Some Thoughts on Friday’s Games 6-18-10

Let’s be clear: Miroslav Klose being sent off was not the cause of Germany losing the game. A horribly weak penalty kick and Arne Friedrich’s failure to mark Milan Jovanovic were the direct causes of their loss.

Memo to Nemanja Vidic: you’re not Jerry Rice.

I don’t know what it is about Spanish referees, but in November 2000 on a three week trip to Spain my wife and I attended a game at the Camp Nou stadium between Barcelona and Villarreal. Barcelona lost 2-1 in a game in which 15 or 16 yellow cards were distributed, including a yellow to then coach Carles Rexach. At one point three Barcelona players were lining up for a free kick and he cautioned all three  for not moving fast enough for him. Amazingly, no one in the game got more than one.

Nikola Zigic: all is forgiven.

Lots of chances for Podolski even when they were down to ten. He should rue his poor finishing.

Despite the win, Serbia had one shot on target (i.e., the goal) and ten shots overall. When you’re up a man for 54 of 90 minutes, you should do better. Germany had two shots on target and 16 overall..

The yellow card for Robbie Findley may be a blessing in disguise as he is not an option for Bob Bradley against Algeria.

Michael Bradley’s goal was terrific, but much of the credit should go to Herculez Gomez. His run drew Bostian Cesar away and provided a clear path for Bradley.

In scoring his goal, Landon Donovan showed that one of his best skills is his reading of the game. Noting his narrow angle you can see him look up twice to see if there’s a better option with Clint Dempsey and Benny Feilhaber running into the box. Once they collide he realizes his only option.

Don’t be afraid Samir Handanovic; the ball doesn’t bite.

Don’t let the door hit you on the way out, Kouman Coulibaly.

I credit Bob Bradley with subbing out a defender for an attacker. It was a good tactical move in a difficult situation.

I’ve long been a fan of Oguchi Onyewu, but he’s not 100% no matter what he says. Anyone think it might be worthwhile to spell him with say, Clarence Goodson?

Slovenia’s flurry of deserved yellow cards (3 over the course of 6 minutes) should give their coach pause.

If it hadn’t been for Kouman Coulibaly’s phantom foul call, the US v Slovenia game would have been a nice mirror image of the Confederations Cup Championship Game against Brazil last year.

The US is getting better in the comportment area: one undeserved yellow for Robbie Findley today. Michael Bradley hasn’t gotten any cards.

Yes you showed a lot of heart in coming back from 2-0 deficit, USAMNT, but an even better way to win is to not go down 2-0 in the first place. Of course you know that. Just be sure not to do that against Algeria and don’t give up early and easy goals.

My man of the match (look, there has to be one) for the Algeria v England match would have to be Algeria’s goalkeeper Rais M’Bolhi: five skilled saves in his very first cap.

Did Fabio Capello pick Wayne Rooney for this game? Anyone see him?

As for Rooney, stop whining. You’ve had four touches in the penalty area in two games: three today and one against the USA. Certainly you should expect better for yourself.

As Jamie Carragher is ineligible for the Slovenia game, I wonder if Capello will start Michael Dawson. Given so many of his poor tactical decisions, he’s probably wondering if he could find some way to bring Ledley King back.

I honestly cannot remember seeing in a major game such a highly ranked team as England playing with such lassitude.

Here’s the definitive analysis on how the US can advance out of this round.






53 replies
  1. 1
    Paula says:

    Ugh. I wish we could hypnotize the USMNT before every major game into thinking they’re underdogs … That’s really the only way to get aggressive play out of them.

    In fairness to the Slovenian goalie, the ball probably looked like it was going to decapitate him.

  2. 2
    Calouste says:

    Rooney dominates the tabloid frontpages today, and not in a positive light.

    Surprisingly enough, the headlines are still quite mild, but they won’t be if England don’t qualify.

  3. 3
    Ronnie P says:

    Part of me wishes that England had won, just so Algeria wouldn’t have anything to play for.

    I don’t know about Goodson. Is this like calling for Torres over Clark in midfield? Torres wasn’t ready.

  4. 4
    burnspbesq says:

    Yeah, the Slovene keeper bailed out on Donovan’s goal – but Donovan was clearly head-hunting on the shot, and he didn’t cheat himself when he hit it. A keeper at my high school (a few years after my time) got hit in the face and ended up with a detached retina. The risk of injury is non-trivial, and sometimes instinct just takes over.

