maniacmarshall: (Default)
I meant to post on this subject many times in the last few days, but never could find the time.

Some people will have you believe that taking 3rd place in the World Cup is a "jump from the tallest building around" kind of situation, I disagree. Some people will also have you believe that this was one of the most stunning upsets in sports history, because team USA had won or tied 150ish straight games, I also disagree. If you feel that way, you clearly weren't paying attention to the early games.

Yes, Korea scored both their goals when the US was playing down a player, but they didn't exactly look dominant most of the game. Yes, they beat Sweden, but Sweden had the better of the play for at least the first third of the game. Yes, they beat Nigeria... 1-0, and they didn't look very good beating a team they were expected to dominate. Most people seemed to chalk this up to nerves, the pressure of being such a heavy favorite, and hoped that would go away as the tourney wore on. Most people felt there was no reason to worry.

This didn't look like what I had come to expect from a USA team. The USA team that I watched in past world cups usually controlled the ball and either dominated in time of possession, or at least, wasn't dominated by their opponents. This team didn't have a possession game as far as I could see. Their strategy seemed to be almost completely centered around playing physical - always a component of team USA's game, but previously only one component - and playing long ball. While they were obviously GOOD at this strategy, I couldn't help but think that, sooner or later, their lack of a possession game would come back to bite them.

Then the elimination games began, and the USA finally looked somewhat like we thought they would all along, dominating England 3-0. Maybe I had just been silly to worry after all... but, we did have to play Brazil next, and Brazil did have a great possession game...

Then I see that Coach Ryan is going to change goalies at THIS LATE STAGE of the tournament??

While his reasoning did seem to make solid sense, and it wasn't like he was putting a scrub in there (Scurry was the starter when the US won the Cup 8 years ago), I felt it was a very risky thing to do at this point, to put in a goalie that hadn't played the entire tournament...

Then the game started, and things were well BEYOND my worst fears. NEVER in my worst nightmares did I expect us to lose 4-0.

So what happened? Everything went wrong at the worst possible time basically.

There is no way of ever knowing what would have happened if Ryan had started Solo in place of Scurry. The game would most likely have changed the very first time the keeper had the ball, and so, you can no longer say that so and so would or would not have made a particular save, because the entire game would have changed, and situations would have been different.

It doesn't even have to revolve around the skills of the players involved. Perhaps Solo throws the ball out instead of punting it out like Scurry did on a particular play, and from there, the game is never the same. Perhaps, with the change in the flow, the USA gets a lucky goal, maybe even scores first. Perhaps, Boxx never gets into the situation that gets her the Red Card, forcing us to play down a player the whole second half... there is no way we'll ever know.

What we DO know, is that the team that Ryan put on the field for that game got their ass kicked, and they got their ass kicked, primarily, because Brazil's possession game pressured and suffocated team USA until it finally broke under the pressure.

The own goal started things, and it just got worse from there. The second goal DID appear to be savable, so that just added fuel to the fire of the whole goalkeeper change being the entire problem, but the real death knell came when Boxx was ejected on what could only be described as a terrible call. At that point, with their best midfielder gone, you knew that they were pretty much toast.

It's easy, at this point, to criticize the coach, I realize, but I'm going to do it anyway because, frankly, he deserves it. My main complaints, however, have nothing to do with the keeper situation. I felt that ill advised, but that's a judgment call on his part, and he did provide plausible reasons for his decision.

I just can't understand why the hell he completely abandoned the possession game. I also can't understand why the hell the players at the different positions spend almost all their time training only with others at their position, rather than training together as a team. Yes, there is something to be said for position training, and it IS a part of a well balanced training strategy, but damn, it shouldn't be almost the ONLY training they get. Of course, if you DO train your team that way, its quite understandable why they have a hard time using a possession passing game: it's hard to pass with precision to teammates that you aren't familiar with. Basically Ryan spent the last few years trying not to lose, instead of trying to win.

As disappointing as the loss itself, though, was how some members of the team handled it. I know it's tough to lose when you've been build up as a should be invincible, when you haven't lost in almost four years, but some of them handled it much less than gracefully.

If coach Ryan did do anything right, it was suspending Solo for her remarks which were tantamount to we would have won if he'd started me. There's cocky, and then there is spoiled brat, and she came off as the latter. She could be seen clearly pouting on the bench the entire game for starters, but the things she said after the game were just way out of line.

Its one thing to say that you feel like you could make a difference in a close game, but to say that you definately would have made at least two of the saves that Scurry didn't make, and to say the kind of things about your coach that she said is really inexcusable the saves and there is no question she deserved to be suspended for the third place game.

Speaking of the third place game...

Here we were in China, US vs Norway, just like 20 years ago, only this time, it was the third place game, and this time, it was the US that entered the game with team issues. It would have been easy for the US to fold up, but, they actually did show a lot of character on this day by just going out and playing, well, almost like what you'd expect from a US team finally.

Rather than look at this situation as a disaster, I look at it as a learning experience for a very young team, and as, hopefully, a wake up call to the fact that we can not rely on a one dimensional game, now more than ever, because the rest of the world is catching up to us. We can either wise up, identify the real problems, address them, and move forward properly, remaining a force on the worlds stage for years to come, or, we can bury our heads in the sand, call it a fluke, continue to regress while the world progresses. Hopefully, we'll do the right thing.

Oh, and it sure was fun to watch Germany put Brazil in their place in the final. No offense Brazil fans, but you really should actually WIN the tournament before you trash talk that much. My god it pissed me off to hear people crowing that the future of womens soccer had arrived, and that team USA would never be a factor in world soccer again because they happened to beat us in ONE game... at least we weren't alone in getting some deserved comeuppance :)

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maniacmarshall

March 2012

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