[Article Commentary] Trecker: USA, ‘big game’ jinx

Jamie Trecker recently concluded his three-part series on why the USA needed to become the second team ever to win in Mexico City.  Since we failed, US Soccer is obviously doomed.  I’m sorry to keep going at Trecker, but since this is related to the last two I’ve commented on, it seems logical to discuss the final chapter.  After this one, I’ll give Jamie a break for a while–I promise.

The USA has done it again.

Two weeks after a humiliating 5-0 loss to Mexico in the Gold Cup final at Giants Stadium, the USA lost their third straight big game, dropping a 2-1 decision at the Azteca in a World Cup qualifier.

This argument is getting a little old, but I have a hard time calling the USA’s Gold Cup loss a “big game”.  It wasn’t.  If it were, we would have had more than one starter also start in the Mexico qualifier.

The Americans, of course, have never won a game at the Azteca. Lifetime, the Americans are now 0-23-1 at the stadium. Mexico also has not lost a game there since 2001, when they were upset by Costa Rica (their only loss ever in qualifying at the famed stadium).

So why is it a huge surprise/massive disappointment that we lost?

And yet, this was a bad loss for the Americans. All eyes were on this U.S. team after its surprising run to the Confederations Cup final.

Really?  You think casual soccer fans cut out of work early to watch the game on Mun2?  “All eyes” is a pretty gross exaggeration.

And consensus was that this was a weakened Mexico side, ripe for the taking.

This is the first I’ve heard of this.  Yes, they were without Senor Barcelona, but they are a pretty strong team, currently on a good run of form.

…even more troubling than the Americans’ penchant for losing big games is the manner in which they continue to do it.

Once again, the USA failed to control the midfield game, failed to see its ‘stars’ show up, and failed to put together a complete game.

Midfield control is a huge issue.  As good as Clark may be, he still can’t hold and distribute that well.  He’s a ball winner.  Until we find a center mid to pair with Bradley (and I would argue that we have a few in our system, like Feilhaber and Torres), we’ll struggle to win the midfield battle.  If you looked at pre-game analyses from the US Soccer media, they had the midfield battle as a clear win for the Nats.  Player-for-player, we look better than Mexico.  But without someone like Claudio Reyna (I know that’s a lot to ask)–someone who can hold the ball and control the pace of the game–it’s going to be really hard for us to win possession/midfield battles, despite our individual talent.  [Enter: Jermaine Jones?]

The Americans looked solid enough in the first half, despite conceding a goal to Israel Castro in the 19th minute, but then began to fray as the match went on. By the second half, the USA had lost all sense of shape and purpose, and it cost them dearly.

Trecker is manipulating the facts of the match to fit his pre-written narrative (“A Tale of Two Halves”).  The fact is, the USA controlled the game up until the Charlie Davies goal.  Almost immediately after, Mexico took control of the game, and attacked almost non-stop.  The only time the US looked remotely dangerous after the 10-minute mark was around the 60th or 70th when Davies was sprung on a few attacks–he even looked like taking the lead with that wide-open header.  I’m sorry, Jamie, but this is not another “classic” USA second-half blow-up.  Mexico simply dominated 90% of the game.

Many fans will question Bradley’s decision to start Steve Cherundolo and Brian Ching — two players who underwhelmed at the Gold Cup, over Jozy Altidore and Jonathan Spector.

I’ll be one of those.

…while Ching was unable to impose himself on the game as a target man.

To be fair, how much service did he get?

More fans will question Bradley’s substitutions. Stuart Holden, Benny Feilhaber and Altidore came on and did little with their allotted time.

The problem with Bradley’s substitutions is that you can almost pick them out before the game.  I probably would have guessed: Feilhaber for Ching and someone for Clark (probably Holden or Torres) in the 60s, followed by Altidore for Davies around the 75th.  Far too predictable.  Never have anything to do with the game.  In-game management is definitely Bradley’s biggest weakness.

Landon Donovan made one great pass — to Charlie Davies to score the opening goal in the 8th minute — and then vanished.

He did have swine flu…

Did Moreno (the referee) give the homers some calls? Yep — just as every home team gets, including the USA.

This game can’t be blamed on the ref, but I think you’re fooling yourself if you believe the USA gets the same advantage in their home matches.  That’s just plain silly.

So now the question is who will pay for this one?

The answer to that question is depressingly familiar. U.S. Soccer seems unable or unwilling to make a change at the top, so it won’t likely be the coach. Fans have been making excuses for the players for a generation, so those guys are likely to get a bye as well.

But outside the insular world of American soccer — the only place where Brian Ching is seriously considered a viable international talent — the reaction will be one of disdain and disgust.

…or ambivalence.  It has become clear that Jamie Trecker occupies a universe in which everyone in the world gives a shit about our Gold Cup losses and World Cup qualifying campaign.  In reality, people in other countries probably care as much about our qualifier in Mexico as I do about their countries’ games (not so much).  A 2-1 loss to a decent team on the road is nothing extraordinary.

Keep in mind that sports fans have been burned repeatedly by the hype. They keep tuning in after being told they’re going to see something special. And every time (outside of the Spain match), they’re presented with a group of guys who can’t win the big game.

The fact is, these performances — if left unchecked — will kill the sport in America. That fact seems lost on soccer executives, who keep claiming that these failures are “learning experiences.”

They’re not. They’re confirmation of America’s inability to grow up and take this sport seriously. And that’s why the USA will continue to lose the big game.

I’ve said it every other time I’ve responded to one of his articles, so I guess I may as well say it one more:  Your articles are the reason for this hype, Jamie.  Every time we have a “big game”, we get an article from you about how it’s a must-win.  So important that, if we lose, “the sport will never be taken seriously in America.”

I hate to break it to you, but most of our losses have been learning experiences.  That’s why we’ve gone from World Cup absentees to World Cup fixtures.  That’s why we’ve gone  from struggling to get fans out to games to selling out stadiums.  That’s why we’ve gone from Mexico’s whipping boys to powers of the region, and the kind of team that can beat the world’s best, on a good day.

I’m all for accountability.  I’m not a fan of Bob Bradley.  But it is ridiculously stupid that Jamie really believes a loss in Mexico City should be the final nail in the coffin.  Nobody–and I mean nobody–can waltz into Mexico City and expect to come out with a win.  It’s one of the most difficult environments you’ll encounter in the soccer world–well over 100,000 fans, altitude, and horrible air quality are huge advantages in the Mexico’s favor.  I would go as far as to say that the US will never get to the point where they can expect 3 points from their away tie with Mexico.

Well, there you have it.  Feel free to comment on Trecker’s latest article in the comments section below.

Note:  I thought it was interesting that in Jamie’s analysis, he didn’t hit on one of the biggest problems I had with the game–the ill-preparedness of the US team.  The balls were constaintly sailing long (I presume this is because balls travel farther in the thinner air), and our team seemed winded about 30 minutes in.  I’m surprised the team’s poor preparation hasn’t been discussed more by the American soccer media.

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One Response

  1. […] [Article Commentary] Trecker: USA, 'big game' jinx « Project 2010 By malarimer If you looked at pre-game analyses from the US Soccer media, they had the midfield battle as a clear win for the Nats. Player-for-player, we look better than Mexico. But without someone like Claudio Reyna (I know that's a lot to … Project 2010 – http://project2010.wordpress.com/ […]

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