  5. 5
    Violet says:

    From the Yahoo “How does the US advance” article:

    One scenario could lead to lots being drawn for who advances.

    Lots? Really? Like they’d just draw straws or flip a coin?

    The US needs to figure out how to play in the first fifteen minutes of the match and furthermore in the first half itself. Their second halves have been like watching an entirely different team. Why can’t they bring that fire to the first half?

    England is awful. They seem to be a group of players rather than a team.

  6. 6
    Paulk says:

    I can’t be the only person who has been pleasantly surprised to see a U.S. men’s national team enter a World Cup with an offense. Both in this match and the one with England, we’ve been very threatening.

    This is quite a shift from the country’s performance in just about every other World Cup since 1994, which has highlighted a strong back line and a merely opportunistic front. We’re a bit inverted this time around.

    The old U.S. would have been finished after giving up 2 first half goals. I worry that we’re going to have another schizophrenic performance next week against Algeria and blow it (as we did four years ago when a win against Ghana would have put us through). But I wonder if they are building in confidence going forward.

    There’s a real chance the U.S. wins this group. That was unthinkable (to me, anyway) a week ago.

  7. 7
  8. 8
    Mark S. says:

    I honestly cannot remember seeing in a major game such a highly ranked team as England playing with such lassitude.

    France yesterday?

  9. 9
    Mark S. says:

    @Calouste:

    That was some weak shit. Step it up, English tabloid headline writers, you’re looking like Wayne Rooney out there.

  10. 10
    Violet says:

    @Mark S.:
    If they’ve lost the English tabloid headline writers…..

  11. 11
    Pooh says:

    @burnspbesq:

    Landon sad after the match that he aimed for the guys face.

  12. 12
    cmorenc says:

    @Mark S.: The difference is that is was wickedly satisfying FUN to watch the French take a shellacking from Mexico in the second half yesterday. Watching England play Algeria today was more like watching a side full of individually talented players live through the soccer version of the classic good-student nightmare where they’ve got to take a soccer-exam but can’t remember how to play, and then discover that they’re all naked with everyone watching them. As much self-interest as a Yank as I had in wishing for a 0-0 draw to play out in that game, I nonetheless couldn’t help feeling a tad sympathetically uncomfortable watching this collective British football nightmare play out.

    France OTOH I could work up no sympathy whatever. What an arrogant clod their manager was to leave Henri on the bench the entire game.

  13. 13

    Donovan has grown up somewhat. I remember there was a time when he was afraid of the responsibility of playing in the Premier League so he stayed away from Europe in the beginning of his career.

  14. 14
    Crusty Dem says:

    @cmorenc:

    Did you see any talent on the English side? They looked slow and inattentive to me, I didn’t see any consistent play from anyone, with Rooney earning a special place. Considering the opponent, it’s a worse showing than France.

  15. 15
    Martin says:

    So, who predicted England might not even make it out of the opening round and that Slovenia or the US might storm out in first?

  16. 16
    Calouste says:

    @Crusty Dem:

    Some called it the worst showing by an England team since 1066.

  17. 17
    BGinCHI says:

    Just for perspective: Spain loses, France loses, Germany loses, England ties while asleep. The US coming back the way they did, plus honestly scoring a third winning goal, makes me feel good about how they’re playing. Getting better and more confident.

    Teams like the US and Mexico are not Brazil and Argentina, but at least they’re giving us something to cheer for.

    As an English fan too, I’m finding it head-shaking stuff; just nothing to build on. Dafoe has to be the best hope for goals. Turn him and Gerrard loose.

    I can’t believe Lampard and Rooney are playing so poorly.

  18. 18
    burnspbesq says:

    @Calvin Jones and the 13th Apostle:

    Everton would love to have Donovan on a permanent basis, but they can’t afford him. They’re going to struggle to keep Timmeh.

  19. 19
    magurakurin says:

    It’s amazing to me that soccer fans can accept such an ephemeral call such as the foul called on that third US goal. Is it really true that it was for general roughness and wasn’t called on any specific player or action? And that is acceptable to soccer fans?

    And to me(not a fan) it seems that a red card is an overly severe punishment. You jump from a yellow card warning to “you’re out of the game AND the team has to eat your loss.” In other sports you can get thrown out of the game but the whole team doesn’t have to pay for your sins–nor the fans in the stands. People traveled from all corners of the world to watch that Germany game and then they have to watch one team play basically the whole game with one less player.

