world stage.


June 30th, 2009 at 12:55 PM ^

Even on the worst day of sports, when no team plays. I would rather not talk about Hackie Sack. A bunch of scrub American players that weren't good enough to play a sport took up the hobby of running sprints down a field while kicking a ball and all of a sudden it is good enough to post on Mgoblog. DISSAPOINTING!!!

That said as the great Patriot I am I actually watched the game chanting USA, only to see the US team become disinterested in their hobby half way through and roll over to the Brazil team in the 2nd half. DISSAPOINTING!!!

I love dissing on soccer. :)


June 30th, 2009 at 1:13 PM ^

.. don't see the problem in rooting for one of the big 4. Unless, of course, it's Man U, Arse, or Chelsea.
You could say the same for La Liga, Bundesliga, and Serie A. There are plenty of teams in mid table (Everton, Westham, Spurs, Villa, Fulham) that can challenge the big boys. I often find myself rooting for teams to pull "the great escape." Relegation is a very real, palpable thing; ask Newcastle fans about it.


June 30th, 2009 at 1:18 PM ^

nice idea ... we need more US soccer content ... i am still feeling the let down from that loss but it wasnt as bad for me as the wings loss was ... that being said i think donavan's post game comment hit it on the head with "too bad we didnt win now cause we might not get anither chance" ... that said im pumped to move up fifa's international rankings and mabye squeak into the top 8 to draw from the top seed in the world cup (does anyone have info on this? last time we were #9 whuch screwed us because we got put in the pool with teams like iran so we didnt have a chance to play them)


June 30th, 2009 at 3:34 PM ^

Virtually nil. It's a combination of two factors (assuming they do it the same way as in 2006): performance in the previous two World Cups and the last three end-of-year rankings. We at least qualified for both World Cups and made the quarters in '02, but that will be at best even against most of the European powers (even the Netherlands, who missed out eight years ago, will be ahead of us due to doing so much better in '06), and our '07 and '08 end-of-year rankings are way too low for us to make up any ground there. It would take a lot of surprise non-qualifiers in Europe for us to have a prayer at seeding - South Africa automatically gets a spot due to hosting, the Netherlands, England, Spain, Brazil, and Argentina are all definitely ahead of us (assuming the latter three qualify - foregone conclusion for Brazil and England at this point and very likely for Spain, though Argentina's still in some danger), so we can only afford one more team to qualify ahead of us. That means France, Italy, and Germany would probably all have to flame out in the playoffs (on the assumption that one of the other qualifiers from South America beats us out, which is likely - probably Paraguay).


June 30th, 2009 at 1:23 PM ^

Another vote for a USMNT blog. It would be great to have a quality, well-written place to hear about the Nats without having to sift through a bunch of main stream drabble

Musket Rebellion

June 30th, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

I think the soccer blog is a great idea, as long as, like you said, it doesn't take away from your MGorepsonsibilities.

I like the idea of the US just being happy that we beat Spain and go from there. In reality this doesn't mean a damn thing for the World Cup so let's just get off of it and worry about qualifying.

The lack of depth for this team is kind of amazing. How could a nation of 300 million people not be able to field 30 or so world class soccer players? The answer is somewhere in between "we are getting there" and, "we never have."

Landon Donovan was a force in this tournament. I hope when his contract expires at the end of this season that he gets a real shot in Europe. He'll be 27 and that is still relatively young. He's my second favorite player behind Aaron Lennon.


June 30th, 2009 at 1:25 PM ^

"European soccer is structured such that you can either pick the Yankees or the Toledo Mud Hens."

this is why god invented the bundesliga. i mean, wolfsburg?

Rush N Attack

June 30th, 2009 at 1:39 PM ^

"Yankees" in FC Hollywood. Bayern has won nearly half of the Bundesliga titles, and way more than the next closest team.

But you're right. I mean freaking Hoffenheim(!) was leading at the winter break, and playing great football until Ibisevic went down.


