Sunday was a cracker of day for soccer as far as my prospective was concerned with wins from, in ascending order of miraculousness, the Breakers, the Revolution, and the U.S. Men's National Team.[1. The Rockies won too, but this is a post about soccer.]
The U.S. needed to surmount a six goal differential against Italy, a number that basically sounded nigh-infinite. Furthermore, most American soccer fans assumed the second tiebreaker was head-to-head, given that its the first tiebreaker in all American competitions, so we actually need to a seven-goal swing. As you may have heard through various news establishments, that's what happened. I think the fact that the U.S. got out of group with three point and a -2 goal differential shows the strength of the competition at the Confederations Cup rather than half-assery. 3-0 scores are usually indications of beatdowns, but that really wasn't the case in either game, neither Egypt or Italy looked bad as much as they looked drained and incapable of holding the midfield. The world press loves to make it sound like the Americans don't win games as much as their opponents lose them, but hopefully this will prove that when we can keep 11 men on a field we actually know how to play the game. I don't, however, want to imagine the train wreck that the North End's Caffe della Sport must have been.
Another corollary from the game with a bit longer relevance is that, much against common knowledge, the U.S. isn't wanting for guns. Between Donovan, Altidore, Charlie Davies, Clint Dempsey, Freddie Adu when he isn't in purgatory, and Brian Ching when he's healthy, we now have a dearth of attacking options so we don't have to depend on the "funnel to Donovan" approach that led to great success and acclaim in Germany. Sure, we certainly would have taken Giuseppe Rossi but we don't need him. Popular opinion states that America can produce outstanding keepers but no field players with vision, and that's only kind of true now. The specter that haunts Bill Bradley still exists, other than his son the midfield is a howling void. After that sick qualifier against Trinidad and Tobago I'd like to see Donovan in the left midfield again, and I'd also like to see José Torres more often in qualification. Hopefully the Gold Cup will reveal some answers. Sure, the game on Wednesday is likely to be a bloodbath what with Spain have four more days of rest, no travel, and being the top-ranked team in the world with a 35-game unbeaten streak. But international play requires a bit of belief, right?
I didn't get to watch the Breakers game, which makes me sad since I really enjoyed watching the women's game last summer during the Olympics. Since I don't have Fox Soccer Channel, seeing any WPS games seems to requires crawling over broken glass, but hopefully they'll have an Intertubes options next season. I mention this since their win over St. Louis moves them up to third on the table, which I believe earns them a bye in the WPS's strange and intriguing playoff bracket. As college football has taught us, you will never ever ever get rid of a playoff in American soccer. The WPS seems to have set up an interesting compromise between a late-season surge (How about them Red Bulls?) and consistent success across the season.
With a third game looming after two victories I was reticent to watch a third that didn't look so promising. The screaming success of the Revolution's past three seasons have been based around core dudes: Twellman, Ralston, Joseph. Dudes that were not going to be playing in this match. And this was going to be a game against a bloodthirsty FMF team. The grinding into paste of the aforementioned core dudes from last year's attempt to play three in-season tournament on top of league games is likely the very reasons that MLS bowdlerized SuperLiga into the CONCACAF equivalent of the UEFA Cup, but I bet the Mexican teams were still pissed that the Revs won it last year. But woe me of little faith. Bolstered by a remaining core dude, Jay Heaps, and a couple guys who really should be promoted to core dude, Phelan and Larentowicz, the Revs actually combined the best play of the prior two games.
Maybe they're skittery from talk of bringing in Lithuanian striker Edgaras Jankauskas, but the African frontline seemed to pick up the U.S. men's mentality of shoot shoot shootshootshootshoot. More promising however, was a tactic more akin to the U.S. women's team of starting their chances from the back. Emmanuel Osei scares the bejeezus out of me but is a wizard at playing the ball out rather than sending it to the stands, and the third of the Revs' four goals started with Darrius Barnes sprinting 75 yards down the sideline. Barnes and Kevin Alston don't equal Michael Parkhurst, but they do equal some damn good defenders for being rookies. Again a daunting task awaits tomorrow, but that's how these things roll, no?