    And that is acceptable to soccer fans?

    It’s not like the game is clean and honest anyway. ALL the players pull jerserys, block, trip, tackle and generally cheat the whole game.

    Saying “it’s part of the game” only seems to go so far when the refs can more or less at their whim take away one of the very few goals in the game.

    Now I understand why the American players were so angry last night. I would be too. That’s crap.

  20. 20
    MikeJ says:

    @Calouste: I read, “third draw in South Africa since 1880.” With a #boerwar hashtag.

  21. 21
    BGinCHI says:

    Randinho, would like to hear your comments, and others, on the “two yellows and you miss the next game” rule in the World Cup.

    Every four years I shake my head at the stupidity of this. It plays an inordinately large role in the proceedings, made especially so by the inconsistent refereeing in a tournament where you get the referee you get at random.

    Does ANYONE think it’s a good idea? Does anyone think it cuts down on dangerous play?

    It’s the worst FIFA rule for the WC. Second is the “draw lots” provision. Gosh, here’s an idea: if it’s a tie and they play simultaneously, go to extra time and penalty kicks, or something.

    FIFA comes close to the IOC sometimes….

  22. 22
    Americanadian says:

    @MikeJ: I smell an internet phenomenon. I smell another one if the Slovenes edge out the Brits for a spot in the knockout rounds – and I’m starting to think the Slovenes have to be favored in the match, since all the Slovenes need is a draw and the Brits will be feeling no end of pressure from the papers and the fans.

    Is Rooney turning into the football version of pre-2009 A-Roid?

  23. 23
    r€nato says:

    @magurakurin: This is why it’s so easy to fix futbol matches (hello, Calciopoli). Referees in ALL sports make judgment calls when choosing how to enforce the rules. NBA refs, for instance, can ‘let them play’, especially in the deciding minutes of a game.

    But in futbol, it’s much worse AFAIAC. A referee can throw a match one way or the other, and it’s just ‘part of the game’ because they already have extraordinary leeway in how they call a match. As you noted, there’s all sorts of pushing and shoving that goes on which is never called… then you get some player who is especially adept at flopping and exaggerating minimal contact, and they get the call. Which only reinforces this sort of behavior.

    Having said all that, much of the rest of the futbol world is sneering at upset USA fans for just now discovering that futbol, like life, is unfair.

  24. 24
    wengler says:

    Good rundown, Randinho.

    The Donovan goal was hilarious to watch. He just kept getting closer to the frame until he was like “woah if you’re going to let me come in this close, then I want to see if the Jabulani can knock off your head”. Luckily the goalie bailed out.

    I’m really glad that the US has stayed away from the cards so far in this World Cup. That Mali referee sucked, but that Spanish ref might’ve sent a couple Americans off. And that has always been the problem with the US in the World Cup.

  25. 25
    Jim in Chicago says:

    So who gets the start with Bradley in central midfield on Wednesday? I think Edu may have earned his chance. Hopefully Buddle gets his shot at starting Wednesday too. He certainly is well rested!

  26. 26
    Calouste says:

    @BGinCHI:

    Game suspensions after collecting a number of yellow cards over multiple games is standard in football. The exact rules differ per league, but one match after two yellows is fairly common. Sometimes it is one match after the first three yellows of a season and one match after the next two and then steeper penalties from there.

    All players who collected only a single yellow in the group games in the World Cup will have that wiped out and start with a blank sheet again in the knock-out phase. Suspension stay though (and carry over the international matches after the World Cup).

  27. 27
    magurakurin says:

    I’m generally not big on puffing with my American pride. I’ve been an ex-pat going into my second decade now, and, hell, I was cheering for Slovenia(for no real reason, just to be a dick) But if American soccer fans are resistant to accepting such a blatant unfair sporting system, then I say good for them. Yes, all sports are subject to bad calls, but I’ve never seen anything as arbitrary as that call last night. And most other sports have far more point scoring opportunities which even things out. Baseball for example, plays, what 164 games in the season. It won’t be because of bad calls if you don’t make it to the playoffs. Plus the championship games are 5 and 7 game series events. American football is probably most likely to have a game changing bad call, but even then the call will be very specific and clearly defined. The bad call is just that, the ref didn’t see it clearly. It won’t be because he felt the play was generally too rough.

