Half-Life

Submitted by Brian on June 18th, 2010 at 1:47 PM

6/18/2010 – USA 2, Slovenia 2 – 0-0-2, 3 GF 3 GA, in with a chance

landon Since college football happens on Saturday and people read the internet at work, I usually have the luxury of taking a day or two to compose my thoughts on an emotionally wrenching event before pouring them out into this space. No such luxury after a 10 AM game on Friday.

It doesn't matter in this case since I won't know how to feel until the US plays Algeria. Go through, and the second half was Yes We Can We Are Amurrica It Is Morning And Let's Roll Up Our Sleeves And Get Out Of This Recession. Fall short and it's time to bomb Mali. That would be unfortunate since some 13 years ago I was sitting on the internet playing checkers at 3 AM after a night of Jedi Knight and my opponent said "hello from Mali." We had a nice conversation. I explained what "doh!" meant and he told me he was using the only computer in his village of 300 to play checkers at 10 AM. Erroll77 is now 29. If I was him I would find a TV and root like hell for the USA against Algeria. The USA didn't bomb Germany after that mad dentist conjured a penalty out of nothing in the Ghana game, but they're in NATO. We do what we must.

I digress. What just happened is Schrödinger's Cat: World Cup Edition. At halftime I left the noisy bar and thought dark thoughts about how the US has largely moved away from MLS players but remains addicted to MLS managers. Jose Torres was brought on and the first half was spent seeing Slovenia cover passing lanes until one of the center-backs aimlessly booted a ball upfield that Robbie Findley might run onto, for whatever good that might do. The US had conceded a goal built from sheer lazy marking from Bocanegra, who allowed Walter Birsa to tuck inside totally unmarked and launch a shot Howard, off his line, had no chance at. The second goal was a World Cup-crushing gut punch that followed a sequence in which the US was one wrong touch or Donovan sliding tackle away from equalizing.

Then something decayed. At halftime I was busy composing a rant about how the loss had nothing to do with the USA's inability to play above the level of their competition and everything to do with their inability to do anything except on the counter and the unfamiliarity with defending it. The US then got a couple goals off hoofed long balls and managed to avoid further crippling goals on the counter. Why is unclear.

It wasn't the substitutions, neither of whom had anything to do with either US goal allowed to stand. Before he got on the end of the Donovan service Edu was frankly bad, and Feilhaber's contribution was limited to a couple of ambitious passes that didn't come off. It wasn't the run of play, which was the same as it was in the first half, with the teams splitting possession and the US having slightly more edge in the final third. It just went differently for no immediately understandable reason. It just happened.

They're still in it, though, and since I'm at a loss as to what, exactly, to think I will default to my mode of operation in 2002, when I was in a Galway pub and Niall Quinn knocked down a header for Robbie Keane to blast past Oliver Khan:

The situation then is creepily close to what the USA just faced down. Ireland had drawn their first game 1-1. The last game of the group was against a team from the Arab world widely regarded a minnow (in their case, Saudi Arabia), and a draw was required if they were going to have a chance to advance. The goal is a carbon-copy.

Keane scored deep into stoppage time, so Ireland didn't have time to punch in the winner and see it set on fire. The country decided to take the rest of the day off and drink by the river. I've still got to watch the England game, but in many things the Irish approach to life is the wise course. For now, a stirring comeback that leaves the USA's fate almost entirely in their hands, and a reason to keep faith even when the weight of history tells you to go home and sulk.

HIGHLIGHTS

While it's up:

BULLETS!

But first! The Run of Play wins twitter in the aftermath. Read from the bottom:

image

  • Jozy's finest game in the US uniform and not even close. Consistently dangerous, drawing a bunch of free kicks around the area, one of which resulted in the Edu goal-type substance, and knocked down the long ball perfectly for Bradley. Had a couple of those thrilling runs that are becoming a regular occurrence, too.
  • Torres didn't do much and got pulled at halftime, but I'm not sure how much was even his fault since there didn't seem to be any passing lanes available.
  • In retrospect, the horrendous Edu call was coming. In the first minute of the game Dempsey should have gotten yellow for an elbow to the head, then Findley got a yellow for handling the ball with his face. Other than Jorge Larrionda (surprise!) making a hash of whichever game he did a couple days ago, we haven't seen that many bad calls in a game, let alone a half.
  • Speaking of Findley: anyone else actually happy he has to sit for the Algeria game? Pace is nice but it's almost sad to see Findley run a ball down. What's he going to do with it? Boot it directly out of bounds? Ah, yes.
  • Feilhaber instead of Holden was weird, right? I guess the former might be more likely to spring a guy with a throughball through a crowded defense.
  • The US had to make the balls-out switch to Gomez but, man, having Edu in the back in a World Cup game was terrifying.
  • It's too bad the US doesn't have a true destroyer they can rely on because allowing Bradley to go box-to-box makes the US attack considerably more dynamic. His late runs into the box find him open all the time. This time, unlike Australia, he shot.
  • The outcome of the Algeria-England game does not matter much for the US. As discussed in the preview, the only way an Algeria win does not put the US through is if 1) the ENG-SLV game is a draw, 2) that draw sees Slovenia score two more goals than the US does against Algeria. That's a highly unlikely outcome. Anything other than an England win means the US just goes through if it wins, so root for Algeria, but it's not likely to matter either way.
  • Germany outcome removes any incentive to finish first. You'd like to avoid the Germans since they only lost because of a questionable red card to Klose (like Eddie Pope's sending off in 2006 the first yellow was a "huh" moment), a saved penalty, and some heroic goalkeeping by the opposition even after Germany went down to ten. But you have no idea where they will finish in the group.

AAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH

hug-me-hold-me

Comments

Needs

June 18th, 2010 at 2:36 PM ^

Nope.

Flag stayed down. That's the AR's (linesman) call, and Bradley wasn't involved in the play's development, so, given the current interpretation, he shouldn't be whistled for offside (I think he was on, in any case).

JonSobel

June 18th, 2010 at 3:32 PM ^

Someone for the U.S. was called for a pull prior to the goal score.  I say that's a pant-load, but that's what they're saying the call was.

I guess "pulling" is a foul, but an outright bear hug is seen as nothing more than a diplomatic gesture of kindness.

NomadicBlue

June 18th, 2010 at 2:46 PM ^

If someone was off, it may have been by an inch or two, and they are not going to call that on a free kick cross into the box while the defense is retreating (not surging forward on a trap trying to draw an offsides call). 

Brian

June 18th, 2010 at 2:47 PM ^

I thought it was kind of offsides at first but that was because I couldn't see the guy bear-hugging Bradley. rule of thumb: if someone has locked his arms around your waist, you are not offsides.

bonobojones

June 18th, 2010 at 2:36 PM ^

USMNT games join Michigan football in being sporting contests that don't end with the clock in my mind.  It takes a Brian recap for me to finally settle down.  You brought this on yourself sir.

Not a Blue Fan

June 18th, 2010 at 2:44 PM ^

I am so, so glad that someone else said it first: when Findley got that pointless, ridiculous yellow, other than swearing at a lost opportunity in the box I was giddy. He's done less than nothing as a striker, and I'm glad to see him sit. His entire raison d'etre is to run onto the long ball (as stupid a strategy as that is). This game featured a whole lot of Findley jogging downfield as the ball sailed over his head (or Findley suddenly finding himself with no one between himself and the goal, and then lazily passing the ball to God knows who in the middle followed swiftly by clearance). Put in a legitimate scoring threat. Gomez or Buddle or even Ching. Anyone but Findley.

NomadicBlue

June 18th, 2010 at 3:48 PM ^

But, thanks for the input.  Not sure why I'm a douche, either.  Brian making a reference to bombing a village (obvious joke - and a good one at that) is acceptable, but making a tounge-in-cheek joke about my imaginary cat is unacceptable?  Interesting. You must be a big Tony Soprano fan - lover of all animals except humans - they're dispensable. 

ikestoys

June 18th, 2010 at 3:19 PM ^

I think you missed a lot in this match Brain. 

 

The substitutions were a big deal because of the change in personel-types and the changes in formation. We opened up the 2nd half in this:

 

MOTHER FUCKING RIGGED
 

-----------------Altidore----------------------

------Donovan-------------Dempsey--------

---------Feilhaber---Edu----Bradley-----------

Bocanegra---Onyewu--DeMerit-----Cherundolo

----------------------Howard--------------------

Opposed to the 4-4-2 we had been playing. The Gomez sub pushed us into a 3-4-3.

 

I can't overemphasize how big of a deal the formation change was. We came out with the idea (myself included) that we would be able to connect around 11 Slovenes, and in retrospect, that was foolish. Switching to the 4-3-3 did two big things. First, it allowed the US to play a much more direct and athletic attack. The plan was obviously to find targets (Altidore mainly, Dempsey secondly) and get runs off of the target in. It also bypasses 6 of the 11 guys in front of the ball. Second, it shored up the center of the field (the 3 in a 4-3-3 is almost always all CMs), covered Gooch and Demerit, and allowed Bradley to be the box to box midfielder he's capable of being.

