Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Cold, Wet and Slightly Dreary

photo by Jo Naylorvia PhotoRee

Our title refers, of course, to the weather in Belgium last night, but we could have equally been referring to the performance turned in by the US Mens National Team in their contest against the Belgians on Tuesday. Witnessed by only the sparsest of crowds due to the inclement weather sweeping across Western Europe, the Belgians defeated a sluggish and wet American squad 1-nil in a game largely devoid of excitement or action. With so many quality local beers to otherwise occupy their attention, who could argue when the vast majority of Belgians decided to stay at home and watch the match on television?

o That the US team was tired -- and showed it -- shouldn't really come as a surprise to anyone. Playing just four days after their last game and traveling nine time zones -- and ten and a half hours on a plane -- to play a friendly in Europe just points out how preposterous it is to have the USMNT based on the West Coast. Slotted at the Home Depot Center solely to placate Philip Anschutz, MLS' largest individual investor, the US team isn't headquartered near their CONCACAF rivals in the Carribean, nor anywhere remotely close to where some of our best players ply their trade -- in Europe. Having the team based on the East Coast of the US -- say, Florida, given it's proximity to the Carribean, Mexico, and year 'round weather -- would make a ton more sense, but when did common sense ever count for anything when money is at stake?

o Brek Shea and Robbie Rogers seem as if they are becoming a regular part of Jurgen Klinsmann's rotation. Shea, who was apparently the object of some attention from foreign clubs during the last transfer window, seems a bit tall to be playing out on the wing for me. With his body type you'd think he could bulk up a bit and play in the center of the offense.

o Luis Castillo didn't make even the bench last night, so my guess is performances matter to Klinsmann. Turn in a few tough ones, as Castillo did his last two times out, and there are bound to be consequences.

o The US began the game out well, but once the clock hit the twenty minute mark they started to give the ball away much too cheaply. The Americas seemed unwilling -- or unable -- to carry the ball at the other team, most often looking to get rid of it at the first sign of pressure, and trying to force a pass when they would have been better served to run at the Belgian defense.

o For me, Maurice Edu's performance was summed up in his complete airball of a shot as the scoreless first half drew to a close. Next, please...!

o Things didn't get a whole lot better in the second half, as the Americans turned in a performance only slightly less dreary than the Belgian weather. Threatening goal only in the game's closing moments meant a second game in a row in which the US was on the wrong end of a shutout scoreline. It must be especially frustrating for Klinsmann, known for his offensive prowess, to find himself in charge of such an impotent bunch, but I'll chalk it up to tired legs, a mix-and-match squad that was missing some of its normal starters, and a team still struggling to find its identity and play in the new coach's system.

o With last night's loss, the US fell to 0-2-1 in the Klinsi era. It's important to remember that no one said this was going to be easy or quick. There's alot of work to be done, and the new coach's grade at this point can only be viewed as an incomplete.

This is farlieonfootie for September 7.

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