    We can go round and round for ever I suppose with it. Hell, that’s really half of what sports are for to have more or less meaningless yet intense discussion about all the fine points. But, having grown up watching baseball, basketball and American football, some of these soccer officiating calls are impossible to accept. If that is a bad thing, so be it. I’m more or less proud of it. It doesn’t need to be so. They could tighten up their rules, officiating, penalty systems and time keeping. Obviously, they don’t want to. Whatever makes the fans happy I suppose.

  28. 28
    Andy K says:

    @Jim in Chicago:

    It should be Gomez. He created that space for Bradley’s goal by being so pesky.

  29. 29
    Yutsano says:

    @magurakurin:

    hell, I was cheering for Slovenia(for no real reason, just to be a dick)

    I have now come to the conclusion I officially hate the World Cup. I’m an American citizen, but my family lived in Canada for over 500 years. Worse, we’re of Quebecois origin (as evidenced by my surname), plus on my mother’s side I also have German and Slovenian roots. It sometimes bites to be a mutt.

  30. 30
    r€nato says:

    @magurakurin: whether they will acknowledge it or not, crappy refereeing gives futbol fans a handy excuse to blame their team’s losses on them.

    Early on in my fandom for futbol, my mom’s Florentine cousin was very upset with me one time for saying something complimentary about how an opposing team had played against Fiorentina. I had to have it explained to me by my mother, that one simply doesn’t do that. Futbol is very tribal, and as an American it was difficult to understand that.

  31. 31
    Calouste says:

    @magurakurin:

    Part of the reason people feel so passionate about football is that a whole match, a whole tournament or season even can turn one moment. When your team in football scores in football, it’s time to shout, yell, celebrate, dance around the room and open up a few more drinks. When your team scores in basketball, who cares? They’ll score another 40 or so in the match.

    Football has tightened up their rules. You haven’t seen matches in the 70s and 80s when the goalies were allowed to pick up the ball when a defender played it back to them and teams that were 1-0 started wasting time by playing the ball to and from the goalie halfway through the second half.

  32. 32
    Martin says:

    @magurakurin:

    And that is acceptable to soccer fans?

    No. Did you see game 4 of the ALCS last year? Shitty refereeing is everywhere – and far, far worse than what we saw today. You just need to live with it.

  33. 33
    Cacti says:

    I have to admit, I’m always a little disappointed when Landon Donovan performs well, having been an overrated d-bag for so much of his career.

  34. 34
    Jim in Chicago says:

    @Andy K:

    Only if Gomez has improved HUGELY from when I last saw him in MLS not that long ago: he couldn’t finish to save his life. His production in MLS in 2008 and 2009 was truly pathetic: 7 goals in 67 games. I’m more comfortable with him as a burst of energy off the bench (a better role for Findley too). Buddle showed huge promise before his drug and injury problems, which he seems to have finally put behind him. His recent play (34 goals in 70 games for the Galaxy since 2007, 2 goals in the recent US game against Australia) suggests he’s found his scoring touch again. I would give him the chance to put it to the test on Wednesday.

  35. 35

    According to the article about the Mali ref in the US-Slovenia being sat down that was linked in the post itself,

    FIFA chooses its referees and assistants for each game from a list of elite officials specially selected for the tournament. They are evaluated before the World Cup to ensure that they meet standards of fitness and knowledge.

    I’d ask a few questions if I were in a position to audit FIFA.
    1) Who compiles the list?
    2) Are those on the list vetted year ’round in international competition?
    3) Do any prospective referees have unsavory ties to teams or other judges, as we saw in that ice dance fiasco a couple of Olympics ago?

    For starters, anyway.

  36. 36
    Jim in Chicago says:

    @Cacti:

    Donovan was player of the month for Everton, a top 10 EPL side. His time has arrived. Hopefully he can get out of MLS soon and play at the level he deserves. That said, he has been the all-time US leader in goals and assists (more assists than the next two on the list combined!) for a long time already….

  37. 37

    @magurakurin: You pretty much nailed my bewilderment with soccer. Frankly, that call was so unbelievably bad — especially when two or three Slovenian players were making sexy-time with Americans right in front of the ref — that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if there was a fix in, e.g. “Don’t let the USA do any better than a tie.”

    It really was that blatant.

  38. 38
    Cacti says:

    @Linkmeister:

    Yeah, it’s all a big conspiracy by the world to hold back the USA.

    They hate us cause we’re free!