June 30th, 2009 at 1:37 PM ^

I played Soccer at a very high level during middle school so I am not the "Soccer Sucks" guy. I liked playing it and it doesn't make my eyes bleed to watch, but I do not watch or seek it out. When the whole "Soccer" argument comes up I am always intrigued when the Soccer fan tells the dolt who says "1-0 nice sport" that there is a lot of strategy that you don't see. Much like hockey I think Soccer is the sport most exposed to luck due to the low scoring and the goals are rarely things of beauty and more scrums or random deflections. My coach was a doofus who had an absolute magician of a son who we road to very successful seasons and tournament wins(we were like the Cavs with 2 Lebrons..I was Varejo) so I played Center Mid ran around and caused havoc and got the ball to 1 of the Lebrons and got out of the way. So we didn't have much strategy. So to my question after all the preamble is....Is there more going on out there then we see?? Do any of the Soccer Elite have a strategy they can describe that the average guy doesn't see when he watches guys continually losing the ball and they fumble around midfield playing patty cake??

For the Brazil game did you guys have a scouting report on Brazil and from that report could you tell what the US was trying to do and if it was successful.


June 30th, 2009 at 1:51 PM ^

The World Cup and elite level tournaments are like the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's outstanding to watch because the players live and die by it. Outside of that, I don't watch much soccer or hockey.

The diving needs to be cleaned up as it's absolutely ridiculous and really detracts from the game.


June 30th, 2009 at 1:45 PM ^

+ Love the idea of a blog, especially the UFR
+ Castillo is a New Mexican and I don't think he is the panacea to LB he will at least be another left footed option to the depth. If it keeps Beasley off the pitch in any situation I approve Castillo's addition.
+ I think Dempsey gets a bad rap. He never looks to be playing hard and he gets up slow. He has a long gait that doesn't give off the appearance of hustle but I don't know how people can question his dedication and determination. Boy was in tears at the end.
+ I think Dempsey should be the target forward up top and let Altidore and Davies run off him. Deuce has a nose for the goal and I'd like to keep him close to it. Of course we lack an attacking wing replacement if Deuce moved up top. I wish Benny could fill those shoes.
+ I feel empty now that the Confed Cup is over.

[email protected]

June 30th, 2009 at 2:26 PM ^

I'm also a soccer fan who's only emotionally vested in the USMNT. Would love to have a place to keep up with and converse about US team developments without having to wade through all the club-related stuff.


June 30th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

Please do the soccer blog!!!

And if its off-site, please link often for those of us who enjoy USMNT soccer analysis but are too lazy to actually go find it!


June 30th, 2009 at 11:50 PM ^

When I first started watching in 1994, it was not only hard to see the game (and incredibly expensive, you had to pay $20 to go watch a match in a bar and then buy drinks on top of that), but the internet was new and not nearly as robust as it is today. The game has become incredibly easy to follow here in the States; just hop on ESPN Soccernet, get Fox Soccer Channel and GOL TV on cable (and maybe, if you're crazy like me, Setanta as well), and read the soccer sites from the leagues you follow. Join Big Soccer and go on information overload.

There is an entire world of information online; this sport is HUGE business around the worth and there is access now that fans could only dream about 15 years ago. Not saying a blog wouldn't be great (it would!), but it is not really hard to follow anymore. Just get ready to wake up at 7:45 AM EST on Saturdays to watch the matches.


June 30th, 2009 at 2:59 PM ^

Go for it Brian, would love to see a USMNT blog out there. Other than the official ussoccer blog, is the only solely USMNT focused blog out there that I know of. Another site, while not dedicated to USMNT, is which is pretty self explanitory and follows Americans in their foreign leagues. There are a lot more Americans playing abroad that one might think.

It's funny that you mentioned doing something UFR-like because after watching replays via torrent of the Egpyt and Spain matches I was thinking to myself 'hey, it'd be cool to do a UFR for this stuff!"


June 30th, 2009 at 2:59 PM ^

Loved the post and would love to see a soccer blog. I was a letterwinner on the first 4 years of Michigan's Men's Varsity team (2000-2003). During the second season of the team's existence we played Furman in the Florida International Tournament. Furman had both Clint Dempsey and Ricardo Clark on their team - needless to say they taught Michigan a lesson in the form of a 4-0 thrashing with Dempsey scoring a goal. Not sure if you were aware that Michigan played them but thought you would find it interesting.


June 30th, 2009 at 3:07 PM ^

Awesome story, I never knew that!

Also of interest to the Michigan faithful is that former Wolverine standout Peri Marosevic will be competing for the US U-20 team in Egypt later this summer at the U-20 World Cup. Peri has started 4 of 5 games with the this year tallying a goal and an assist is has the most goals for the U-20 team (5) of all the players on the roster for the tournament.


