Friday, June 18, 2010

We were robbed

Through 45 minutes, it seemed the US Men's soccer team was living up to their reputation as a somewhat talented team that wilted on the big stage. Here was the "underdog" Slovenia leading the US 2-0 at the half. Looked pretty bleak for the Americans.

But, unlike in World Cups past, the US came out and attacked the opposing goal with an intensity that is often missing for this side. Landon Donovan slammed home a goal to cut things to 2-1 and gave the team some hope. After a few squandered chances, Michael Bradley, the son of the US coach, fired home the equalizer, and the match was tied.

This would have been a fine result considering the early deficit, but the US kept pressing, and won a free kick late in the second half. Landon Donovan sent a beautiful ball heading toward the box. The ball found sub Maurice Edu, who seemed to put the possible game winner in the net at the 86th minute. But -- just as the team and announcers started to celebrate, the referee called off the goal. The first thought was that it was an offsides call, but replays showed that all of the US players were, indeed, onside. The call was a foul on the US. I'm far from a soccer expert, but have not seen anything close to a foul committed by a US player in any replay. ESPN's experts have not been able to explain the call, either.

The final match of the day saw England draw with Algeria at 0-0 -- a result that will no doubt have the Brits feeling pressure at home that most of us can't understand. This result was nearly as shocking as the horrible call that denied the US the win vs. Slovenia. The English team looked to be afraid of screwing up the game, and the end result was a game that was ....well, screwed up. The only parallel I can draw to what it must be like to play for England is playing for the New York Yankees. Some players thrive, but many find the white hot spotlight that comes from playing in NY to be too much to contend with, and their game suffers.

The US controls their fate. If they beat Algeria, they are through and advance to the next round. Should the US earn a draw in their next match, and England also earns a draw, the US will likely be through on goal differential. Things are looking up, but the US team can't take Algeria lightly. They held England scoreless, and while you put most of that on England's talented squad, you do have to give the Algerian's credit. Today was the first game in US World Cup history where the Americans came from behind to earn a draw. If we can build on that momentum, then we're moving on to a round that validates the supposed improvement in the team.

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