    USA! USA! USA!

  39. 39

    @Cacti: No, you’re attributing tribalism to me that I don’t have. From what I’ve read, there were some quick yellow cards in another game today too. I’d be looking at my selection process for officials were I a FIFA representative.

    MLB used to assign umps to the WS and the playoffs based on seniority alone until they got some bad calls. The umpires’ union also accepted a tighter selection process for those games. Nobody wanted to be embarrassed again.

  40. 40
    Americanadian says:

    @Cacti: http://soccernet.espn.go.com/w.....038;ver=us

    Judging from some of the calls he made on the Slovenes as well I would say this ref was simply incompetent – but the fix could be out there at some point or another. And “one side wins” vs. “tie match” would certainly swing a few bets.

  41. 41
    slightly_peeved says:

    Frankly, that call was so unbelievably bad

    2006, Australia vs. Croatia, Croatian gets three yellow cards before he’s sent off.

    Now THAT’s bad refereeing.

  42. 42

    I honestly cannot remember seeing in a major game such a highly ranked team as England playing with such lassitude.

    “Playing like a bunch of donkeys” is the phrase you want.

    Honestly, what a shower of shite that game was. If I care about football and thought our national reputation wasn’t beyond saving, I’d be embarrassed. As it is, meh.

    Part of the problem is the attitude of entitlement every time a World Cup rolls around, which really baffles me. We last won in 1966; yes, it’s an iconic and exciting one, but, you know, it’s not like we won anything significant recently, so why is there so much hype?

  43. 43
    Lab Partner says:

    “Did Fabio Capello pick Wayne Rooney for this game? Anyone see him?”

    Teams are doing an excellent job of shutting Rooney down, including the Americans. But he experienced some of that fencing in in the Premiership and still created chances that looked lively, even if they didn’t produce results. He looked tired and pouty last night well before he made the comments about the English fans (which I am in partial agreement with).

    I don’t recall the match, but back in his Manchester uniform he was made to sit on the bench for failing to be motivated enough in a previous match. Rooney was better than the player Ferguson fielded in his place, but the message was clear: if you don’t want to play you won’t. The next game he played he was motivated. Rooney should have been on the bench for this game.

  44. 44
    Randinho says:

    @burnspbesq: Understood, but he could have put his hands up to his face.

  45. 45
    Randinho says:

    @Mark S.: Fair enough. But at least England has a coach with a good track record.

  46. 46
    Randinho says:

    @magurakurin: Regarding Klose, I have zero sympathy for him. He knew he was on a yellow, regardless of whether it was deserved or not, and the second foul was clearly a yellow. he knows the rules. Yes it’s acceptable to me.

  47. 47
    Randinho says:

    @Calouste: In Spain after your fifth yellow of the season you miss a game. It may be the same in England and Germany, but I’m sure they have something like that.

  48. 48
    Randinho says:

    @wengler: Thanks. I paid close attention to the games yesterday.

  49. 49
    MattR says:

    @Randinho: Since I see that people are still active in this thread, I will say that I agree with you about a “Goodson for Onyewu” switch. Any thoughts on if Feilhlaber deserves a start against Algeria, possibly moving Dempsey up top with Altidore to replace Findley? I would also vote for keeping Edu in the central midfield with Bradley.

  50. 50
    Randinho says:

    @Jim in Chicago: Gomez led the scoring in the Mexican Torneo Bicentenario this year.

  51. 51
    Randinho says:

    @MattR: Don’t know about Feilhaber as he might remain a better option off the bench. I would favor Buddle or Gomez paired with Altidore.

  52. 52
    Paula says:

    @Morbo:

    Wow. What stupid point is he trying to make here? That because Slovenia is a tiny country, we’re not allowed to complain about a bad call? I agree that US fans need to stop complaining by now, but these “But you have no right to complain in the first place!” arguments are making me kind of apoplectic. All the other fans complain, why are we supposed to act apologetic about it?

    As for Donovan, he was perfectly accepting of the result on his damn Twitter feed that everyone can read like, you know, a journalist.

    Oh, and silverstein might want to do more research on why that call was controversial, because I was very surprised to find in his post that it was Jozy Altidore who was fouling someone else.

    Yeah, because we hate Kim Jong-Il, DPRK needs to get some shite refereeing on their side.

  53. 53
    MattR says:

    @Randinho: Good points. I definitely can’t argue against Gomez being on the field.

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