The United States soccer team put the entire nation on their backs and took us for a 3-week ride through the World Cup.
Unfortunately, weak links defensively and a penchant for allowing early goals finally caught up with the Yanks in their second-round match with Ghana.
Kevin-Prince Boateng scored in the fourth minute to put the United States in an early hole. The goal, created off a poor turnover by Ricardo Clark, was the third early marker conceded by the United States in their four matches. The only match that an early goal did not get by Tim Howard was the clean sheet against Algeria.
Clark would take a yellow card shortly after and was subbed out in the 30th minute for Maurice Edu. I’m no soccer expert, but I understand a player cannot play with the same aggression when they have a booking to their credit. I also feel that Clark’s brutal giveaway added to the impulse to sub him out.
Of course, the USA were far from finished, and Landon Donovan proved that with a goal on a penalty kick in the 65th minute. Give credit to Clint Dempsey, who takes more dives than I think is necessary, for drawing the foul in the box.
What I will take away from the loss is what followed the Donovan goal. The Americans built off the equalizing tally and had Ghana on the ropes. In addition to Demarcus Beasley’s golden opportunity early in the first half, the Americans could not convert on their scoring opportunities. Jozy Altidore skirted a shot just off target late in the second half and Michael Bradley rushed a shot when he was in alone with the goalkeeper. A tally on either chance results in a US victory, I am sure of it.
The other sentiment I will come away with is the slow starts that ultimately cost the Americans the tournament. The winning goal, today was scored in the third minute of extra time. That equals a total of seven minutes of game time between the two goals against for the USA. While extra time is different than an opening kick off it still begs the question, why couldn’t the Yanks get themselves up for a quick start in any of their games?
Either way, Americans, as a whole, need to embrace the run that this team just took. Four years ago the USA didn’t make an impact in Germany before exploding on the scene at the Confederations Cup last summer. The events that unfolded in South Africa were enough to make Americans like soccer again. Late goals and the lack of 0-0 draws made for a very attractive set of games for the American television audience.
Four years from now the United States will take the field in Brazil will high expectations, an experienced squad and (hopefully) a strong chance to advance into the quarterfinals or farther.