Also, Edu did fine. He wasn't there to be an offensive force. His job was to keep Gooch and Demerit  from being exposed. The lack of coverage from CMs played a much larger role in the goals scored than anything else. Demerit and Gooch simply aren't good enough to be left on an island like Torres did time and again.

 

 

turbo cool

June 18th, 2010 at 7:24 PM ^

Nice work man. Seriously, that's a good breakdown. I agree completely and this is where I truly believe Bob Bradley deserves a lot of credit. People like to rag on him because he's not a big foreign name but he's the best American coach.  This guy knows what he's doing.

It wasn't a coincidence that we scored right after our substitutions today. And if you still think that was a fluke then you can always look back to as recently as our friendly with Turkey and how our change in tactics and substitutions led to greater team play immediately.

Needs

June 19th, 2010 at 8:26 AM ^

The new width and the pressing up the field helped, but it didn't make that Slovenian defender comically whiff on that ball to put Donovan in alone. So that was somewhat of a coincidence or fluke.

But I agree that Bradley knows what he's doing. He's figured out how we most effectively play, especially if Altidore can continue to play the way he did in the 2nd half. Now if only he could magically transform someone into a central defender.

STW P. Brabbs

June 18th, 2010 at 10:31 PM ^

Only with your contention that Edu looked fine.  He looked about as comfortable on the ball as Emile Heskey.  At one point, he very nearly nullified what would have been a goal by aimlessly hanging about in an offside position. 

Beautiful run for the non-sports-I-like-hating-God gamewinner.  But he was shaky before that.

ikestoys

June 19th, 2010 at 12:22 AM ^

I completely agree that Edu was shaky in possession, especially in the beginning of the half. That's to be expected though really. It was Edu's first world cup and I believe his first cap in a full international match since 2008 (He has had a lot of injury problems).

However, it's important to realize what his role is exactly on our team. The best analogy I can really think of is Ben Wallace (before he got old) on the 2004 Pistons. Did anyone care if we was full of fail on the offensive end in 2004? Of course not, as long as he racked up 15 rebounds and slowed down Shaq.

Now, to be fair to Edu, he's not Ben Wallace, he's capable of offensive flair. He scored for Rangers in the Old Firm game (it's a big deal) and he's damn good in the air in set pieces. It's unfortunate that ball didn't go in, because that would have been the biggest moment in his career. Edu took care of his job though, and that is more important than any offensive blunders.

cgnost

June 18th, 2010 at 5:02 PM ^

With the England-Algeria draw, the U.S. moves on with:

(1) a win; or

(2) a draw + an England loss OR an England-Slovenia draw where England does not score two more goals against Slovenia than the U.S. does against Algeria.

 

If the U.S. draws and England-Slovenia draws, and England scores exactly two more goals against Slovenia than the U.S. does against Algeria, then FIFA will draw lots to see whether the U.S. or England advances.

ikestoys

June 18th, 2010 at 4:58 PM ^

England - Algeria result was pretty much ideal.

Standings:

Slovenia 4pts GD +1 GS 3

USA 2pts GD 0 GS 3

England 2pts GD 0 GS 1

Algeria 1pts GD -1 GS1

For those of you who don't know, the first two tiebreakers are goal differential (GD) then goals scored (GS).

 

Scenarios

-Win and we're in

-Lose and we're out

-Tie and we're in IF Slovenia beats England

-Tie and we're in IF Slovenia ties England and England we maintain our GS lead (likely, an England tie is highly unlikely to be 2-2 or higher).

 

Cliffs

Beat Algeria

Blue Bunny Friday

June 18th, 2010 at 5:47 PM ^

The problem is that if Enland won it would pretty much be the same; beat Algeria. However, now Algeria has a spot in the next round to play for now.

It does still leave the #1 from the group wide open for the U.S... and it is absolute control of destiny (had England won by a lot and lost to serbia by a little beating Algeria wouldn't have been enough).

#1C was made less important by Germany looking vunerable.

ikestoys

June 19th, 2010 at 12:36 AM ^

If you look at the group standings, Algeria still has a chance, so they will be playing. However, it's very likely that Algeria will have to win by 2 in order to advance because Slovenia has a +1 GD, owns the GS tiebreaker and it doesn't look like England is going to score a lot. Hopefully, Algeria comes to the same conclusion and presses.

Unfortunately for Algeria, this couldn't be better for us, because we are most effective on the counter. Algeria plays a 3-4-2-1 that shifts to a 5-4-1 on defense. Maybe I'll do a diary latter with pics and everything, but the way to attack this formation is to attack the wings, which means Dempsey and Donovan will have a lot of space. This is not good for the Algerians.

