Wednesday, July 2, 2014
Reason for U.S. Loss: Only One Striker - Not Enough Offense
Striker Jozy Altidor in action, top. Julian Green consoles Jermaine Jones after loss to Belgium. The primary reason the U.S. lost was Altidor being unable to play because of injury. This led to an unbalanced strategy - mostly defense, little credible offense.
As wifey and I sat down to watch the soccer match between the USA and Belgium, we had high hopes for a red, white and blue victory (the first time to move to the quarter finals in 84 years) but were filled with trepidation. Jozy Altidor, the team's top striker, wouldn't play because of injury. Going against aggressive European teams, like Belgium, this would be a likely trip to disaster - despite all the "I Believe" hoopla. Bear in mind, belief gets you nowhere. What counts is skill and hopefully besting the opponent in execution.
Given this we believed Yankee coach Jurgen Klinsmann may have made a huge error - displaying vast overconfidence- in telling the team and families to postpone buying return tickets until after July 14, when the final match was settled. Such psychological ploys only work about 1 percent of the time, and are usually the mark of desperation.
The lack of Altidor meant Klinsmann had to field a very defense-oriented American team in a 4-3-2-1 configuration with only one striker, Clint Dempsey. The problem is that Dempsey is more a "false nine" than target striker. In particular, Dempsey's 'hold up' play doesn't hold a candle to Altidor's. It showed glaringly in this match-up.
All this showed in the game yesterday as aggressive Belgian attacks kept the U.S. on defense. Thanks to Tim Howard's sterling play - blocking 16 shots - a World Cup record, the match didn't descend to a blowout. The exceptional U.S. defensive play resulted in a 0-0 end in regulation. This paved the way to the extra- time loss, 2-1 with the only goal scored thanks to an 18-year old replacement, Julian Green. (For a while, before Green's shot, we feared a Belgian 3-0 'blowout'.)
In the final three or so minutes we actually thought Green would get another shot through, and make it a 2-2 tie so the U.S. could face off against the "Red Devils" (Belgium's official team name) in a penalty shots face off. But this was not to be as the Red Devils' D held strain and the match ended in a heart -breaking loss.
Any takeaways here? Mainly that a critical injury will almost always undo the most optimistic expectations of a team - especially playing at the top level of a sport. Thus, a major league baseball team doesn't want to begin a World Series minus its top slugger, nor does an NFL team want to prepare for a SuperBowl lacking its star wide receiver.
Ploys like pasting "BELIEVE" placards all over, and postponing return plane trips are understandable and cutesy but don't get the job done. In the end, if you're playing soccer at World Cup level you need your top striker on the pitch not sitting on the sidelines.
The amazing popularity of this World Cup U.S. soccer appearance also shows what a nutcase Ann Coulter is. Recall some weeks earlier she tried to pour cold water on the entire sport and those who follow it, even making nutso remarks such as "Any growing interest in soccer is a sign of moral decay.” Showing that she really does belong strapped onto a gurney in a rubber room somewhere, with electrodes attached to her cranium and 15 amps delivered via ECT.
See more on Missy Coulter and her paranoid soccer delusions here:
I think Reeptards now need to admit that they need the likes of Ann Coulter like a hole in the head.