June 30th, 2009 at 3:02 PM ^

I too would appreciate a quiet USMNT soccer blog where we don't have to start every soccer thread with a "soccer is gay/boring/sucks" comment like on Fark, here or TheWolverine.


June 30th, 2009 at 3:14 PM ^

The US is never going to be world class at soccer. It is a matter of specialization. Even with talent, succeeding at the highest levels requires focus. Americans are focused on football, basketball, baseball and NASCAR. Some small degree of attention is paid to some Olympic sports like track and gymnastics.

My parents were born in the Netherlands. I may have been born in Canada, but there is only one team to chear for in our house when it comes to soccer. A country of 16 million people, the Dutch team would kill the American National soccer team 19 times out of 20 if not more frequently. That is just the way it is. Other than soccer, the only other sports that Dutchmen routinely excel in are speed skating and cycling.

I grew up in Canada, a country that has less population than many US states, yet we fill 50-65% of the ranks of the NHL. No matter who is playing in the playoffs, it is easy to find a hometown boy to root for.

Canada is a world power in the sport of rowing. Does the US even have a rowing team?

And realistically, with the large influx of Latino players in MLB there really are two "American" sports: Football and Basketball [which was invented by a Canadian FWIW]...and you might toss in NASCAR with that. There is nothing wrong with that. Great sports. Football is God's sport. You just cannot be good at everything. You just can't. If all the world class American athletes now playing football went into soccer, yeah, they would likely field a competitive team and dominate the sport. I know you love to chant "USA, USA, USA" whenever you get the chance, but really boys...and here is my Canadian roots coming into was fun to watch as your soccer experience mirrored a Greek tragedy. Americans are such insufferable winners, that it is fun, it is first class entertainment, to watch you lose, even struggle at any sport, especially a sport that the rest of the world finds so captivating.

And Brian, you need to get out of the state of Michigan once and while, live somewhere else, broaden your loalties and join this great cosmopolitan global community. I grew up in Toronto, played hockey growing up and don't need a glowing puck to follow the game, and am a died in the wool Leafs fan. In MLB, I am a Jays fan who really did not notice that Cito was black until an American broadcaster pointed out that he was the first black manager to win the World Series. In the MBA I follow the Raptors and in football I watch the Bills. I don't watch CFL since the expansion and contraction. Then I left home and went to grad school and fell in love with college football and basketball and am now Maize and Blue to the core. But having taken up residence in London, I have begun following OHL hockey and the London Knights. And since my school days and now that I live in much closer proximity to Detroit than my hometown, I tried to fall in love with Red Wings and the Pistons and the Lions, but just can't. I cheered when Pittsburg beat you in 7 in your own arena. Ohhh that was sweet. But at the same time, Ohio is hated place filled with hooligans and boors and come the 5th of September I will be in section 42 decked out in all my finest team wear singing the Victors and cheering our boys as they spread and shred WMU...


June 30th, 2009 at 4:04 PM ^

The Netherlands sucked at soccer until Johan Cruyff arrived at Ajax and later went to Barca.

And, to beat the United States, your team has to actually make it to the World Cup every time. 2002 sir?

And I say this as a guy whose dad lived in Amsterdam during the Ajax glory days in 1994-1999, and my favorite player in Frank Rijkaard. You're delusional if you don't think our country of 300 million can't eventually produce 20 players that will be world class. In the space of 15 years our team has gone from a naive "backwater" to a team which just played in a FIFA - sanctioned final (something that say, England, hasn't done in 43 years, and has never done outside their own country). Your suggestion that the U.S. will never be "world class" at soccer is ridiculous, if you can't see the upward trajectory and development of the nation in its soccer programs.

Let op drempels.


June 30th, 2009 at 9:01 PM ^

A small modicum of success and now you are on the verge of joining the world's elite soccer teams...hardly. Face it. The great and mighty USA is at best a third tier team and does well to qualify for the World Cup.

Again...the Dutch team...a country of 16 million people...has consistently produced a team that since the 1970's [minus the odd lapse] has been among the world's best, nipping at the heels of the elite group of Italy, Brazil and Germany...for a country of this size, it is a remarkable achievement.


June 30th, 2009 at 8:52 PM ^

But which sports? How many of them are concentrated in a few sports...such as swimming...nothing wrong with that...and you do have the best overall record; but you do not win medals in every sport and there are some where the Americans get totally punked.