A good example of how well we can do against this type of system in this situation is the Egyptian game from the 2009 Confederations Cup. Egypt plays the same strange 3-4-2-1 and wanted to get a win so they could advance over Italy. They pressed some, and we pumped a quick goal in the first half. They pressed a lot in the second half, and we destroyed them after they wore out.

Basically, the fact Algeria needs a convincing win is going to make it easier to expose them in the back. Frankly, we should be able to absorb their weak attack.

SpartanDan

June 19th, 2010 at 12:39 AM ^

That only fails if England also wins by one goal. (If they do not win, Algeria will pass them; if they win by more, Algeria will pass Slovenia on GD. If Algeria and England each win by 1, Slovenia and Algeria are tied for second with 1-1-1 records and 0 GD, and Slovenia's currently up 3 on goals scored and has the head-to-head tiebreaker in case that turns out even.)

But let's make this moot, please.

mrguy

June 18th, 2010 at 6:38 PM ^

That was awesome to see the US come back but heart breaking to see it get stolen at the end. I still feel good about our chances.

I don't follow soccer but my South American wife has dragged me in. Question: Please tell me a South American team is not going to win it all? I know nothing about this game but I get the impression this is Argentina's to lose if their cracked out coach doesn't screw it up (come on you fat bastard, I know you have it in you!). So does anyone have some snappy comebacks? South American football fans can be as insufferable as OSU fans. It's tough though to talk the right trash but still stay on the side of line that keeps me in the bedroom and off the coach at night.

mejunglechop

June 18th, 2010 at 6:39 PM ^

This sucks, but it's a part of the game. Brazil had a clear cut goal disallowed versus the US in the Confederations Cup last year. No one here was complaining then. Sometimes it goes your way, sometimes it doesn't.

SpartanDan

June 18th, 2010 at 8:38 PM ^

1) That one was damn close, and it was a judgment call as to whether the ball had gone over the line or not. If the entire ball has to be across the entire line, while it's up in the air it's just close enough that a sliver of the ball might still be on the edge of the line. (Personally, I think it did cross the line by about half an inch.) Big difference between getting a close call wrong at game speed - it happens - and making shit up. This was making shit up.

2) In the end, the result in the Confed Cup was the same - a Brazil win. That cannot be said of the US goal today.

mejunglechop

June 18th, 2010 at 11:54 PM ^

I know, it's more frustrating because the end result was affected and the call was a lot closer. Soccer, more than any other sport I know, seems willing to accept, even sometimes embrace, officiating errors, even egregious ones, as a part of the game (think Hand of God). Sometimes this goes in your favor, sometimes not.

mejunglechop

June 20th, 2010 at 10:25 AM ^

Because there were a lot of mad English fans, I wouldn't be surprised if he got reprimanded, but it's not like they replayed the game, even though that play was decisive in the outcome. This should tell you all you need to know about FIFA officials' general ambivilance towards the correct call being made: they refuse to use goal line cameras or ball sensors.

DoubleB

June 18th, 2010 at 10:48 PM ^

It was a bad call in a game of bad calls (that went against both sides). It was made before the ball entered the net. It's not a grand conspiracy against US soccer. I'm much more frustrated that we have arguably the worst back line in the tournament and need Tim Howard to stand on his head to get draws against a squad like Slovenia.

This team advanced to the Confederations Cup in 2009 thanks to a very controversial disallowed goal against Canada in the 2007 Gold Cup semifinals. I get that the officiating stunk and the USMNT got the worst of it today, but we've caught our share of breaks as well.

mrguy

June 18th, 2010 at 7:11 PM ^

Is there any chance for a liveblog of the USA-Algeria game? I know this is a Michgan site but seriously what else is there for the moment? Another billionth article on divisions or further expansion?

Zoltanrules

June 18th, 2010 at 8:25 PM ^

I am also thrilled he will not play vs Algeria. He looks like a deer in the headlights on this world stage. Bradley also needs to have the boys attack patiently down the sides (with  a better first touch)... the new ball definitely has made every long cross overshot and every bomb up  the middle a bit of an adventure for the defense and keeper alike... can you imagine MLB introducing a whiffle ball before the World Series?.. really a shame becuase much skill is gone in this year's WC.

SpartanDan

June 18th, 2010 at 8:40 PM ^

This referee might be the most incompetent one I've ever seen. And that includes Aaron (the CCHA ref who once called four penalties - two on each team - on the player who was being held instead of the one doing the holding, in a single game). That he wouldn't even explain what it is he thought he saw is utterly appalling.