Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Guest post: Jeff breaks down USA vs. Italy

All right, I am going to temporarily take over 'The Blythe Spirit' with a little soccer info....it was terrific to be at the WC. The game itself was a bit ugly but the result was important for the U.S. and the atmosphere was terrific. It was an emotional roller coaster for both U.S. and Italians, goal, own goal, goal disallowed (Italy), red card, red card, red card, goal disallowed (U.S.)...very exciting.

I have to say I have always thought Claudio Reyna was the best all-around player on the team but in the back of my mind always wondered a little if there was truth in "he stifles the team" theory. Having seen the game in person, I can safely say Reyna was the only player who had the quality to be on the pitch with Italy for 90 minutes. Other players had their moments, but Reyna does play at a level much closer to the best Europeans. Donovan was so over-matched it was not even funny. I am afraid people might say he had a good match because he made a couple of direct runs at the Italians and set up McBride, but other than that, his possession and defense (esp when the U.S. went down to 8 men) sucked. With all that said, the U.S. makes up for their lack of creativity (and talent if truth be told) with hard work and tenacity and on that front they taught the Italians a thing or two. McBride worked hard as usual but in the second half he had no one to hold the ball up for, should have been substituted for EJ. The ref did ruin the game and I did not see him once seriously warn the Italians about diving, but at the same time (in seeing the replays on TV) he was right on with the de Rossi red card, the red for Pablo (although could have been a yellow), the two yellows (red) for Eddie P and the offsides call on the U.S. goal. As for the U.S. cards, when you are up a man against a world power, you can't give the ref any excuses to even things up, the U.S. needed to be more disciplined. Lastly (for now until I need to vent some more) I have to question Bruce's subs, why not use all three, why not bring McBride off in the last 20 minutes and go with defense or bring fresh legs on in EJ or even Ching, and lastly Donovan should have come off (for the reasons mentioned above).

More venting......
One additional point - OFFSIDES - we had 0 against Czech and 1 against Italy (ironically disallowing Beasley's goal). Obviously the lack of goals and lack of shots on target show the ineptitude of our offense, but our lack of offsides I think is even more representative. This is not the result of the superior timing of U.S. runs but instead the result of a lack of U.S. runs. I realize the offense is predicated more on possession, pushing it wide and service into McBride and less on
through balls, but I think I would rather have more "going forward" and 6-7 offsides a game than our inability to even challenge our opponents back line. Eurosport.com has interesting and detailed data on each player's performance for each game. Don't know how accurate it is but, as I suspected it seems to me CR did about twice as much work as LD.

With all that said, the U.S. still has life...as Blythe said, we now have to root the U.S. on to victory on Thursday right here in Nurnberg and then (despite any comments I made on Saturday) we are now big fans of Italy as long as they beat the Czech Republic (if not, we are back to hating them). Viva la Copa Mundial!

I want to share a few songs sung during and after the game. If you are familiar with soccer songs, these aren't new but they are still amusing. It is hard to convey the right feeling with just the lyrics as so much comes from the way they are sung but
you will get the idea...

(sung to the tune of "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain")
You can buy a referee in Italeeeeee,
You can buy a referee in Italeeeeee,
You can buy a referee, you buy a referee, you can buy a referee in Italeeeeeeeee.

The next one is amusing because it was being chanted by drunk English fans, who will take any opportunity to take a shot at other European rivals; also because the Italian soccer world has been consumed by scandal in the last several months (even more than usual) with allegations of players gambling, teams wiretapping
phones, and club officials 'arranging' referee selections for games.

Just like I - TIE, always cheating, (I - TIE, English fan colloquillism for Italian footballers)
Just like I - TIE, always cheating


Jeff said...

Hey, this is great analysis and recap (I know because I wrote it), lets have some comments here, where is all the chatter.....

Brian said...

Oh, that makes more sense now. I was really very impressed by "Blythe's" nuanced retelling of the experience. It nearly inspired me to try and get into the game. But now that I know it was Jeff, I feel wholly inadequate still. But, still fun to read about.

EuroTrippen said...

In the interest of supporting spousal posting I'll say that... though I know less than zero about football/soccer... it was a great guest post!

Kerri said...

I think that is the longest thing you have written in one sitting since your days at WU. Glad you got to go to the games! KW